Editor’s note: West Hawaii Today asked the three major mayoral candidates to comment on what they wished they’d accomplished while in public office and what they have recently learned from the campaign trail. Here is former Mayor Harry Kim’s answer. Tomorrow: Mayor Billy Kenoi.
HILO — Former Mayor Harry Kim doesn’t like to call them “disappointments,” as much as he’d call them “dreams that still need to be fulfilled.”
“There are so many things you wish you could be a part of,” Kim said. “It’s something that’s never-ending. It’s not thinking you failed, but it’s something that you work for every day to see it through. It’s still a dream to be fulfilled.”
Looking back on his eight years as mayor, from 2000 to 2008, Kim said he was gratified to get the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a study on how to improve water quality in Hilo Bay, because the county didn’t have the money to pay a consultant. But he’s disappointed he wasn’t able to implement any of the study’s three recommendations before his term ended.
“All the alternatives won’t take away the safe harbor, the purpose of the breakwater. If water circulation is restored to Hilo Bay, it wouldn’t take that long before the coral and the big fish will come back,” Kim said. “But I don’t see any movement (on implementing the recommendations).”
Another piece of unfinished business that still nags at him, Kim said, is his dream for 17 miles of public coastline access stretching south from the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority.
That dream has been interrupted by proposed development along that prime stretch of coast that erupted into lawsuits from environmentalists and Native Hawaiians defending their gathering rights. Major planned developments such as plans by Nansay Hawaii to build a resort at Kohanaiki and plans by other developers to build hotels, condos and golf courses at Ooma have simmered for decades.
“The dream was, we wanted all of Hawaii Island to have access to the ocean,” Kim said, saying Hawaii County has the opportunity to learn lessons from the ill-planned development in Honolulu, San Diego and San Francisco. “You don’t have to go far to know what you don’t want.”
On the plus side, however, Kim lists the West Hawaii Civic Center as one of the wins of his tenure. The $50.5 million energy-efficient structure was completed last year, but it was first conceived, designed and planned during Kim’s administration. Kim said he wanted to make sure the whole county could be in touch with its government.
“I really want people to trust their government,” Kim said. “I really want people to feel good about their government.”
Asked about perceptions he held at the beginning of his campaign that may have changed, Kim, who waited until the 11th hour to file his candidacy, said he was very unsure about the reception he’d get after being out of the public eye for almost four years.
“I had some anxiety. … There was this uncertainty. I didn’t know what to expect,” Kim said. “But I took out my old sign and wiped it down, and said, ‘Where should I go first?’”
Soon, he said, he was overwhelmed by the positive reception he got from the public.
“It was a good thing to see the people’s warmth. It was just a good feeling of warmth,” Kim said. “People just make you feel good about running.”