The 2015 senate coup and power-grab lead by the anti-environmental senators, Jill Tokuda and Gil Keith-Agaran resulted in Kaua’i senator Ron Kouchi taking over the senate presidency. At that time senators who weren’t playing ball with development and chemical companies were ousted from their committee chair positions.
But on Kaua’i there is dissatisfaction with Sen. Kouchi for his “bullying” style, use of state funds for cronies, and lack of responsiveness on Kaua’i issues. For example, although some money was allocated to fix Kauai’s horrendous traffic problems, residents are angry that Kouchi has not used his leadership position to actually move improvements forward.
Residents are also upset that Kouchi voted in favor of Sen Tokuda’s bill to defund affordable housing and DLNR. This 2015 bill was crafted to obscure Kouchi and Tokuda’s fingerprints. It removed the conveyance tax set-aside for DLNR and capped the amount going to affordable housing. Then it funded the lost DLNR for 2 years. On July 1, 2017 DLNR will abruptly lose $30million in funding as a result. But at that time, Tokuda and Kouchi will act surpised and shocked, I tell you, shocked!
Challenger Kanoe Ahuna wants affordable housing and DLNR funding restored. She sees both as issues important to Kaua’i residents.
According to Ahuna, “Affordable housing and housing for our kūpuna is a top priority for Kaua’i residents. Instead of taking money away from this, I will work to get us the funding we need to ensure our residents and their children are not priced out of their own birthplace.”
She added, “Removing thirty million dollars from the DLNR budget is going to have a devastating impact on Kaua’i residents. We depend on state parks like Kōkeʻe, Polihale, Hāʻena and the Napali Coast for our family recreation.
Hawai’i already spends less on natural resource protection (despite being dependent on it for tourism) than many other states. For instance, Oregon with 2.8 times the population spends 6.7 times as much on resource protection And tourism isn’t even in its top 10 industries.
Kouchi support the bill which allowed companies such as AirBnB (a donor to his campaign) to collect transient vacation rental taxes without disclosing the possibly illegal (unpermited) TVR owners. In response, Ahuna while agreeing that the missing TAT revenue was a problem, expressed concern about the role of illegal TVRs driving up home prices and removing homes from the local inventory.
“Vacation rentals are an important part of our tourism economy, however illegal vacation rentals threaten housing and job security for our local families, and by not paying to state and county tax dollars then burdens our local residents through taxing through other means.”
Kouchi using his position for business dealings has also created scandal. He inserted special interest deals into the 2016 budget that benefit his associate, Kevin M. Showe. According to the Star Advertiser:
In addition to the proposed Kapua deal, senators also inserted language into the Senate draft of the state budget bill this year to provide $5 million to Kauai County to buy a Kauai apartment complex called the Courtyards at Waipouli that is owned by one of Showe’s companies.
Courtyards at Waipouli is a workforce housing project developed by Showe under a 2007 agreement with the County of Kauai that required Showe to provide affordable housing as a condition of rezoning for a resort project called Kauai Lagoons.
Showe’s company K D Waipouli LLC developed the 82-unit Courtyards at Waipouli, and Kouchi represented K D Waipouli before the Kauai County Board of Water Supply in 2009 on issues related to the project, county records show.
Kouchi, who was appointed to the state Senate in 2010 and became Senate president last year, has done business with Showe for years. Kouchi has invested with Showe, and worked for at least seven years for Showe’s companies as a community relations representative, according to state and county records.
Kouchi’s donors (and he collected a whopping $87,561.78 on his last disclosure) are a who’s who of construction, tobacco, insurance, and timeshare PACs including AirBnB and a Monsanto lobbyist.
Ahuna’s donors appear to be family (Apana) friends and residents of Kaua’i.