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Harry Kim to File For Mayor Tuesday

June 4, 2012, 5:52 PM HST (Updated June 8, 2012, 10:15 AM)
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Former two-term mayor Harry Kim today took out nomination papers to run for the chief executive position on the Big Island.

Kim told Big Island Now this afternoon that he will definitely file to run for mayor Tuesday, which is the election deadline for the Aug. 11 primary election.

Kim’s candidacy adds a significant twist to the mayor’s race where he became the 10th candidate to pull candidate papers, according to today’s report from the state elections office. As of today, five had completed the filing  necessary to run.

Those with the highest profiles, incumbent Mayor Billy Kenoi and County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong, could not be immediately reached for comment.

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Kim, 72, served as mayor from 2000-2008 after a 24-year stint as director of the county’s Civil Defense Agency. He was prevented by term limits from running for re-election immediately after that.

Kim knows his chief opponents well.

Yagong ran against him for mayor in the 2004 nonpartisan primary where he received 26% of the vote to Kim’s 62%. Kim has known Kenoi for many years and coached him as a player on the Waiakea High School football team. Kenoi also served as an executive assistant in the last six years of Kim’s administration.

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Kim said he didn’t have qualms with either candidate who he said have a “different style of management” from him. Kim had endorsed Kenoi’s bid for mayor in 2008.

Kim said today that his return to politics was largely driven by actions that occurred during the past session at the state Legislature dealing with geothermal development.

He said he was disheartened by the easing of restrictions for those activities including the removal of the requirement for subzones for geothermal development.

But what prompted him into direct action, Kim said, was a request from DLNR Director William Aila Jr. to the state Environmental Council. Aila had asked the panel to exempt exploratory geothermal drilling from the state law that mandates the preparation of an environmental assessment or the more rigorous environmental impact statement.

Kim said he was dumbfounded when a committee of the council voted almost unanimously to recommend approval of Aila’s request.

“I couldn’t believe (the committee) did this,” Kim said. “I said, nah, they wouldn’t do that.”

After being urged to intervene by Gary Hooser, head of the state Office of Environmental Qualify Control, Kim spent four days researching the matter and preparing testimony.

After Kim appeared in person before the full Environmental Council in Honolulu, its members reversed the committee’s recommendation and voted to deny the change Aila had requested.

After that, “I really started thinking about geothermal, safety and health in government,” he said. “How could they do this?”

Kim said he also wondered how, if the exemption stood, government could justify requiring environmental studies for other types of projects.

Kim said his jaw dropped when he heard Aila say drilling for geothermal is comparable to drilling for water.

“I realize that some people truly think that geothermal is harmless,” he said. “I would think people in authority should do some research.”

Kim said he decided to re-enter politics to make sure geothermal and other development “is done right.”

“I realized that it’s not just about geothermal, it’s about faith in government,” he said.

Kim said another subject he is concerned about is solid waste. He said he has never been a proponent of landfills anywhere in Hawaii, and believes the solution is a plant like Oahu’s H-Power where garbage is burned to generate electricity.

He acknowledged that the waste-to-energy facility considered during his second term carried a steep price tag of $125 million, but feels that it’s the government’s duty to find a way to do it affordably.

He said he was also opposed to the County Charter amendment that set aside 2% of county revenues to purchase land to be preserved as open space, partly because it didn’t include funding for maintenance of those lands.

“That’s not a good way to spend public money,” he said, adding that such funding should be found elsewhere.

In the area of public funding, Kim will likely be subjected to questions about his administration’s practice of increasing the size of government during flush times, when soaring property values inflated county coffers.

During Kim’s eight years in office, the county’s operating budget more than doubled to more than $400 million. That included a tax increase of nearly 25% for homeowners sought by Kim and approved by the council for the 2002-03 fiscal year.

Kim said today he will run a campaign similar to his other two, in which he describes himself as an “applicant” for the mayor’s job.

While he has relatively little time for fundraising, that also includes continuing his policy of not taking any campaign donations greater than $10. Kim said no amount of advertising he could purchase would overshadow public perception of his years of public service.

“I worked for the people here for more than 40 years, and by now they should know me and my methods,” he said.

Kim acknowledged that his health could be an issue in the campaign, as he suffered two heart attacks in his final year in office.

“My health at this point is good,” he said, while acknowledging that he is currently undergoing additional cardiac testing.

He also admitted that because of the health issues his family did not want him to run, but supports his decision to do so.

 ***Updated June 5 to clarify the number of mayoral candidates.*** 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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