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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 Dom Acain, a candidate for Kauai County Council. There are 23 other candidates running for the seven available seats, Juno Ann Apalla, Felicia Cowden, Milo Spindt, Ted Daligdig, Bill Dan DeCosta, Norma Doctor Sparks, Luke Evslin, Victoria Franks, Arthur Brun, Richard Fukushima, Cecelia Hoffman, Shaylene Iseri, Ross Kagawa, Arryl Kaneshiro, Kipukai Kuali’i, Nelson Mukai, Wally Nishimura, Roy Saito, Shirley Simbre-Medeiros, Adam Roversi, Harold Vidinha, Heather Ahuna and Mason Chock.
1. The April flooding demonstrated some homes and infrastructure are particularly vulnerable to heavy rain. Should this change the county’s approach to development, and if so, how?
I don’t believe that those affected this time were vulnerable to heavy rains as we have been subjected to heavy rains for years without the same consequences that we have recently experienced. What needs to be done first of all is to have a thorough investigation to see if there were any diversions or construction work done that may have contributed to this disaster and if so work to resolve this. The county needs to have a hotline open for any concerns that can be disseminated to the right agency/department as they do not have the resources to physically cover the whole island.
My motto is, “Building the future through partnerships and cooperation.” This means that there needs to be a way for the residents, businesses, organizations and the government to work together in providing solutions to issues that we face on a daily basis. There needs to be governmental accountability to our residents and there is no way that any politician or the government itself can provide all the answers or solutions.
2. Are changes needed in how the County Council is run, and if so what are they?
We’ve always had a great diverse group in our County Council, but unfortunately it has been the sentiment that smaller towns and communities have not been represented well. This is the reason why I support council districts. I believe that many of our voters do not turn out because they truly feel that their votes do not count. People know who are the leaders in their perspective towns, those who have done so much work for their community only to lose elections because they or their deeds are not known in other districts. This needs to be done before any adjustments to how it is run can be made.
3. Kauai County recently implemented a 0.5 percent GET surcharge for public transportation. Do you support this decision? Why or why not?
No I definitely do not. The problem is not needing the necessary funds but the management of the funds. The County Council has approved funding for road repairs for years but the administration has failed to utilize all funding. They are funding departments that already can’t spend what they have and the only way to resolve this ongoing issue is to have administration changes that follow the money and have a deep understanding of where our issues lie.
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?
Being born on the island and raised on kuleana land I have a deep appreciation for our environmental resources that had sustained our people for generations. There needs to be a cap on what and where development can occur based on Hawaiian principles that whatever you do must be beneficial for our residents seven generations down the road.
We are too pressed for today’s needs that we fail to see the problems we create for our future generations. We cannot continue to tax our resources as if there was an endless supply. We cannot continue to bring in products without knowing how we are going to deal with the byproducts as our land is not increasing in size and more landfills to bury our trash is definitely not an answer. Yes, we definitely need to grow our economy but development must be controlled and the returns on the development must outweigh the negatives that come with it.
5. What would you do, if anything, to strengthen police accountability?
That is a very tough question as there are too many contributing factors involved. On top of that you still have to deal with their union who needs to recognize that a problem exists that may affect or reflect on their organization as well as the profession. The leaders are limited by bargaining agreement on what they can do and this is one of the instances that there needs to be cooperation between residents, the government, the department and the union to come together to work on resolving issues benefit for the whole.
We’ve seen a number of officers who are put on paid leave whenever an incident occurs and I have a problem with that. Some of the incidents are clear that there has been an overreach of their duties and abuse of power. We need to take measures to keep each officer aware that there are serious ramifications for their actions but some of the protections that they are afforded only enable them, which affects the department as a whole.
The department needs to be funded for public outreach. There is too much of a divide between the people and police. While there are amazing officers who take it upon themselves to be connected to the community, they aren’t recognized enough. More recognition for their efforts may encourage other officers to follow and hopefully in return create a course for better communication and understanding between communities and the police department.
6. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
There is very little that can be done at the county level as that is something that the state Legislature needs to seriously take a look at. I do believe that the Ethics Commission needs to have the resources and autonomy to do its job.
7. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Most definitely. The cost should be for hard copies only and there needs to be a system in place that can expedite requests without consuming man hours. We live in a high tech society where information is at our fingertips. Especially if we’re following up on our public officials that the need for release of information should not cost more than the price of materials and we have the means for it to be readily available.
Public records must be easily accessible and all of our public officials need to be aware that all reports must be completed in a timely manner and submitted. They need to be held accountable for non-compliance; after all, they are in essence employees of the people.
8. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
That is where my previous answer comes in. Council districts with changes within the process that gives each district resident the power to vote in or to remove their council member from their district. I am a firm believer in empowering the citizens. The power must remain with the people for effective communication and efficient governmental representation.
There needs to be a way for the people to easily access and have open communication with their leaders, ideally at town hall meetings. Their constituents need to know what or how they are addressing their concerns and why they haven’t been able to. Communication doesn’t start and stop during the election. If you choose to be a political leader then you must make it a point to keep in constant contact with the people who have voted you in.
9. What more should Kauai County be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
Again this is where my motto comes into play. No one political leader is educated enough or carries credentials to make decisions of such magnitude. They aren’t the professionals in everything, nor should they have all the answers. However, they should know how to bring everyone together to see who can do what.
I am not educated enough to determine proper preparation for the effects of climate change. The problem in government exists when lawmakers make decisions without bringing in professionals in any field. Kauai County can only make decisions after seeking expert advice. We have laws being written that have no resources to enforce it. We have measures being passed without proper consultation and that is a waste of time and taxpayers’ money. There needs to be cooperation between state, county, environmental organizations, the community and knowledgeable experts before considering our individual roles and policies that we must take up to address these issues.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
There are too many issues to isolate the most pressing. The government operates on tax revenue so it is vital for us to to address economical development that is sustainable. We need to incorporate ancient Hawaiian values into our long and short term goals understanding the importance of our environment and resources. For too long candidates have been saying that they would be addressing issues such as homelessness, affordable housing, traffic and so forth and for decades the problem has only increased. While I support initiatives attempted I think that the problem is that for the most part those in the know have been kept out of the conversations, leaving many without faith that their government, our local government is anywhere near effective.
Seeing how there are multiple families living in single-family homes, seeing employed people in homeless situations and even seeing our younger generation moving away because they can’t afford to buy a home on the land of their birth, affordable housing is high on my list. To me the problem is that once you get developers involved in affordable homes, the homes no longer become affordable.