Hawaiʻi County is facing a number of significant challenges this year. That includes recovery from the summer 2018 lava flow and the 50 inches of rain from Hurricane Lane. Another challenge is figuring out how to manage the budget in a period with many competing financial demands.
Mayor Harry Kim sums up part of this year’s challenge:
“There’s so many unknowns."
One key question in the minds of Puna residents: will the county allow people to rebuild in areas overrun by lava, or in high risk lava zones?
“The insurance companies are saying, it’s your money, build. But we won’t cover you. The law says that’s your property . . . if it’s zoned for residential, there’s nothing right now to stop you from getting a permit to rebuild a house. For government to say to any property owner, no you cannot, that means we’ve down valued their property, we have to compensate them. I feel it is our responsibility to fully make you aware of what the risks are.”
But reopening lava-covered roads has to come first. The Mayor says he will wait until he’s certain it's safe before spending that kind of money.
On vacation rentals, Kim says he’s had many complaints on the issue. The County Council has passed legislation and the Planning Department is working out details.
“Short term rentals is a nice word for a business rental, these are home owners areas and they should be kept that way.”
Kim says he supports astronomy on Mauna Kea, and is working to ensure the needs of the telescopes and the community are addressed. And he has other priorities.
“We have to fix the transit system, we have begun to establish the homeless program to attack it in total instead of just moving them from here to there. Mauna Kea has become part of that mission now. But the most important thing – I am so disgusted in regards to how we take care of our island, things like littering.”
Kim says another ongoing program is making more housing available at all levels.