We’ve been producing journalism in the public interest for 10 years, with the aim of making Hawaii a better place, and we have no plans to stop any time soon. But we need your help to keep this critical work going strong. For a limited time, donations to Civil Beat will be doubled, thanks to a matching gift from the NewsMatch program!
Civil Beat has raised $44,000 towards our $200,000 goal!
Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 primary election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Margaret Wille, a candidate for Hawaii County Council District 9, which includes Mauna Lani Resort, Waikoloa Village, Puako, Waikii, a portion of Kamuela, Puukapu Farms, Puukapu Homesteads, Puukapu Village House Lots, Lualia, Puuopelu, Lalamilo, Waiaka, Kawaihae, Kohala Ranch, Mahukona, Hawi, Kapaau and Halaula. There is one other candidate, Herbert Richards.
Name: Margaret Wille
Office seeking: Hawaii County Council, District 9
Occupation: Council member and attorney
Community organizations-Current: North Hawaii Rotary; Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce; Waimea Outdoor Circle; Waimea Community Association; South Kohala Traffic Safety Committee; Waimea Senior Citizen Club; North Hawaii Senior Citizen Club, honorary member.
Age as of August 13, 2016: 68
Place of residence: Waimea
Campaign website: electmargaretwille.com
1: This year has seen an outsized influence from people who want big changes in how government is run. What would you do to change how the Council is run?
I will continue to strive for more accountability by way of appropriate Council rules and ordinances. For example, I was already successful in passing new Council rules to require accountability for failure to attend Council meetings in person and new ordinances that increase accountability and transparency for potential conflicts of interest for all county employees.
So that there is less “behind the doors” decision-making, I regularly strive to minimize the Council’s use of executive session. Likewise I will continue to fight against any efforts to allow the chairs of Council committees to block another Council member’s bills, resolutions or communications from being heard by the Council.
I will continue to strengthen citizen advisory boards and commissions such as I did this past year with an ordinance designed to minimize potential vacancies (lack of quorum) and to better empower and facilitate these citizen boards and commissions.
Overall, I seek to maximize an informed public and increase the ways the public can meaningfully participate in county government decision-making. For example, this past term, I established a new Council video conferencing site in North Kohala.
2. Should your county implement a 0.5 percent GET surcharge? If so, for what purpose?
No. The GET is more appropriate for the state, and the TAT (Transient Accommodation Tax) revenue is a more appropriate source of income for the counties.
3. There is a desire to grow the economy through new development yet also a need to protect our limited environmental resources. How would you balance these competing interests?
I will continue to advocate for policies and decision-making criteria to foster a balanced approach. For example, I drafted and successfully championed a proposed County Charter amendment (“Conservation of Natural and Cultural Resources,”) which was approved by the voters and is now in our County Charter (Article 13 Section 13-29). I also drafted a charter amendment relating to the scope of our county general plan that recently passed the Council and will be voted on this November. The proposed charter amendment would require that the general plan provide long-range comprehensive plans not only for the physical development of the county, but also plans and goals for the overall economic, environment, and socio-cultural wellbeing of the county.
I also seek to ensure environmental and socio-cultural well being in substantive legislation. For example, I successfully opposed the administration’s mass burn solid waste incinerator plan, and instead successfully lobbied for “zero waste” policies and programs. I was able to pass legislation to create an island-wide compost program. This new program (the first in the state) will take all green waste and food scraps to manufacture high quality compost for our farmers, landscapers, and residents.
4. What would you do to strengthen police accountability?
The Police Commissions should be more independent from the police chiefs. Serious consideration should be given to instituting the police uniform camera program. There should be more auditing of the evidence rooms and evidence handling procedures. One program I recently kick-started here in Hawaii County is the “Coffee with a Cop” program. This program brings officers to coffee shops to meet informally with members of the public, thereby directly increasing accountability to residents.
5. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I have already drafted and successfully passed legislation to raise ethical standards of county government workers. I also fought for legislation to improve the accountability of our county Ethics Board. I will also collaborate with state legislators to pass more meaningful financial disclosure laws, and increase accountability for those who disregard those financial disclosure laws.
6. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes, of course.
7. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I make a huge effort to keep my constituents informed about what issues and legislation is coming before the Council so that members of the public can contact individual council members in a timely manner as well as testify before the Council. For example, this past year I published a newsletter twice a month about upcoming Council business and also listed key public affairs community gatherings and events. Additionally I published a monthly “Council Update” article in the Waikoloa Breeze, Kohala Mountain News and North Hawaii News. I also attend many community events so that community members have easy access to my ear.
8. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Many important problems require solutions that cut across interrelated local, state and sometimes federal legislative issues, for example, the dire need for more physicians. I am presently working to create venues for working collaboratively with state and federal legislators.
Regarding the high cost of living, by championing an upgrade in the mass transit system here and around the island, I seek to reduce the cost of on-island travel. I am advocating an overhaul of our mass transit system to provide regular, frequent and dependable bus service. Inclusive in this plan would be to locate a regional transit hub in Waimea (for example, adjacent to the North Hawaii Hospital). In the meantime I have created a new bus route (the new North Kohala to Waimea route will start up July 11, 2016); established more dependable existing routes (such as the Waikoloa to Waimea early morning bus when students need to arrive in Waimea on time).
Regarding the lack of affordable housing, I am working on legislation to incentivize homeowners to make lower cost ohana housing available within their home.