1. What should be the County Council’s priorities in addressing the economic impacts of COVID-19?
There are several opportunities for the county council in the next few years that can continue our growth out of COVID-19 beginning 2021 with the new compilation of county council members. Each of my recommendations are going to be my focus and will be worked on simultaneously if elected. First, we learned that telework is a huge part of our workforce and kept many businesses and workers going throughout these difficult times. This includes many county workers across all departments and is creating more efficiency in our systems. So we must continue this momentum and continue to create or modify policies to enable both our county government and our local businesses to be able to innovate and utilize technology (telework, software systems, etc.) to be able to continue doing business. Part of this includes a collaboration with state, county, federal, and private interests in securing our broadband capabilities for Kauai so that we have consistent and high speed broadband internet. It is apparent that our local families that had to move away for high tech jobs learned that they can telework from home as well and that potentially would love to move back home if their work was secure. Secondly, we must continue to focus on executing the Tourism Strategic plan created by KVB and other partners at a rapid pace. In this plan the focus is on quality guests and systems in place that allow for guests to interact with our environment in a way that doesn’t over extend our resources. There are several initiatives and policies within the strategic plan I’d like to work on such as helping local businesses utilize sustainable practices, develop shuttle systems in high visitor areas, including visitor fees for county resources, and support the short range transit plan. Thirdly, my priority would be to look at policies that can enable our community to become food sustainable from agriculture to consumer. We learned in this pandemic how quickly we adapted the agriculture and food market by introducing CSA boxes, local ingredient utilization in businesses, and business systems that enable online ordering. We’ll need to continue to drive this innovation and collaboration at a rapid pace that will allow our conversion of local business in agriculture and food to continue to keep the local dollar circulating and empowering local businesses and consumers to buy and choose local products.
2. What is your vision for a thriving agricultural economic sector on Kauai?
My vision is that our island becomes food independent by utilizing up to 80% local agricultural products in our institutions and restaurants by 2022. My vision for the agricultural sector is all about looking at the whole system from farmer to consumer and making sure we continue to adapt the system to be more efficient and streamlined at all levels. As the owner of Tasting Kauai, Kauai’s only food tour company that solely promotes local chefs and restaurants that use local ingredients, we work on creating the demand for local products produced by our agriculture businesses. I’m looking at adopting, creating, or removing policies that helps this whole process so that we can reach this vision for agriculture to be thriving. With all that said, we have existing movements that I’m excited to continue to support, such as Waipa foundation, Kilauea Ag Park, Go Farm Hawaii, Malama Kauai and several more agricultural movements that are finding success. I’d love to support and grow what Waipa Foundation’s collaboration with Kamehameha schools where they are utilizing traditional Hawaiian agricutlural systems to create more efficient food production. I’d love to support and grow what Kilauea Ag park is doing, which is enabling the community and connecting people back with their role in agriculture. I want to continue to support Go Farm Hawaii program that teaches real life lessons for future farmers from soil to business. Last but not least, I want to continue support the efforts of Malama Kauai and the programs they have in helping farmers and consumers bridge the gap for local food. There are more organizations to mention and peices to work on and my hope is that we continue to collaborate and look at policies that develop the sustainable growth of local food production that are community needs.
3. What role do you feel the visitor industry should play in Kauai’s economy?
The visitor industry is our economic powerhouse. I feel that our relationship with the visitor industry is changing and our efforts are focused on becoming more efficient and profitable at the same time. The visitor industry is a well integrated experience here on Kauai and has provided so much for families and businesses to thrive and survive. COVID-19 experience has provided a window for us as local businesses, government systems, and everyday people, to re-evaluate and innovate our visitor industry systems. It is apparent that we want it to be more efficient, more sustainable, and more respectful to our environment. We know clearly, that even at the height of our visitor industry prowess, people were still suffering financially and our environment was being pushed beyond its limits. I believe we are currently on the right track in adapting our visitor industry systems and executing the strategic plan developed by KVB and the best foot forward is implementing changes as quickly as possible. It will require collaboration at all levels and we’ll need everyone to engage in the process and be part of the solution.
4. If elected to the Council, how would you engage with the business community prior to your decision-making?
I’m an advocate for open communication and collaboration. If elected, I’d love to facilitate developing a dedicated system for businesses to engage the county council in addition to the current programming that the Kauai Chamber coordinates. We need a better feedback system that allows for collaborative dialgoue to occur which can spur innovation and effective problem solving. I currently hold a weekly zoom every Wednesday evening to collaborate with our community and I can imagine that we can look into if elected. I currently am connected to the businesses as the President of the Rice Street Business Association, Vice President of Lihue Business Association, board member of Kauai Chamber of Commerce, past board member of Kauai Filipino Chamber of commerce, and as an owner of three local businesses on Kauai and Hawaii. Through these organizations I hope to continue the relationships that have been created and continue to work together on creating a more prosperous Kauai amidst these economic challenges.
5. How would you help ensure that working middle class residents can afford to buy or rent a home in Kaua’i?
The best thing we can do right now for our working middle class is to continue to grow our town core centers. The working middle class is looking for a lifestyle that allows them to live, work, and play relatively close to each other so we can reduce our cost of living and enjoy life more fully. My focus will be on helping town core centers develop multi-use buildings with residential and commercial spaces that allow for affordable homes and rentable units to be developed in areas where we can live our life without the heavy burden of cost of living. Alongside a build up in town core centers is continuing current residential areas to develop more affordable spaces through ARUs and ADUs which allows us to increase the housing market and counter the continued rising cost of home rentals.
6. How would you effectively manage budget and operations compared to the past?
I believe the current and past administrations have done a lot of good work at managing our budget with a few exceptions that I believe they are working to address. We are heading towards a massive downturn in revenues for the County due to the affects of COVID-19 on GET, TAT, fuel tax, and a few other taxes in 2021 and on. My focus will be on working together with our county team to become more efficient in our systems and services so that we will be able to financially withstand the loss of revenues without sacrificing services. There are county operational inefficiencies, technology upgrades, and duplicate services already identified internally that we can work on. I look forward to working with the county council team and helping our government become more efficient in helping our community.
7. How can Kaua’i maintain its rural character while continuing to accommodate a growing population and visitor counts? How do your ideas fit with the current General Plan?
The best way to maintain our “Kauai look and feel” is to stop urban sprawl and focus on developing in town core centers. This will allow us to focus on utilizing current infrastructure, reduce transportation costs, keep homes affordable, take care of our environment, and be financially cost effective for our community. This is part of the general plan and I’m focused on executing the general plan in a speedy fashion due to the challenges we are facing due to COVID-19. Everyone has their version of “rural character” which may be no high rises or no highways. The reality is that we need to balance what that feels like and also adapt to the times so we don’t constantly have a brain drain and inability to sustain a lifestyle for our keiki and kama’aina. Our community is constantly adapting and as we move together through these unprecedented times, my hope is that we will continue to focus on creating a brighter future for Kauai.
8. Will you support efforts to ensure that all vacation rentals, home stay units, bed and breakfast, and all transient vacation units are charged resort property tax rates?
Yes, I support policies that accurately reflect the tax structure for the services that is being provided.
9. What two ideas do you have about economic diversification and how would you develop these two areas?
Our two biggest opportunities that are clearly apparent during this pandemic is our work-from-home jobs and local agriculture. The world learned in a few months that millions of jobs can be done from home. From the private sector to government, we adapted instantly. Our biggest opportunity is in investing in our broadband capabilities as a county and enabling businesses to convert to an online platform. This also allows for businesses to access a global market and to increase our economic reach. This opportunity also opens the door for our kama’aina around the world who have been wanting to come home and now may be able to get the best of both worlds, a successful job that allows them to work from home, and living on their island home, Kauai. We have the potential of reversing our brain drain and we have a short window in capturing this market that could build a stronger working class for the future and contribute to a more diversified economy. Our second biggest opportunity is fast tracking our ability to increase our usage of locally produced foods. The entire food system from agriculture to end user has been disrupted and our local farmers and users are adapting to the times. A serious increase in local CSA boxes, home gardens, and small community farmers markets have popped up and we must invest into this movement to continue our food industry growth. This opportunity allows for local dollars to continue to flow within the island and empower both our supply and demand for local products. Both of these economic industries will not replace the powerhouse of tourism because tourism is our economic engine but what it will do is create a more sustainable economy and allow us to reduce our cost of living at the same time.
10. What is your solution to best manage solid waste on Kauai?
The solution for our solid waste challenge is multi-faceted and includes leaders in every level. From federal, state, county, and every person in our community. None of the solutions are easy but let’s start with the first and most important solution, waste management is everyone’s kuleana. Every single member in our community plays a role from the products we buy to how we manage these items after use. There is no way around this responsibility. Recycling, diversion, and choosing products that are easier to manage is everyone’s job. We must incrementally take on this responsibility and reduce the current rate of waste heading towards our landfill and begin to work on affordable solutions to manage our waste as collective. I’m currently talking with state officials, county partners, and reaching out to other community leaders to look at all of our options and determining what immediate actions we can put in place now and what other actions we can take to address the long term challenge ahead. As technology continues to improve the cost of alternative solutions my hope is that we will be able to implement a long term strategy in the near future.
11. As a member of the County Council, what steps would you take to mitigate the impacts of climate change on Kauai?
I believe the efforts we are focusing on is exactly what we should be doing which is tackling the big factors. Reducing carbon emissions by working towards 100% renewable energy. Converting county vehicles to electric vehicles. A big component that we can work towards is continuing to develop our town core centers. This will help reduce transportation emissions by creating multi-modal transportation, localize lifestyle, and create more efficient multi-use buildings in places with infrastructure. Every little effort we put towards taking care of our environment will continue to make a difference in our global challenge and will inspire others as well. My hope is that we can continue these efforts until new innovation in technologies can assist us helping our environment heal.
12. Do you support the continued use of the G.E.T. surcharge and how would you prioritize roads and transportation spending?
Yes, I support the GET surcharge and will work with our department of public works to become more efficient in addressing our road systems. As our budget begins to be squeezed due to COVID-19, we will need to be innovative and effective in our roadwork and management. We have high priority areas that have high traffic regardless of tourism and after consulting with our team our goal will be to address these challenges and communicate that with our community so we are all working cohesively.
13. What else would you like to share with the business community?
For the last 6 years I’ve had the honor and privilege to work with many of you as a fellow small business owner with The Specific Chiropractic Centers and Tasting Kauai. In addition I’ve been able to focus on the community through my service as a President of the Rice Street Business Association, Vice President of Lihue Business Association, board member of Kauai Chamber of commerce, past board member of Workforce Development, and past board member of Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce. It has been truly inspiring to be able to collaborate and work with all of you in addressing the community issues we face together. But we are not done. In fact, we are just getting started. Although the challenges ahead look daunting, we are going to be alright. In fact, we are going to be more than alright. I know this because we’ve got a great team of people to work with and I know we will collectively rise up to the challenge and create a better place for those who follow us. So with that said, thank you. I appreciate all that you are doing and continue to do for our community. Let’s go to work.