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Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Nāpua Greig-Nakasone, one of two candidates for Maui County Council Upcountry District. The other candidate is Yuki Sugimura.
Name: Nāpua Greig-Nakasone
Office seeking: Maui County Council
Occupation: Business owner, Educator, Kumu Hula
Community organizations/prior offices held: President, Hālau Nā Lei Kaumaka o Uka (Non-profit) 1996-present; board member, Waiohuli Hawaiian Homesteaders Association 2009-present; board member, Maui Nui Botanical Gardens; member, Maui Okinawa Kenjin Kai; member, Hawaii Farmers Union United; commissioner at large, state Land Use Commission, 2010-2013
Place of residence: Waiohuli, Maui
Campaign website: www.votenapua.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?
My desire to run for office is seated in the same sentiment; wanting to see impactful changes in the way government is run. As a newcomer to the political process, I come to the Maui County Council wanting to learn from the current structure, and in turn, building upon this to make necessary changes.
At the same time, I think one of the most effective ways to incorporate change in government is to integrate and involve the very community we are tasked with serving. I would like to see more community outreach and engagement. Maui County has consistently had the lowest voter turnout in the state. This is a clear message to our leaders that the community is disconnected and disengaged. I believe in transparency and accountability in the Council and in government as a whole. I would like to see the Council make community engagement more accessible by changing meeting times for pressing issues to the evening to allow for more public testimony.
2. Should your county implement a 0.5 percent GET surcharge? If so, for what purpose?
We’re fortunate that Maui County can be home to a community of self-employed and small business owners. I feel, however, that it would be disproportionately unfair to this particular group of hard-working residents to be burdened with a GET surcharge. Increased operating costs and/or new initiatives that require additional funds should not solely rely on a small group, alone, but instead, find better means to sustainably fund these projects.
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?
Many times the discussion between government and the community is about what we don’t want. I would like to be a part of bringing more people to the table to talk about what we do want. Where are the areas we want to protect? Where will we build workforce housing? How can we truly diversify our economy? As Maui County is actively affected by the global economy and global markets, it is imperative that we understand what our strengths are and utilize what is unique to Hawaii to create a niche in these markets.
4. What would you do to strengthen police accountability?
To strengthen police accountability, I would be active and engaged with the Police Commission. Although the commission does not have jurisdiction over the day-to-day dealings of the Police Department, the Commission does make major decisions for the department, like hiring the police chief. Currently, neither the mayor nor any Council members have attended a meeting in the past five years. It is this kind of involvement that would undoubtedly strengthen accountability and ensure trust throughout.
5. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
Although I am a first-time candidate for political office, I am cognizant of the many tax lobbying, ethical, and financial disclosure issues that exist today. The strengthening and enforcement of lobbying, ethics, and financial disclosure laws happen at the state level but as a County Council candidate I believe that in order for our elected leaders to effectively represent all constituents, big money corporations, businesses, and even unions should not be allowed to contribute large amounts of money. As a citizen I have long felt it is a great disadvantage to our community when those with money have more access to elected officials than the people do. If elected, I will ensure that I not only conduct myself with integrity, learn and observe, but also to strive to improve these issues system-wide.
6. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
I would absolutely support the elimination of Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the interest of the public. Doing this would allow our community to have avid access to personal information, often times, helping to uncover familial relationships, historical background, and even ownership of properties. Access to public information should not be burdensome and costly; we must continue to improve our communities at all levels.
7. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
To improve communication with our community I would:
• Utilize social media to update our community on any current and upcoming events at the Council.
• Hold Council meetings at varied times to enable the most community attendance an involvement.
• Continue to attend community meetings, as I have already done on the campaign trail, to ensure I am kept abreast of community concerns and to give my community ample opportunity to hear about the work that is going on at the County Council.
• Establish an open door policy; creating a welcoming atmosphere at my office for my community.
• Efficiently answer questions, return phone calls and answer e-mails.
8. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Access to water has been an ongoing issue in Maui County for the past three decades. It is time for the county to engage in negotiations with Alexander & Baldwin to effectuate a transfer of the water transmission lines to the County of Maui or the State of Hawaii. The county has an obligation to protect, control, and regulate water. This is an obligation I do not take lightly, especially when it comes to getting water to our Upcountry residents.
Additionally, the current process to the upcountry water meter list is ineffective. At present time, the Department of Water Supply is mandated to go through the list in chronological order. However, this may not be the most practical or efficient as applicant No. 1 may live in an area that is far from any water transmission lines, requiring the construction of new infrastructure before a meter can be issued. Applicant No. 25 may be located in close proximity to existing water infrastructure, making the meter installation much simpler and cost effective. In the current process, no other applicants can be serviced until applicant No. 1 has been serviced. I firmly believe that priority should be given to long-time family subdivisions over newer, for profit developments.
At a County level, I will work to set aside funds in the budget each year to invest in water infrastructure development so this public trust responsibility successfully accommodates all residents of Maui County.