Felicia Cowden

1.  What should be the County Council’s priorities in addressing the economic impacts of COVID-19? 

Council priorities need to assist the economic stability of our citizens through avoiding policies which cause further instability and assisting where possible. The mayor’s administration has held tight control of most all decision making beyond budget approval. We can use our influence to encourage strategies to continue protection of our most health-vulnerable population while allowing most businesses to resume their function and allow them to effectively adapt to changes in our marketplace.

2.  What is your vision for a thriving agricultural economic sector on Kauai? 

A thriving agricultural economic sector would support branding Kauai for locally-based food production across the range of food provision, stores, restaurants and delivered meal kits. Develop specialty export products such as locally high-quality, organic nutrition supplements and therapeutic herbs. Offering shared resources, marketing and allowing for simple, farm-worker housing is essential. Retailing products space on farms should be allowed.

3. What role do you feel the visitor industry should play in Kauai’s economy?

The visitor industry is critically important in a diversified economy that can strengthen existing and launch new economic sectors. It can play a core role in helping us to redefine and promote a fresh, more conscious, mindset for visitors of the holistic nature of Kauai as a community’s sacred home. Reaching inclusively to neighborhood associations and the small business community can help clarify welcome pathways that include the transportation sector will yield best results.

4.  If elected to the Council, how would you engage with the business community prior to your decision-making?

Having had two decades of business ownership, active engagement with the business community is natural to me. Attendance at Chamber meetings is an enjoyable method. My pattern is to routinely and pro-actively call businesses that may be effected by proposed policies, as well as to be as responsive as possible to their outreaches. I am committed everyday, almost full time to community outreach. The Kauai Board of Realtors, HTLA, and others have been excellent policy partners for understanding.

5.  How would you help ensure that working middle class residents can afford to buy or rent a home in Kaua’i?

A holistic design of permanent affordable living has become necessary for most new home buyers from Kauai to be able to purchase or rent a house. Supporting policies that allow flexibility for home-based businesses, and equity partnerships for home purchases are interesting to me. Development of new earning potential is a priority, such as the success newer residents experience with virtual work for distant clients and companies. Discouraging speculation on home investments is key.

6.  How would you effectively manage budget and operations compared to the past?

In the mayor’s first term in office, department heads had done much of the cost cutting. The recent budget session has been surreal in the face of COVID19 financial uncertainties. Next year will reveal a more full experience of the economic shutdown, losses and impacts. Quarterly, we need to keep a tight watchful eye on revenues and create forgiveness policies such that we do not help to drive our big and small businesses and families into destitution. We will survive, thrive or fail together.

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 county is actively legalizing and assisting density possibilities such as ADU, ARU, Guest houses, Tiny Houses and mixed-use areas of town cores. Were we to choose to again legalize and allow the humble, true farm worker housing, rural agriculture would increase. Pressure to encourage DHHL to release Hawaiian Homes is long overdue. Policies that discourage empty houses is needed. Partnering with distressed small hotel properties could repurpose units for long-term needs. This aligns with GPU.

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? 

No. Resorts & TVR’s have differing impacts. Beyond raising the value of real estate, TVR’s have little more infrastructure costs than an ordinary household, and house their owners for portions of the year. While resorts are important economic partners to the island, their impacts often include injection wells, chemicals from pools & infrastructure, increased traffic from room density and staffing, etc. Abandoned resorts are left to public responsibility; ie: Coco Palms & Kaluakoi on Molokai.

9.  What two ideas do you have about economic diversification and how would you develop these two areas?

Emphasis on locally-sourced food is an important pathway for building agriculture. Creating export value-added crops for boutique items such as organic nutrition supplements and herbal remedies. increasing local capacity to develop remote work for off-island clients already works for newer arrivals. Inviting well-paying soft industry must be balanced with the possibility for increased gentrification. High-tech involvement is waiting at the edge of our community. A new cable is needed.

10.  What is your solution to best manage solid waste on Kauai?

Source reduction is #1. Buy less; buy local. Shift away from single use containers. We could mine-and-line the earliest portion of the Kekaha landfill to last more decades. Solid waste companies have offered to manage the business with the use of an aerobic digester system that converts organic wastes into energy for sale and can consume our mountain of waste. That interests me. It commits the county to a specified volume of garbage, which could be expensive. Public agreement would be essential.

11.  As a member of the County Council, what steps would you take to mitigate the impacts of climate change on Kauai?

COVID19 helped us learn we can immediately act to mitigate the impacts of Climate Change by traveling and consuming less by all points of transportation. A locally-based economy, remote working and managing our watersheds helps us to be more safe. KIUC’s renewable energy program is remarkable. Encouraging efficient building design has value. The global carbon impacts of the military and tourism sectors dwarf individual contributions like electric cars. Serious change comes from big contributors.

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 continued use of the GET surcharge and would give our current strategy of spending the majority on long-needed road repair more time to have an impact. This income is flexible with each budget cycle. If the transportation demand shifts from cars on broken roads to higher demand for buses, we can offer more times and routes, particularly on the half hour.

13.  What else would you like to share with the business community?

It has been an honor to serve as your councilmember in this first term in office. I am able to place my entire focus on council responsibilities in this phase of life with grown children and no competing job or business. I Put People First by considering the unintended consequences behind policy decisions that have parallel beneficial intentions. We need balance in our policy choices with the goal to build broad prosperity and resilience. Our people need to thrive rather than simply survive.