Sonny Shimaoka wants to give Hawaii County residents the chance to weigh in directly, through a vote, on the county’s landfill problems. “Put it on the ballot, so it doesn’t have to be put on one person’s lap,” Shimaoka said, explaining how he would address the need Hawaii County has to eventually close the Hilo landfill. Shimaoka is running against Margaret Wille for Council District 9, which runs from Waikoloa through North and South Kohala. He said he could not support waste-to-energy as a replacement for the landfill, a concept both mayoral candidates have said they support. “The jury’s still out on whether we can capture all of the ash, the little particles that escape,” Shimaoka said.
Wille said she supports the idea of waste-to-energy, but with some reservations. “We really need to review the specific plans and look at the numbers, the cost and collateral effects,” she said. “If there’s burning, what are the negatives about that?”
The two candidates for Council District 6, which includes South Kona and Ka‘u, also expressed reservations about waste-to-energy.
“The last (waste-to-energy proposal) we got was $125 million, we would have gotten fined if we had not delivered enough trash that was combustible,” Brenda Ford said. “ If it works and it’s financially proven, maybe.” She would rather the county pursue other, more modern technologies, including ones that would involve sorting trash already in the Hilo landfill and recycling materials from there.
Maile David, a council legislative aide challenging Ford, who is in her third council term, said she would consider waste-to-energy.
“I would like to look at different proposals,” David said. “I would probably support the waste-to-energy (proposal) and I would also support the reduce, reuse and recycle (program).”
Shimaoka said his experiences as a pastor qualify him to be good at collaboration and cooperation, he said.
“That’s one of the frustrations I’ve had over the years, watching our county government where we just can’t seem to work together and get along,” he said. “When you cannot agree with something, maybe it’s good to put it on the shelf and deal with things you can agree with.”
Wille said she one of her strengths is her ability to work with a diverse group of people to come up with “multifaceted solutions and not just the lowest common denominator.”
She noted her work with groups from other districts to provide input on the most recent council redistricting plan. Ford challenged the idea that one councilmember can ensure the entire council gets along.
“The only person you can change is yourself,” she said. “You can’t change another county council member. It’s sometimes difficult when others don’t have the same belief system you do. You can’t just put issues aside.”
The candidates differed on how the next council should address developers and the impacts development puts on county infrastructure. Wille said she wants to streamline the process by creating a checklist of things each developer needs to do to mitigate potential impacts. The county’s existing fair share fee is illegal, she noted.
“We need people to get things done,” she said. “We need the system to be based on specific requirements.”
Shimaoka said previous councils have been unable to enact impact fee reforms because they lack backbone. He said the incoming council will have the backbone needed to address the situation.
He also held up the now-defunct Hokulia development as a “great idea” for how developers can work with the community and local government.
The problem with previous attempts to address impact fees, David said, was the way it did not address the desire by community members to provide exemptions for single-family dwellings.
Ford said the fair share fee only applies to residential development, but what the county really needs is an impact fee that is also applied to commercial and industrial development. “We have got to follow our community development plans,” she added. “We have been really bad about following them. We find every way we can to let people off the hook.”
About 30 people attended the forum.