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Wednesday, December 20, 2000

By Rod Thompson, Star-Bulletin
New Hawaii County Planning Director Chris Yuen, right,
and Mayor Harry Kim sit together yesterday at Yuen's
confirmation hearing. None of Yuen's potential opponents
spoke out against him at the hearing.

Big Island panel
approves Mayor Kim’s
pick for planning director

By Rod Thompson
Big Island correspondent

HILO -- Some business people grumbled recently when Mayor Harry Kim nominated environmentally oriented attorney Chris Yuen as planning director.

None of Yuen's potential business opponents spoke against him yesterday, and the Planning Committee of the County Council voted to recommend Yuen's approval to the full council.

Business opponents questioned Yuen's qualifications, since the planning post calls for three years of administrative experience. Yuen says his eight years on the state Board of Land and Natural Resources qualifies him.

The planning director controls the amount and speed of new development.

In the current issue of the Hawaii Leeward Planning Conference newsletter, the group's executive, John Ray, wrote that he chaired the county Charter Review Commission that wrote the five-year requirement.

"Clearly (Yuen) brings a lot to the table, but he DOES NOT [Ray's emphasis] have the type of administrative experience which the Charter Commission envisioned when it added this proposed amendment," Ray wrote.

Council member Bobby Jean Leithead-Todd said the commission's minutes contain no definition of "administrative." Yuen's experience does fit common dictionary definitions of administrative experience, she said.

Council member Julie Jacobson said she believed Yuen's opponents were using the administrative reference to mask their distaste for Yuen's views on development.

Yuen said his record on the Land Board shows he rarely opposed projects, instead calling for modifications such as moving power lines to less sensitive areas.

Two Hawaiian-rights activists, Patrick Kahawaiolaa and Harold Jim, spoke against Yuen for having opposed their proposal to ban county officials from Hawaiian Home Lands properties.

Yuen pointed out that at age 19 he opposed county zoning that prevented Hawaiians from full use of their land and that he was later arrested for protesting leasing of Hawaiian Homes land to non-Hawaiians.

Leithead-Todd said 44 people wrote letters supporting Yuen.

E-mail to City Desk

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