Budgets, Galas & Kachi Kachi: Week of April 12-18

Aloha everyone!

It has been a very busy week for the ohana and myself.  The County Council is in budget processing cycle and we had department hearings for the Fire Department, the Liquor Department, Civil Defense, Humane Society, Personnel, Police, County Clerk, Auditor, Housing, Elderly Affairs, Transportation, Finance, Planning, Parks and Recreation, and Public Works.  Yes, that’s 15 departments in the span of a week.  Some of the challenges that we face is that our Real Property Tax Certification doesn’t come in until the end of the month so we really don’t know exactly how much money we have in the bank until that date.  We also are watching what the State legislature does to our Transient Accommodation Tax (TAT) monies.  If they go with the proposal from the Senate which caps the Counties take at 50%, we would be short an additional $6 million.

On Wednesday we were fortunate to be visited by preschool aged children from the Kauai Head Start program, program that benefits our local residents and our communities by investing in our most precious resource, the keiki.  They were here to present us with a plaque in appreciation for our past and continued support of their programs.  With the help of my campaign committee we were able to assemble some goodie bags for the children the night before and boy were they happy.  But their happiness at receiving the goodie bags were eclipsed by the happiness and joy that they brought me by visiting.  Made me think of my own little one and I had the sudden desire to get out of work, rush home, and give my family a big hug.

On Friday, I attended the Drug Court graduation and the emotion running through the room was so thick you could feel it weaving itself into your own emotions.  I heard first hand, the challenges and the willpower that these individuals endured to overcome what so many have failed to overcome.  This is truly a program that works and we must preserve it.  Addiction is a disease and it affects everybody.  It is a rare thing in these times to run across someone who hasn’t been personally touched or affected by drug addiction in some way, shape or form.  Maybe you have a loved one or maybe you yourself have been touched by this problem.  The age where addicts were viewed as someone else’s problem are over. These days it takes the entire community to tackle the problem at hand.

On Friday, night we attended the Kauai Community College Spring Gala.  Our family has been attending this event for years now and anyone that knows me personally knows that I have a PASSION for food.  And what a way for our chefs to showcase their masterpieces alongside the future of the culinary arts world.  We had chefs like Mark Oyama and Alan Wong working alongside budding culinary art students.   Everything was delicious but the Hawaiian Mix Plate from Mark’s Place was a personal favorite.  They had a mix of three different traditional Hawaiian dishes but they put a modern spin on it.  Talk about “Honoring the Past, Building the Future” (I had to put that in).  This was a great evening for a great cause and I can’t wait to see what they have lined up for next year.

After the KCC gala we drove over to the Convention Hall for the Visayan Club’s Kachi Kachi Dance.  I was able to pick up some lessons from Mrs. Carvalho (no relation to our Mayor), which would prove to come in handy on Saturday night (more on that later).

Saturday started bright and early at Kukui Grove for the MS Charity Walk.  Hailee and I joined the crew from Kauai Technical Institute Jiu-Jitsu Academy as we walked to raise some money for a good cause.  Thanks go out to Shea Montgomery for getting the crew together and organizing our team.  While we were walking I got to chat with a few people and not one conversation drifted into a political discussion.  It was all laughs and good vibes for a good cause.  And it dawned on me that in light of a very serious cause that has affected so many people; we were able to remain positive and optimistic.  And that is what gets us through the tough times, our ability to be resilient and our ability to find hope and to band together to face challenges as a community.

After a delicious breakfast we headed over to the KCC Garden Fair.  Let me tell you, if you want to find some of the freshest produce and tastiest and unique value added agricultural products this is the place to be.  Hailee spent her time at the 4-H Keiki tent where Jade and Ty Nakamoto helped her plant a seed in a pot that she decorated. She also constructed a bird feeder that looked good enough for me to eat.  It was so good to see Ed Kawamura, Roy Oyama, Louisa Wooten, and many others who are responsible for keeping the ag movement alive on Kauai.  I bought some goat cheese from Kunana Dairy.  I first tasted this cheese many years ago at Kilauea Lighthouse Bistro, years ago. It was then I knew that I had to carry it in our stores.  I finally tracked down Mrs. Wooten and a partnership was forged.  We are currently out of it but she has assured me that as soon as production picks up she will begin restocking us once again.  I can’t wait.  There was also a chocolate cake that I came across that was out of this world!  I need to look for the card of that baker – I am telling you it was that good.  Every bite was so moist and it was like something that came out of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.   Now that I am on this health and wellness fix I have cut out all sugary drinks like the sodas and energy drinks out of my life.  I have however begun to drink and not only drink, but appreciate coffee.  I bought one cup of coffee from Moloaa Bay Coffee and ended up leaving with two bags and a loaf of freshly baked whole wheat bread from Hanalima Bakery.  The Garden Fair is a great example of what our Agriculture sector is doing to overcome the high cost of doing business in Hawaii.  Creative marketing, a quality product and a great venue is a recipe for success.

As I made my way from the Garden Fair to the Boy Scout Makahiki at the Vidinha Stadium Soccer fields my daughter explained how she and Grammy were farmers too.  My mother, Arlene Kawakami, and her ohana grew up as farmers in Huleia Valley.  She is the youngest in a family of two sons and two daughters.  Her father Mutsumi Kashima worked with Shell Oil as a truck driver and her mother Dora worked as a chambermaid at Coco Palms and in the pantry at Kauai Surf.  They ran Halenani Saimin Shop and were farmers who grew papayas, ginger, and Samoan taro tops.  The sold their produce to Yukimura Store, Eagle Produce and Mahelona Hospital.  As a youngster, her upbringing was a mix of Japanese tradition and Hawaiian culture.  She grew up fishing, swimming, singing, and farming.  My mom is the glue of the family.  She was raised to be strong.  As a wife of a businessman and the mother of three boys she had to be strong, there was no choice.  She constantly reminds her boys to never forget where their roots are.  Always work hard.  Always give thanks.  Always remain humble.  Always stand up for what you believe in and the things that you love.  Well, my mother known to my daughter as “Grammy,” has a hand in raising Hailee as she was the primary babysitter for majority her life.  I remember coming to pick her up one day and the two of them were covered in dirt after spending the afternoon planting sugarcane.  I asked,” Why in the world would you plant sugarcane?” To which my mother replied, “When you were young and weren’t listening we would tell you that we were going to drop you off in the cane field and the sabidong man was going to get you.  Well I just realized that this little girl has no idea that our history and our legacy as an island and as a community has its roots in sugarcane so I figured we could grow some and when the time comes we can chop it down and we could chew on the stalk like we did with all of you.”  Honoring the past. Building the future.

Attending the Boy Scout Makahiki was another trip down memory lane as I was a proud member of Troop 148.  It was nice to see “Coach” Lyle Tabata and Ray Paler and the Boy Scouts of Troop 148 and the same bridge that we used for our Makahiki many years ago being used once again.  Hailee had a blast crossing the rope bridge.  Sometimes I wonder if she is part monkey.  I was really impressed with all the displays and the hard work that the Scout leaders have done to perpetuate the game of Scouting.

After a quick nap we made our way to the sunny Westside town of Kekaha to attend Mass and the St. Theresa carnival.  It was nice to see a lot of friends on the Westside that I haven’t seen in awhile.  I was talking to Mrs. Buza and the conversation steered towards my dad who also attended St. Theresa’s back in the day.  He only lasted one year though and he won’t elaborate on whether he was kicked or not.  However, Mrs. Buza did reflect that “Dat class was kolohe.”  The town of Kekaha is a good example of the benefits of small town living even though they are one of the biggest communities on Kauai.  Everybody knows everybody and everybody takes care of everybody.  After hitting up the Country Store and filling up a box of homemade goodies like pickled mango, sweetbread, and some secret sauce that is a mix of shoyu, garlic, vinegar, and chili pepper plus some “secret” ingredients (it is so good I bought three bottles).  They even had homemade peach cobbler that was still warm!  After eating our massive huli chicken plates and visiting the booths and playing the games and getting Hailee’s face painted and visiting McGruff the crime dog and the Police Explorers Keiki I.D. booth, we decided it was time to make our trip back to Kapahi but not before stopping in at Wong’s in Hanapepe for the Kachi Kachi Dance.

I said before that those Kachi Kachi Dance lessons that I got from Mrs. Carvalho were going to come in handy and boy did they ever!  I saw a lot of friends, (some old and some new) and even saw a co-worker who got me on the dance floor for my first dance.  It’s a rare sight to see a Japanese guy dance kachi kachi as I updated my facebook status.  Hailee who is a self-proclaimed dancing queen shared the next four dances with me.  That girl loves to dance; she dances hula, bon dance, and now kachi kachi!  As I danced with her and twirled her around the dance floor she said, “Daddy I am dancing like a princess.”  I cherished that moment, the look in her eyes made me feel like a hero!  I hope there will never be a day that she won’t save one dance for her daddy.   Well it was way after our bedtime and I had to be up early the next day for our Kiwanis Club of Kauai French Breakfast.  We stopped for some coffee and prepared for the long ride home.

Sunday morning and the alarm is going off at 3:30 a.m.  I figure I get in a fast 20-minute workout to burn off some of the peach cobbler, huli chicken, chocolate cakes and all the other culinary delights that I consumed.  After a quick workout and shower I was heading for Wilcox Elementary (my alma mater) for the annual Kiwanis French Breakfast.  It was great to see the youth of today, the leaders of tomorrow gather so early in the morning to help raise money for scholarships.  These young adults are simply amazing.  They visit our seniors in the hospital and at the Regency at Pua Kea, highway and beach cleanups and they help tutor their fellow students in school.  They are definitely an inspiration.  Big mahalos go out to all who attended.  Your contribution plays a huge role in maintaining a program that teaches volunteerism and responsibility.  Thanks go out to all the Kiwanis members and Key Club members who showed up to help out in our annual event.  I had the challenging job of a bus boy.  I never realized how hard their work is not spilling water on the guests and being on your feet the whole day rushing back and forth.  So please, always remember to tip your waiter : )  after a long day I headed back home for a quick nap.

After a quick power nap Monica woke me up and said “Get your shoes on time to pay for all the fun we had.”  Well if there is one thing she has taught me is that we can eat whatever we want just as long as we burn it off after.  She also taught me that the hardest thing to overcome is getting off the couch and putting on your shoes.  Everything after that is gravy.  So we packed up the Jogging Stroller got Hailee in the car and headed for one of our favorite places Ke Ala Hele Makalae or “The Path.”  We have been training with heart rate monitors to gauge the time and intensity of our runs versus distance.  She decided to run from Kealia to Kuna Bay and since I was pushing a stroller I decided to take the easy way and run from Kealia to the Lihi and back.  As I walked with Hailee and warmed up it gave me a chance to reflect as to how much I love doing what I do.  It may seem like a busy schedule but these are the things that we do as a family anyway.  Even if we weren’t running for office.  We always attend the carnivals, the festivals, the fundraisers, and the community events.  It made me realize that the most important thing is to make time for your loved ones and to get your family involved.  It made me realize how lucky we are to live on Kauai.  It is often easy to focus on what is not working but at the end of the day, when the sun is setting and it is just you and your thoughts, ask yourself.  Is there anywhere else in the World that I would rather be?  And as Hailee climbed in the jogger and as I began to pick up the pace to burn off the chocolate cakes and Mark’s Place Hawaiian Plate, and Huli Chicken and Flying Saucers, and as Hailee drifted off to la la land.  My answer was, no.  There is nowhere else in the World that I would rather be than with my Ohana, My people, My Kauai.  Until next time, a hui hou!

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