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Hawaii County mayor’s herbicide ban veto remains intact

HILO >> The Hawaii County Council fell one vote short of overriding a mayoral veto of a bill to ban use of herbicides on county property.

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim’s veto will stand after an override attempt failed to obtain the necessary six votes last week, West Hawaii Today reported.

Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz voted yes with reservations on the bill, but she switched to a no vote for the override, making the final vote count 5-4.

Kierkiewicz’s concerns about the language in the bill were underlined by Kim’s veto message, she said.

“Your decision made me look a little bit closer,” Kier­kiewicz told Kim during the meeting. “We’re coming to find out now that there were opportunities that were missed, including hitting the pause button.”

Chairman Aaron Chung and Council members Sue Lee Loy and Tim Richards also voted against the override.

The mayor clarified after the vote that he intends to establish a committee to determine ways to cut back on herbicide use and find alternatives that are friendly to the environment.

More than 50 members of the public testified in support of the veto override, while eight people opposed it.

Proponents of the ban pointed to dangers in toxic herbicides, especially for children.

Some of those testifying suggested Kim’s veto showed a focus on money and a lack of concern about potential harm to children or the environment, which Kim denied and said he resented.

Opponents expressed concerns about the bill’s financial impact because of extra manpower needs and the carbon impact of increased mowing machinery. They also said the bill could set a precedent leading to a ban affecting the private sector.

The county Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments have cut their herbicide use by half, while four parks have been selected for pilot projects that do not use herbicides, officials said.

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