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Hoffmann returns to council and past issues

By Erenia T. Michell

Hawai`i County Councilman Pete Hoffmann will be retuning to a new Council term by implementing new and old agenda items that he hopes to find success with.

Hoffmann will be returning to several key issues that he has been working on as a councilman for District 9, which includes North and South Kohala, such as impact fees and affordable housing.

“First of all, what I’d like to do is push forward on several key issues on land use reform that I think the county needs to address,” said Hoffmann in a phone interview in October. “For instance, an adaptation of impact fees, an expansion of our concurrency regulations, as well as several other amendments that need to be made in order to make sure the taxpayers of the island don’t have to pay for infrastructure that developers cause as a result of their construction projects,” said Hoffmann.

In addition to land use issues exclusive to Hawai`i county, Hoffmann also wants to promote energy and agricultural self-sufficiency, which he has been a big advocate for since introducing bills, such as his ban on plastic bags.

“I think the county is moving very, very slowly on both these issues and we’re not doing nearly enough,” Hoffmann said. “We could save considerable money if we all alter efforts in both those areas.” Hoffmann also said that he wants to push forward a series of legislation that would have the Big Island making advancements in environmental management. This would help to reduce the amount of trash on both sides of the island — a consistent problem and unwelcome topic on the Big Island for some time now. “ (We) want to make certain that we take better care of our environment, which in the long run will save us a great deal of money,” said Hoffmann.

Despite economic hardships that the island is facing, Hoffmann refuses to think there is a need to raise taxes. “I think the county has already done poorly as far as our budget crisis is concerned,” said Hoffmann, “I will continue to argue we cannot raise taxes at this time. We can do that in a number of ways — we can reduce the amount of money we put aside for over time, we can freeze any new hiring, we can cut staff if we have too, selectively, and we can also eliminate some exponents, for instance our golf subsides- which this current fiscal year totaled more than $830,000 dollars,” said Hoffmann.

To bring jobs back to the island, Hoffmann sees opportunities in Public Works projects and other construction projects that could help. “If we persuade our affordable housing project in Waikoloa, we certainly open up construction there,” said Hoffmann. He also mentioned a new type of job the county will be looking to start having people trained in- green jobs. That is, jobs in the energy related fields that would have people trained and then placed with local businesses.

One of Hoffman’s biggest issues is getting the county to be more environmentally friendly, and he believes the island can make ideas such as energy self-sufficiency happen. “As I see it, we have to, in some way, shape or form, take care of the thing I usually argue about. And that is to ban or at least reduce things like plastic bags at check out counters,” said Hoffmann.

Another big topic for Hoffmann will be the expansion of the county’s current concurrency rules and regulations, which he believes needs to be looked at again. Concurrency are the guidelines that says if you have a certain number of homes then you need a park or sports facility, and Hoffmann said that currently the county doesn’t have that, except for water and roads. “I currently have a bill that I worked very hard with the Planning Department on for the facilities on Parks and Recreation,” said Hoffmann.

Hoffmann noted that this might go down in defeat with the Council because of usual opposition with East side council members who Hoffmann says do not want to have any constraints on them when it comes to developers.

In the case of affordable housing, Hoffmann wants to see the county get back on track with the Waikoloa affordable housing project. “It’s not that people don’t need the affordable housing, they do, it’s just they can’t afford it because they can’t get any funding or any mortgages whatsoever; we hope to try to get that project and a couple others moving,” said Hoffmann.

When it comes down to it, Hoffmann sees the biggest problem for his district, while looking at the county as a whole, in the issue of affordable housing. He says that finding suitable housing, and a Waikoloa task force is needed. “Things are just not affordable at the moment,” said Hoffmann.

To learn more about Councilman Hoffmann, you can visit his homepage, http://www.hawaii-county.com/council/district09.htm, or contact him at this office, (808) 887-2043 or by e-mail at phoffmann@co.hawaii.hi.us.