Categorized | Opinions

Stene: Splitting Hawaii Island into two counties is unwise

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By Aaron Stene | Special to Hawaii 24/7

I don’t think it would be wise to split Hawaii County into two counties. Yes, West Hawaii does pay 70% of the property taxes. However, this disparity is due in part to the value of the homes being higher on the west side versus the east side. In other words, West Hawaii homeowners are subsidizing the lower property taxes paid from East Hawaii residents.

This was a bone of contention during Mayor Harry Kim’s eight years in office. West Hawaii paid most of the property taxes, but got very little in return between 2000-2008. The paradigm changed after Mayor Billy Kenoi was elected in 2008. His administration brought West Hawaii back into the fold by constructing needed infrastructure improvements, and by bringing county government closer to the residents living in West Hawaii.

This is a non-inclusive list of these infrastructure improvements completed between 2008 and 2016 by Mayor Kenoi’s administration; West Hawaii Civic Center, La’aloa Avenue Extension, Mamalahoa Highway bypass, Kaiminani Drive rehabilitation phases 1 & 2, Makalei Fire Station, Ane Keohokalole Highway, etc. Mayor Harry Kim’s track record was less than stellar. His administration dropped the ball with Ali’i Parkway, and failed to address burgeoning traffic issues on the west side. The only noteworthy project started in West Hawaii during Mayor Kim’s term was the realignment of the Kealaka’a Street intersection.

Mayor Kenoi’s administration has thoroughly addressed that burgeoning west side traffic congestion issue, and has largely put to rest any talk of splitting Hawaii County. However, this issue has started to percolate to surface again due to upcoming election, and because Mayor Kenoi’s term is ending at the end of this year.

There is at least one current mayoral candidate, who believes splitting the county into two would be wise. I believe this would be huge mistake. Hawaii County currently receives 18% of the yearly Federal Highways fund allotment, and $19.2 million dollars in transient accommodation tax revenue. If another county is conceived, these funds would have to be shared. On top of that, it would establish a new layer of unneeded government bureaucracy on this island

I firmly believe we should stay one county, instead of splitting into two. We have to help each other, especially since we’re so isolated from the rest of the world.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

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