Councilmember Jen Ruggles Urges County to Address Disparity

Hawaii County Councilmember Jen Ruggles of Puna has introduced a measure acknowledging that Hawaii County has historically discriminated against low income and Native Hawaiian communities in the Puna and Ka’u districts. Resolution 205-17 (See Below) states that the county will commit to identifying, addressing, and preventing discrimination against disadvantaged populations.

Photo via David Corrigan

The resolution is based on a ruling by the Office of Civil Rights in 2000 that ruled in favor of the complainants in the case of Sustainability Committee vs. the Department of Transportation (HDOT) and Hawaii County. “The ruling found that substandard subdivisions of Puna and Ka’u have been, by design, denied access to basic infrastructure and services for forty years while providing taxes that subsidize services to already served, higher income communities,” said Ruggles.

The investigation also found that HDOT, and Hawaii County have failed to consider economic development and multi-model transportation needs of low-income communities of Puna and Ka’u, and concluded that HDOT and Hawaii County were in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Order 12898.

The resolution points to the fact that Puna has substandard roads, no wastewater treatment facility, fewest police per capita, and that human right standards set by the United Nations on access to clean drinking water are not met in the district.

“Puna is one of the fastest growing districts in the state. The lack of infrastructure severely economic growth and compromises the well-being of our residents,” says Ruggles, “moving forward, it is pertinent we recognize historical inequity and commit as leaders and decision makers, to addressing disparity, especially for the low-income and Native Hawaiian communities on our island.”

Testimony for Resolution 205-17 will be taken at 1:00 pm on Tuesday, May 16th in the Committee on Governmental Relations and Economic Development meeting. Testimony by video conference will be available at the county satellite offices and can be sent via email to:

Click here to read: RES 205-17

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