Happy citizens boarding the Kauaʻi Bus
1974-1976 (private citizen)
- Worked at State Legislature and with Council of Presidents (presidents of community associations) and environmental groups to secure passage of the Shoreline Protection Act of 1975.
- Joined with citizens to prevent demolition of the historic Hanalei Bridge. Opposed the suburbanization of Kilaueaʻs agricultural lands after the plantation closed.
- Worked with the Niumalu-Nawiliwili Tenants to stop the building of condominiums in Niumalu and a floating restaurant on Alekoko (Menehune) Fishpond.
- Led the fight against a proposed 6-story hotel in Poʻipu that would have broken through Kauaʻi’s 4-story height limit. Because of extraordinary citizen effort and leaders like JoAnn, Kauaʻi is still Kauaʻi today.
- Advocated bikeways as member of Mayorʻs Bikeways Advisory Committee.
- Elected to the Kauai County Council in 1976 on an anti- development wave of popular sentiment. Residents had begun to question the inviolable post-Statehood doctrine that any and all growth is good. As a young Legal Aid attorney and activist, JoAnn gave leadership to a “slow growth/diversified economy” vision which set Kaua’i apart from other Hawaiian islands onto a more moderate path of growth.
- As the chair of the Council’s Planning Committee, she fought a proposal to build 1500 resort units (three 500-room hotels) in the beloved open space of “Marine Camp,” also known as Nukoliʻi.
- Established the first Sunshine Market, a producer-to-consumer market which has grown to 8 weekly markets island-wide serving residents and visitors and supporting commercial and backyard farmers.
- Advocated and saw to completion the first bike path on Kauaʻi. The path ran from Pono Kai condos to the Kapaʻa Swimming Pool. It has now been subsumed by the Ke Ala Hele Makalae multi-use path, which JoAnn continues to support.
- Championed the first self-help housing program on Kaua‘i which enabled homeownership for 16 families that would otherwise never have own a home and paved the way for many more self-help projects.
- Introduced and secured passage of an amendment to the building code that required multi-family buildings to install solar water heating. (The law was innovative, but unfortunately the administration failed to enforce it, and it was repealed several years after passage.)
- Worked with citizens of Kīlauea and the Trust for Public Lands to secure and protect 138 acres of Mokolea Point and Crater Hill by purchasing the land and transferring it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be part of the expanded Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.
- Co-founded the Kauaʻi Public Land Trust (KPLT), which succeeded in protecting several oceanfront parcels on the North shore, most notably the Hodge property on Hanalei Bay next to the Hanalei Pier, which has become part of Black Pot Beach Park. In 2006, KPLT merged with other land trusts to form the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust which continues KPLT’s conservation work on Kauaʻi and statewide.
- Elected mayor in 1988 on the third attempt. JoAnn was the first woman of Japanese-American ancestry to be elected mayor in the United States. She served for two terms for a total of 6 years (one two-year term and one four-year term). She oversaw and managed 1,000 county employees and county capital and operating budgets totaling $60 million.
- Within one year of office, uncovered $1.2 million embezzlement of county funds begun under prior administration; responsible employee was brought to conviction.
- Revamped county’s financial accounting and fiscal management system which five years later resulted in Kaua‘i County being awarded its first ever Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting for achieving the highest standards in government accounting and financial reporting.
- Expanded Poʻipu Beach Park up to and including Brennecke Beach.
- Created the county Film Commission which generated $3 to $6 million for the Kaua‘i economy annually and provided many jobs by helping to attract films such as “Jurassic Park,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and many more.
- Overcame major obstacles to provide sewers in Kapa‘a and Hanapepe towns, enabling business growth that would have never been possible on cesspools. When JoAnn became mayor, the countyʻs EPA-approved plan showed the large homestead lots of Wailua Houselots at a higher priority for sewering than Kapaʻa Town. Because this didnʻt make sense, JoAnn sent the county attorney, county engineer and finance director to San Francisco to get approval from EPA to sewer Kapaʻa Town first. With EPAʻs approval, this key infrastructure was installed, laying the foundation for Kapaʻa’s present day prosperity.
- Early on JoAnn recognized the need for a public bus system to support economic growth by enabling workers to get to jobs affordably; reducing traffic congestion thus allowing for a better flow of goods and people; and providing affordable transportation for those unable to drive or unable to afford a car (e.g. young people, the poor and homeless, the permanently and temporarily disabled, the elderly). As mayor, she launched the main line public bus system, the Kaua’i Bus, building upon the bus service for the elderly that already existed.
- Developed the County’s Information Technology System. Took the county from a handful of personal computers in the county (half of them owned by “early adopter” employees) to a full-blown IT system that could expand and adjust as it served the needs of a growing county. While the system is in need of major upgrade now, it served the county well for over 20 years, contributed significantly to the County winning its first and subsequent Certificates of Excellence in Financial Reporting and helping to make county operations vastly more efficient and secure.
- Kaua‘i was the first neighbor island county to develop the 800 MHZ emergency communication system which effectively links Police, Fire, EMS, Civil Defense and other emergency response agencies and made Kaua‘i a leader among the counties. More recently, JoAnn has supported a major and timely upgrade.
- Oversaw the local response and rebuilding on Kaua‘i after Hurricane ‘Iniki which caused $1.6 billion in damage to the island.
- Introduced and secured passage of a stronger building code two weeks after ʻIniki and set up an emergency permitting center to ensure that rebuilt buildings would be more hurricane resistant.
- Designed and implemented a nationally recognized disaster debris management program.
- Turned the fledgling public bus system into an island-wide emergency bus transportation system.
- Renovated the old Līhu‘e Shopping Center into a well-planned and modern Civic Center improving working conditions for county employees and enhancing customer service for taxpayers and citizens.
- Oversaw a county housing program that built or supported the construction of 1,000 affordable homes in 6 years.
- Transformed the function of solid waste management from an appendage to the Roads Division into a full-fledged department that began to do long-range planning and policy design based on the 3Rs–Reduce, Re-use and Recycle. Started the county’s first recycling and composting projects.
- Besides sewers and housing, brought major CIP projects to fruition: Put roof on Kekaha Neighborhood Center patio, built Anahola Clubhouse covered patio, Lihue Neighborhood Center new hall, Lihue Transfer Station, and after Hurricane Iniki, fast-tracked a new landfill at Kekaha with 20-year life and developed an integrated solid waste plan.
1995-2002 (private citizen)
- Was member of then Councilmember Bryan Baptisteʻs citizen committee to create a Kapaʻa coastal path.
- As member of the second Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative organizing board, helped to establish electric cooperative, purchase utility from Citizenʻs Utilities, and secure PUC approval of sale.
- Introduced a resolution, passed unanimously by the County Council, setting forth an integrated land transportation policy that would give public transportation and bike and pedestrian ways equal treatment with roads and cars. Worked with the mayor and council to get bike racks installed on the Kaua‘i Bus, establish a bus stop at the airport and allow backpacks on the Kaua‘i Bus, making it more user-friendly and reducing the number of cars on the road.
- Initiated request and received an $800,000 earmark in federal funds for a multimodal land transportation plan, thanks to the efforts of Congressman Ed Case. The resulting Kauai Multimodal Land Transportation Plan provides a blueprint for transforming Kauaʻi’s land transportation system from a car-dominated system to a sustainable multimodal system that will protect Kauaʻi’s rural character, reduce impacts to the environment, maximize the capacity of existing roads, and increase health and safety.
- Was one the leaders on Kauaʻi against the Superferry operating before an EIS was completed and before proper safeguards were put in place to protect against invasive species such as mongoose and coconut beetle and against stealing of natural resources such as rocks and maile.
- Responded to passionate citizen concern about transient vacation rentals (TVRs) that threatened to turn neighborhoods into horizontal hotels. Led the effort to pass ordinance stopping TVRs outside of Visitor Destination Areas (VDAs) in a fair and effective way. If effort is failing, that is due to lack of enforcement which is the mayorʻs kuleana.
- Responding to the concerns raised by citizens, worked with citizens to draft and pass of a shoreline setback ordinance known to be one of the strongest shoreline setback laws in the country.
- Worked with farmers to develop a bill to allow farm worker housing without creating a loophole for country estates.
- Supported a plastic bag ban which became law.
- Supported funding for a feral cats task force to do joint fact finding and problem-solving on the issue of feral cats.
- Guided and secured passage of an ordinance allowing value-added products at Sunshine Markets, while requiring connection to the farm.
- Supported expansion of Kauaʻi Bus services to weekends and weekday evenings until 10 pm, which resulted in dramatically increased ridership.
- Voted with unanimous council in 2013 to approve the Kauai Multimodal Land Transportation Plan (plan was funded in 2004; see above).
- Supported Administrationʻs proposal to expand Black Pot Beach Park through condemnation and acquisition of Sheehan riverside properties, which were successfully acquired.
- Initiated a “win-win” modification of Kukuiʻula’s affordable housing zoning requirement. Instead of 70+ turn-key units which would be affordable for only 30 years, Kukui’ula agreed to provide land and off-site infrastructure, and the county received fee interest in the land in exchange for taking responsibility for design, onsite construction and management of the units. This will allow housing units in the Koaiʻe Affordable Housing Project to remain affordable in perpetuity instead of only for 30 years.
- Kolopua Affordable Housing in Princeville. Negotiated an arrangement with developer ensuring that the county will receive ownership of the land and the 44 units will be affordable forever.
- Was the first to identify the need to focus on county road repair. Asked the right questions: “How much will it cost? What is our bill?” The administration took three years to develop a system for evaluating and costing road repair, which then enabled them to provide an estimated cost and timetable for road repair. One year later, the administration proposed a repaving plan, enabling council to then propose/support financing measures during 2016 budget session. (See General Excise Tax below.)
- Amended Bill 2491, the pesticide and GMO bill, to focus on more practical pesticide disclosure and buffer zones, and added a joint fact finding process.
- Supported real property tax reforms including:
- Removal of temporary cap on residential property tax which was unduly limiting revenues and jeopardizing countyʻs bond rating.
- Increase in the homeowner exemption to offset removal of cap and ensure that real property taxes on local residents would be reasonable.
- Making tax classifications fairer by basing on use rather than zoning.
- Creation of a new property tax classification to secure more revenues from residential investment properties greater than $2 million that are not owner-occupied or rented long term.
- Removal of an outdated tax assessment formula on timeshares that unfairly constrained real property tax revenues.
- Establishment of protections ensuring that those with very low incomes would not be forced out of their home by high real property taxes.
- Supported the ordinance establishing camping at Lydgate.
- Supported Hardy Street “complete streets” project which has made room for bicyclists and pedestrians with improvements, including a roundabout, that slow traffic in a school zone. Project was 80% funded by federal government and created many construction jobs.
- Supported an ordinance allowing bulk purchase of bus passes at KCC.
- After three years of working with a drafting committee, introduced and secured passage of a barking dogs bill which became law but was repealed one year later. Months later another barking dogs law was passed based on the previous law but it increased the minimum time required to establish a violation and required a police officer or animal control officer to witness violation.
- Lobbied for an excise tax option to fund expansion of Kauaʻi Bus and implementation of the Kauai Multimodal Land Transportation Plan. The 2015 Legislature gave neighbor island counties ½ percent excise tax option, but allowed tax-related revenues to be used for any land transportation purpose. Unfortunately, majority of council failed by one vote to exercise the option before it expired on July 1, 2016. As a ¼ per cent tax, it would have provided $10 million per year in revenues which would have enabled the County to address its $100 million backlog in road repair in 10-15 years while expanding the Kaua’i Bus. No other viable funding has been proposed or made available, and it would be unconscionable to “kick the can down the road” to the next generation. While the first effort failed, it was an important first step in a war that must be won.
- Fought for Council rules that facilitate dialogue and problem solving. On Inauguration Day, December 2, 2014, the present Council majority modified the Council Rules used by the 2012-2014 Council to arbitrarily limit debate. Unfortunately, efforts to restore rules that support robust debate and problem-solving were defeated by 3-4 vote, crippling the quality of Council’s decision-making and problem-solving during the last 2 years. While this battle was lost, it was crucial to have a voice like JoAnn’s on the council to help the public understand what is happening and what is at stake.