Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 11 primary, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities will be if elected.

The following came from Matthew Kaneali’i-Kleinfelder, one of three candidates for Hawaii County Council District 5 covering W.H. Shipman Industrial Park, 9-1/2 mile Camp, Keaau Ag Lots, Kurtistown, Mt. View, Glenwood, Orchidland Estates, Ainaloa, Hawaiian Acres, Fern Acres, Eden Roc, Fern Forest Estates, Mauka of Pahoa Town, Kaohe Homesteads, Kamali‘i Homesteads, Kalapana, Opihikau, Kehena and Kaimu.

There are two other candidates, Frederic Wirick and Jennifer Ruggles.

Go to Civil Beat’s Elections Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.

Candidate for Hawaii County Council District 5

Matthew Kaneali’i-Kleinfelder
Party Nonpartisan
Age 36
Occupation Electrical project manager
Residence Hawaii County


Community organizations/prior offices held


1. The latest volcanic eruption demonstrates that some homes and infrastructure are particularly vulnerable to lava flow. Should this change Hawaii County’s approach to development, and if so, how?

Hawaii County is currently working to evaluate the existing general plan which guides the direction of development. It is imperative that new infrastructure and housing should be built in low-risk areas along with looking at high-density housing types to absorb the increasing population on the Big Island.

2. Are changes needed in how the County Council is run, and if so what are they?

Positive communication is essential to cultivate efficient decision making and legislation within the County Council.  I look forward to providing open and innovative lines of communication as one of the eight members of the County Council.

3. The Legislature has authorized Hawaii County to implement a 0.5 percent GET surcharge. Should the county do it, and if so, what should the additional revenue be spent on?

The county is in the process of approving the GET surcharge and it is clear that the county needs diversified income. The revenue from the GET bill is earmarked for mass transit, roads, and the like. If the bill is voted in, the funds should benefit the communities of the Big Island by stimulating growth, increasing accessibility to rural areas, addressing environmental concerns and creating emergency preparedness.

4. 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?

Our environment and resources need to be our key concerns. Keeping the people of this island working and healthy is a cornerstone of a productive, happy community but we need balance; slow, well-planned growth to steadily stimulate our economy while preserving green space and keeping our coastlines pristine for our future generations to come. Our environment is the reason Hawaii is so beautiful. If we plan on keeping the tourism market and our own quality of life at an optimum level, then we have to bear that in mind as we build on our aina.

5. What would you do, if anything, to strengthen police accountability?

In Hawaii County our Police Commission provides oversight on police complaints. If necessary, we could work with the members of the Police Commission to identify new policies or procedures to provide more accountability overall. I fully support our police officers in their efforts to ensure our safety.  

6. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?

To apply as a candidate for County Council is a detailed process involving the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission. Their main focus is keeping transparency and integrity in the elections. Lobbying should provide fairness and equal opportunity to all candidates involved in any political field. 

7. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?

Fees in government are a way life and with the county’s limited ability for income, almost a necessity. Being a small business owner, I understand that time is money and requests take time to fill. On the other hand, it’s important to create new avenues of availability for public records.

8. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?

We are public servants and as such should be available and accountable to the public at all times. In the sometimes-overwhelming age of technology we live in, I feel that we are always available to the public whether by phone, email or social media. We should all have an open door policy.

9. What more should Hawaii County be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?

At-risk areas are being addressed currently and each year the effects of global climate change are becoming more evident. These are real issues being faced worldwide and Hawaii is at the forefront. We have been and always will be a community that revolves around our ocean and shoreline environments. Protecting them needs to be our priority. Similar to areas affected by lava, growth needs to happen in areas that are not below projected water lines.

10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?

District 5 is the working class of Hilo. We need better transportation, better infrastructure and better access to rural areas for our emergency personnel. We need to know we’re safe as a community. We need pride in our community. So, lets initiate the conversation, plan and identify the key people, execute the plan, and ensure the community is happy with the result.