Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 6 General Election, 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 Mel Rapozo, a candidate for Kauai mayor. The other candidate is Derek Kawakami.
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?
Yes, it should. We need to reassess areas that are vulnerable to flooding to ensure the health and safety of the public. We need to revisit zoning and permitting practices and amend any existing laws that allow for development of homes in areas that are subject to destruction during major flooding events. We also need to strictly adhere to shoreline setback laws so that life and property are not in danger during extreme weather events.
2. Are changes needed in how the County Council is run, and if so what are they?
I don’t believe that any changes are necessary.
3. Kauai County recently implemented a 0.5 percent GET surcharge for public transportation. Do you support this decision? Why or why not?
I was the lone vote against the GET surcharge for two reasons. First of all, the GET is a very regressive tax. It is also a pyramiding tax that I believe is unfair to the consumer. This tax affects the poor the most, also those on fixed incomes.
The second reason why I didn’t support the GET surcharge is that funding was never the reason for the poor conditions of our roadways. The council has funded our Roads Division year after year, however, the roads were not getting paved. It is not a money issue but rather a performance issue. It simply isn’t fair to tax our residents simply because we can. There was no nexus, in my opinion, for the 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?
Development needs to be controlled. Utilizing smart growth principles, along with intensive community planning, is the direction the county needs to take. Also, insuring that the impacts of development are mitigated as best as possible is a must. There must be a balance and the county has to be aware of these impacts and ensure that the quality of life for our residents and visitors are not compromised.
5. What would you do, if anything, to strengthen police accountability?
I believe that accreditation of our Police Department was a huge step in accountability. Also, with the implementation on police body cameras and strict enforcement of policies and procedures, the level of accountability has increased. A well trained Police Commission is also imperative to the accountability of our Police Department. I don’t believe that any changes are needed at this time.
6. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
We currently have an ordinance that governs lobbyists on Kauai. It has worked well for us and I don’t envision any changes for Kauai. I also believe that a well-trained Ethics Commission is necessary, and I would make sure that the commission members were trained in all areas of ethics.
7. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes, I would definitely support this.
8. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
First of all, I will have an open-door policy as I have had for the 14 years that I have served on the County Council. I will utilize social media as a means of communication with the constituents. Finally, I will host quarterly meetings to hear from community members directly.
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?
We need to pay attention to the changes in our environment. Shoreline areas need to be protected from development and infrastructure improvements need to be made with sea level rise in mind. Living on an island is a wonderful thing but it comes with the reality that our shorelines are disappearing. We cannot continue to think short term, but rather think long term and plan accordingly.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
There are multiple issues that need immediate attention, including traffic, affordable housing and solid waste.
The traffic situation is one that requires a comprehensive plan that needs to be implemented immediately. You can find my plan on my website.
Solid waste is a problem that will have serious ramifications if we don’t deal with the near-capacity of our existing landfill, and the slow process of constructing a new landfill. I will look at alternative technologies to handle our municipal solid waste.
Affordable housing is a statewide issue that will require public-private partnerships to resolve. We need land to create opportunities for affordable housing projects to be built. We need to start looking at land banking annually to provide those opportunities.