1. What should be the County Council’s priorities in addressing the economic impacts of COVID-19?
Firstly, we should continue working closely with the Mayor and his Administration to ensure that our County, one of Kaua`i’s largest employers, is fully operational, with our staff employed and providing all core services to our people. We should also continue working with the Administration and community partners to implement the 45 economic recovery strategy recommendations developed with teams of community leaders from our different economic sectors. We also must work diligently to ensure any and all relief or stimulus funds received are spent responsibly and efficiently.
2. What is your vision for a thriving agricultural economic sector on Kauai?
My vision includes our diversified agriculture sector expanded greatly with a lot more growing of a lot more foods that a lot more of us are purchasing and eating. It includes our County in a leading role with an expanded version of our Kaua`i Made & Grown program helping develop more and more local markets for our farmers. It includes successful large scale agriculture growing and raising food that can be exported, be sold locally and be our food source when the barges can’t come. Could it be breadfruit or Hawaiian sweet potatoes? They both can be prepared and enjoyed in many different ways!
3. What role do you feel the visitor industry should play in Kauai’s economy?
Our visitor industry should; and, inevitably will, play a leading role in our economy. Our Economic Recovery Strategy Teams came up with several different ideas for “re-focusing tourism to find balance”. Everyone agrees we need to move forward to a place where tourism has a lighter carbon footprint; a place where tourism is no longer threatening our environment, as well as not lessening our residents’ quality of life. Some call it “Responsible Tourism”. A large part of our tourism should also transition responsibly into other forms like Eco-Tourism, Agri-Tourism and Cultural Tourism.
4. If elected to the Council, how would you engage with the business community prior to your decision-making?
If re-elected, I would continue to engage with the business community by reaching out to all potential stakeholders as I’ve been doing for the past few months as the Housing & Intergovernmental Relations Committee Chair regarding our important and large Housing Policy update bill. We’ve reached out by email, mail and telephone to stakeholders such as developers (including non-profit developers), property owners, contractors, realtors and even building trades unions. COVID-19 has made outreach challenging – but, we’ve been able to host several online meetings with stakeholders.
5. How would you help ensure that working middle class residents can afford to buy or rent a home in Kaua’i?
As Housing Chair, I’m leading the update to our Housing Policy. With our Housing Director’s help and based on recommendations from the Workforce Housing Nexus, we’re proposing exemptions to spur development in our town core areas. Lower prices are possible when units are built smaller and close to existing infrastructure. There are additional proposed amendments also intended to help build our much needed housing inventory. We’ve also passed several planning bills that support more building of affordable housing and rentals including ADU’s, ARU’s, Guest Houses and Tiny Homes.
6. How would you effectively manage budget and operations compared to the past?
As always, I’ll carefully analyze HR’s vacancy reports and call for cuts there. It’s important to me to also prevent layoffs, furloughs or cuts in services. As before, I’ll also look at cutting any new positions. I’ll ask for any possible further deferral of road repairs and resurfacing, as well as cuts to travel and training. With real property taxes, if absolutely necessary, I’m open to raising rates on Residential Investor and also bringing all transient accommodations categories to the highest rate of Resort. Lastly, I will look for ways our service delivery could be more cost efficient.
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 support our talented County Planners helping us plan for accommodating our growing population and visitor counts by utilizing smart growth, complete streets, transient-oriented development, placemaking and other evolving, best-practice planning principles. The revitalization of Rice Street and Lihu`e town gives us a glimpse of our hopeful future. Our General Plan, developed with a lot of community input, has 19 key policies, an actions chapter tied to policies and an expanded implementation chapter. It is well-equipped to help us manage growth providing guidance along the way.
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. It seems to me that’s what would be fair. Of course, I will do my due diligence and look at the data and studies. And, I will seek input from all the different stakeholders affected.
9. What two ideas do you have about economic diversification and how would you develop these two areas?
1st idea – Take a large part of our current tourism industry and transition it responsibly into other forms like Eco-Tourism, Agri-Tourism and Cultural Tourism. I’d work closely with OED, KVB, HVB, HTA, the Chamber and other stakeholders to successfully develop over time. 2nd idea – Develop a large-scale agricultural venture that grows food for the local market and for export. Maybe breadfruit, Hawaiian sweet potatoes or even both. I’d work closely with OED, the Kaua`i Farm Bureau, UH CTAHR, the Chamber, Hawaiian homesteaders and other stakeholders to successfully develop over time.
10. What is your solution to best manage solid waste on Kauai?
Recycling – I support 1) constructing a MRF, 2) curbside recycling & raising trash fees to fund it, & 3) education on the next two R’s (“Redesign” products & services to produce less waste & “Refuse” items that will generate unnecessary rubbish). I’m a co-sponsor on styrofoam ban & will likely support single use. Landfill Site – Expansion & mining of Kekaha Landfill gives us 35 more years. Maalo landfill site is on hold. Source Reduction – The County needs to lead the way in creating less waste. We need to purchase products with less packaging. We need more water fountains and refilling stations.
11. As a member of the County Council, what steps would you take to mitigate the impacts of climate change on Kauai?
We need a Climate Action Plan. Our land use, capital improvements and all our programming needs to consider climate change impacts. We may need a bill that addresses innovations and new technologies like transitioning to an all-electric vehicle fleet. Not sure if we’re taking any actions other than incorporating sea level rise data into all our new community plans. While we’re getting a county-wide Climate Action Plan in place, we also need to ask Planning for recommendations for legislation that’ll help us address climate action and the necessary retreat from the shoreline inland.
12. Do you support the continued use of the G.E.T. surcharge and how would you prioritize roads and transportation spending?
I did not support the G.E.T. It’s a regressive tax hurting the poorest the most; the kupuna living on social security or the single mom on govt. assistance. Further taxing bread, milk, eggs and so on is wrong. This happened because of bad management over time with regards to our road repairs and resurfacing. While this surcharge is in place, our County must maximize the amount of the roads backlog it can get to; as well as utilize the transportation funding to drastically improve efficiencies at our Kaua`i Bus. Whether in office or not, I will work against any G.E.T. extension after it sunsets.
13. What else would you like to share with the business community?
We need to increase our water security. HCF helped create the Hawai`i Fresh Water Initiative. The goal is to create 100 million gallons per day in additional, reliable fresh water capacity by 2030. The 3 aggressive water strategies we have to take on are Conservation, Recharge and Reuse. We need to… 1) change how we build our homes; building in gray water systems for our toilets & irrigation; 2) ensure our forests are healthy so they can recharge our aquifers; 3) increase storm water capture; 4) have rainwater catchment systems; and, 5) utilize more native plants to help conserve fresh water.