HILO, Hawaii (KHON2) — The Big Island officially has a new mayor. Former Prosecutor Mitch Roth was sworn in on Monday.
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As soon as he became mayor, Roth spoke for the first time in his new role, touching on topics including testing travelers.
Mayor Roth says the state’s Safe Travels program is working. This came after he learned that his son, who was supposed to arrive for the inauguration, tested positive for COVID-19.
“My son, Aaron, tested positive last week. And, you know, because of the Safe Travels program that’s in place, he didn’t come over here. He didn’t affect our whole family,” said Mayor Roth.
The county is currently testing arriving trans-Pacific travelers at its local airports. Mayor Roth says they’re still working to determine what will happen to that program when CARES Act funds run out at the end of the year.
“Those funds for personnel that the county is paying for comes up next week on the 15th,” Roth said.
He also said the cost of testing is about $80,000 a day and that’s not including personnel costs.
“We’ve talked to some of our nonprofits and some of our private companies and things to see about that. Hopefully, we’ll have some answers by the end of this week,” the new mayor added.
To see that businesses are operating, Mayor Roth plans to speed up the permitting process. He also says he will promote more outdoor activities.
“We’re going to be working to see, you know, if we can allow restaurants to do more sidewalk dining, things in open air and then a whole bunch of other things that we’re looking at making changes on,” Roth shared.
Taking his place as prosecuting attorney is Kelden Waltjen. Waltjen explains that the county has seen a spike in serious drugs, bringing with it rising crime such as burglary and theft. The new Hawaii county prosecuting attorney says he plans to seek stiffer penalties for serious, violent and repeat offenders.
“But yet, there needs to be a greater focus and effort to expand our on-island prevention and treatment and reintegration programs,” Waltjen said.
Waltjen also emphasized that more needs to be done to protect children and adults before they enter the criminal justice system.