By Léo Azambuja

Leo 1How many times have you said, “I love Kaua‘i,” and really meant it? Love is a powerful word, and chances are, if you said it, you meant it.

With that said, I think at times most of us on Kaua‘i get frustrated with the sense of isolation, the high cost of living, scarce jobs and traffic jams that may not be as bad as on O‘ahu but still can be pretty aggravating for a place often called Paradise.

But we live on this rock for a reason: We love Kaua‘i — at least most of us.

It’s not just the natural beauty that we see everyday; it’s also the natural beauty we enjoy first-hand on a regular basis while camping, surfing, swimming, hiking, kayaking and many other outdoor activities.

It’s not just our family and friends all over the island, but how we connect with them, how we spread and receive aloha.

This freedom was something we all enjoyed without much worry or thought in the past. However, as the population grows, our freedom becomes more a distant ideal than our way of life.

More people could mean more job competition, more cars on the road, less affordable housing and more government services, such as fire, police, social workers, etc., which could create the need for more taxes. More development could produce temporary jobs, but we still lose open spaces and it also could mean less beach access if not done properly.

I think many of us have experienced some or all of these issues in the last two decades. Somehow, they’re all called “progress.” Just complaining about it, though, doesn’t achieve much. However, in a few months, we’ll have a chance to become part of the solution.

This is an exceptional year for elections on Kaua‘i and throughout the state of Hawai‘i.

There are 20 candidates — an unusually high number — trying to be part of the seven-member Kaua‘i County Council. In 2010, there were only two plus seven incumbents running for council. This is the body that makes county laws that the County of Kaua‘i has to put into effect.

Speaking of County of Kaua‘i, there are four candidates vying for the mayor’s office, as opposed to only two in the last mayoral elections four years ago.

For those who believe in the vision of our current mayor, this is an opportunity to allow him four more years in office — in addition to the last six years — and give him a chance to reach his goals.

For those who don’t agree with the mayor, there are three other candidates, all from distinct backgrounds and communities — North Shore, Kapa‘a and Westside.

Each one of our three state representatives will have challenges from opposing political parties and from inside their own parties as well.

We will also have 12 candidates running for state governor and nine running for lieutenant governor.

Additionally, there are 10 candidates for United States senator, and another four for the U.S. representative for Congressional District 2, which includes Kaua‘i.

To make the situation better, no one is worrying about who will be the next U.S. president. That happened two years ago — no federal distractions here. These elections will be mostly about local.

So, if you love Kaua‘i, and I hope you do, this is an exceptional chance to exercise your democratic rights and vote for the candidates that best represent the island you envision.

Register to vote now, if you haven’t yet. July 10 is the last day to register to vote for the Primaries, and Oct. 6 is the last day to register to vote for the General Elections.

Primaries are scheduled for Aug. 9 and the General Elections are Nov. 4.

Love Kaua‘i, vote!