Jade Waialeale Battad
1. What should be the County Council’s priorities in addressing the economic impacts of COVID-19?
The impacts of this epidemic are huge. We are still identifying some of the impacts. Clearly, first we need to keep roofs over people’s heads, and to ensure nutritional and medical needs are addressed. The council should review local tax policy and consider the repeal of legislation that inhibits economic recovery and eventual expansion. Many of our regulatory, planning and permitting functions are outdated and in some ways punitive. The economy touches all of us. There is far more to be done here. There are many good ideas for putting our community on a more sustainable path, and we should be reviewing the whole range of them.
2. What is your vision for a thriving agricultural economic sector on Kauai?
Farmers and farming are part of our life. We at the county must develop tax, zoning and regulatory policies that recognize that we want our land to blossom, to be productive, to feed us. We must protect our land from an environmental perspective, but where using the land is appropriate, we should support that use, whether it is ranching, root vegetables, fruits, pond culture, foliage and flowers, medicinal crops (laʻau), agricultural research, forestry or any of the many other branches of agriculture. We must not fall into the trap of picking and choosing which are most favored and which are pariahs, because that eventually hurts all of them, and all of us.
3. What role do you feel the visitor industry should play in Kauai’s economy?
We have welcomed visitors to our island for generations, and those visitors are key to our economy. My family has been an active part of the visitor industry. While I support more diversification, we can improve the visitor experience—ways that also improve our own residents’ lives. Proper management of visitor destinations, like the work done at Ke’e, reduces negative impacts and improves the experience of all users—resident as well as visitor. That kind of thinking must be applied around the island.
4. If elected to the Council, how would you engage with the business community prior to your decision-making?
I am committed to keeping our island’s economy strong, and that means working together and communicating. People who know me know that I listen, and that I have been an active participant in our island community for my entire life. People from all parts of the community, including the business community, can expect a thoughtful ear. When issues arise, I will seek out the best ideas, by asking, and by listening to the responses.
5. How would you help ensure that working middle class residents can afford to buy or rent a home in Kaua’i?
Housing is a complex issue. This is no one fix, and we should not look for just one fix. I believe we must adopt density alternatives, support innovative housing solutions, invest in infrastructure where we need new housing, ease permitting, simplify zoning, talk to our contractors about the help they need, and press for the development of both rental and owned housing of many kinds. One example: Nearly a quarter of our households are single-person households, but where is the inexpensive, small, studio and one-bedroom housing for them? If we build it, we not only provide lower-cost solutions, but providing a place for smaller families, we can open up larger housing stock for big ones.
6. How would you effectively manage budget and operations compared to the past?
The way we have handled budgets in the past will not be sufficient for the future. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, our economy is in shambles and our county and state budgets are deeply in the red. I hope to be part of a County Council that reaches out to every part of our community for ideas—ideas on where we can safely cut, what we must change, and where we may need to invest. This is not the time for single-minded slashing of programs, but it IS a time for serious-minded review of how we run our county.
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?
I deeply appreciate all the work that went into our General Plan. It is an excellent plan. That said, the crisis before us provides us with an opportunity to look at our future through new eyes. We know things and we recognize risks that we did not fully appreciate even a few years ago. It is not clear to me that we can expect a return to rapidly growing visitor counts. Within the next Council term, we will need to review our assumptions, and revisit our expectations.
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?
Visitor accommodations in homes generate significant revenue, and also significantly impact infrastructure and services. They should certainly contribute in ways that address those increased impacts.
9. What two ideas do you have about economic diversification and how would you develop these two areas?
I am not sure I have a two step answer to this question. I know that we need to reengineer tourism and enact controls, improve the visitor experience and protect our treasured islands natural resources and our land. I recently happened upon the Aina Aloha Economic plan being unveiled and it is a well thought out collaborated process that factors in our Hawaiian values. A diversified economy is something we all agree upon. We need to also agree and advocate for more locally grown food, environmentally friendly work and regenerative businesses which will in turn provide meaningful work and livable wages of a circular economy. We need a better life for our aina and our people.
10. What is your solution to best manage solid waste on Kauai?
Please include your views on recycling, landfill site, source reduction, and other strategies. I support aggressive recycling and waste reduction. Landfilling should be a last option. And we should consider engaging private industry in many of those functions, in situations where it can do them more innovatively or more efficiently.
11. As a member of the County Council, what steps would you take to mitigate the impacts of climate change on Kauai?
Mitigation alone is not enough. Climate change has so many factors. Some of its impacts are already here, and more are coming. We must reduce the impacts of those of our activities that increase the problem. That can include fuel efficiency and renewable energy—our own utility, KIUC, is a world leader in this arena and shows what a small community can do. We also need to act personally to conserve and to live efficiently. And as a community, we must plan for the unavoidable impacts of climate change—things like identifying inland highway routes and ensuring our farmers have water for irrigation in a time of reduced rainfall. At the Council, at every meeting and in every planning session, we must identify opportunities to grapple with climate change and do the right thing for our community.
12. Do you support the continued use of the G.E.T. surcharge and how would you prioritize roads and transportation spending?
I hesitate to support the continued additional taxation of the surcharge, but some of our transportation issues are so severe that in the short term, I also hesitate to advocate for removing it. I think we need a thorough review of our transportation priorities, given issues like electric cars, driverless vehicle technology, climate change and changing patterns of residential housing growth. Then we can make decisions about how to allocate funding.
13. What else would you like to share with the business community?
This community has nurtured me for my whole life, and I hope I will be given the opportunity to step up and give some of that nurturing back through service on the County Council. My commitment is to consider the impacts on all our people—including those of our keiki yet unborn—in every decision.