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 Bronsten Kossow, one of four candidates for Hawaii County Council District 7, covering a portion of Kealakekua, Kona Scenic Subdivision, Kainaliu, Honalo, Keauhou, Kahaluu, Holualoa, Kona Hillcrest, Pualani Estates, Sunset View, Kuakini Heights, Kona Vistas, Alii Heights, Kona Industrial, Lono Kona.
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?
It is truly heartbreaking to witness the ongoing devastation in Puna with the volcanic eruption. Hawaii County has an obligation to assist those affected by the volcanic eruption. We have to create ways to offer these people a future by working with FEMA and state and county agencies. I think this is a great opportunity to come together as an island to help get those affected back on their feet. The current county administration has already started working on a plan for the future that we can build upon to support the effort for those in Puna.
2. Are changes needed in how the County Council is run, and if so what are they?
Currently, the County Council is in need of more aloha. Aloha is a fundamental value in our state and I believe that it can make a difference in how the leadership runs the council. There also needs to be transparency between the public and elected officials. I strongly believe that the public has a right to know what elected officials are accepting from lobbyists in the case that a conflict of interest arises and even exposing personal finances when necessary.
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 Legislature authorized Hawaii County to increase GET by .5 percent but was recently changed and approved as a 0.25 percent increase. The additional revenue should be used to offset the estimated $5 million that it will take to recover the upcoming projected budget after the revenue loss from the lava zone. It is concerning to me that it is a regressive tax but I support the fact that this tax has an expiration date. I would like to know where the money will be allocated and what the funding plan is once we reach the expiration date for this increase.
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?
We need to develop in a smart way that will create balance between the public and private sectors while making sure to protect our resources. One way we can do that is by redeveloping what is already developed instead of building on new land. The Kona community is filled with archaeological sites that we need to protect for historical purposes. The land also supplies natural resources that our community needs to thrive, such as fresh water. If we work with businesses who are looking to develop, we can work together to improve our economy while protecting our resources at the same time.
5. What would you do, if anything, to strengthen police accountability?
To strengthen police accountability in our community, we need to work with the leadership of the department in order to improve upon what we already have. Boosting the volunteer community boards and commissioner positions would help the department hear from a wide range of people within the community. I believe that there are some laws that could be put in place that will strengthen the department as well. Those laws would address financial disclosures and tighten protocols across the board.
6. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I stand to believe that full disclosure is the best method. I would like to see law changes that would make it so that the public access to the records submitted by elected officials. Personally, I have stated that I will be submitting my financial disclosure, as well as my campaign disclosure, on my campaign website. Elected officials are there to represent the people and one way we can do that is by being transparent on every aspect of being in office.
7. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
I would like to see information more accessible to the public, especially if it is in the public’s best interest.
8. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
If elected to office, my door will always be open and my personal phone number will be readily available so that I am able to listen to the concerns of the community. I would like to listen and discuss the issues that our county is facing and talk about how we should and will work on improving them. Elected officials can only do so much on their own, but it is the community that can make the changes we wish to see. With improved communication within the community, we can inform citizens so that they can stand up for their beliefs and visions for the community. By working together, we can improve the community for the betterment of the people.
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?
Hawaii County should have a more responsive role when it comes to the effects of climate change, especially the rising sea level and threats to our reef ecosystem. This would include taking the rising sea level into consideration when planning and approving future development. The cesspools that are near the coastline also need to be addressed to avoid damaging the reef should they start leaking into the ocean.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Homelessness has become a pressing issue throughout the island. In the Kailua-Kona area, it has been difficult to provide adequate services to those who are homeless. A “safe zone” model known as Camp Kikaha was created but due to a lack of funding was shut down. The State of Hawaii has allocated ‘Village 9’ for an Ohana Zone. This is a great opportunity to provide Housing First initiatives. In addition to this, we also need to support designated “safe zoned” parking areas for those who live in their vehicles. Currently, it is illegal to remain parked in a public space between a certain time frame each night. Village 9 will provide the opportunity to place the homeless on the outskirts of Kailua-Kona, which will positively affect businesses and the tourism industry alike. I think that it is an important step to providing opportunities for our homeless.