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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 Juno Ann Apalla, a candidate for Kauai County council. There are 13 other candidates for seven seats, including Kanoe Ahuna, Arthur Brun, Mason Chock, Felicia Cowden, Billy DeCosta, Norma Doctor Sparks, Luke Evslin, Shaylene Iseri, Ross Kagawa, Arryl Kaneshiro, Kipukai Kuali’i, Adam Roversi and Milo Spindt.
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?
April’s flooding demonstrated that we certainly can improve the county’s approach to development. Although some structures are grandfathered into old ordinances, we have an opportunity to address parts of the production chain from planning development to maintenance and enforcement of codes moving forward. Looking at town capacities can shed light on what vulnerabilities exist within the town. We should look at past feasibility studies, environmental studies, and other types of assessments conducted to address future planning and development issues.
There are opportunities of sharing the administrative burdens of permitting by outsourcing to professionals in the field. The biggest challenge we face today and in the near future is planing for changes in climate and population size. This in turn will allow us to build better infrastructure for better towns. The Kauai General Plan explains that adding town cores to our communities can help us better organize our neighborhoods, homes, and businesses. We can organize our towns so that we are all sharing the burden of resources, infrastructure, and travel needs are met as a collective.
2. Are changes needed in how the County Council is run, and if so what are they?
There are several things preventing County Council members from having collaborative, open dialogue about issues, such as limited time to comment and ask questions, and short terms of two years. After elections, a council member has about one year to prepare for the next election year. I also think that the County Council can better work together without grandstanding or backbiting, with the point that they work for the public and not themselves. Furthermore, the two-year terms for each council seat are archaic and designed for a council comprised of all volunteer individuals. However, this is no longer the case today.
It is possible that the short terms may be an opportunity for the person with immediate solutions to win the elections and implement their solutions, but this method incentivizes short-term solutions and not long-term. County Council members are compensated for their full-time work and therefore must be able to conduct themselves as if this is a full-time job and think long-term. Think like Egyptians, plan for existing for thousands of years. I do think that there is enough reason to extend the terms to four years as time would be in our hands to help us all exist past our lifetimes with our community legacies.
3. Kauai County recently implemented a 0.5 percent GET surcharge for public transportation. Do you support this decision? Why or why not?
Let’s rethink this conundrum and break this down. GET is a tax on consumable products, and people pay this tax when they purchase basic necessities and items at the store after income tax. This means that the kupuna (elderly) living on a fixed income will have to pay this tax after their fixed income has already been reduced by state and federal taxes. Sounds like double dipping? It is. This is why you will hear some people say that the GET is “regressive.”
Let’s remember that Kauai County missed the boat when we had the chance to increase less regressive taxes. These are less regressive because of their tax implications — less financial impact on the poor. Let’s also think about the consumable items that most people buy in the store: Pringles, shampoo, medicine, clothes, coffee, fake eyelashes, canned goods, imported goods, and more. Some are necessities, and most are not.
There are positive benefits to this GET surcharge, which impacts not just residents but also visitors, our main bread and butter. Kauai received over a million visitors in FY2016. If every visitor in 2016 were taxed an additional 25 cents, our county could have earned $250,000 in GET that could have gone to roads, infrastructure, and transportation.
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?
I believe that this is a great opportunity to demonstrate a public-private partnership among many stakeholders in our community. The key to this, I believe, is the visitor industry because it is the major source of income for the state. Imagine the visitor industry partnering with the agriculture industry to create a thriving agri-tourism industry.
This effort encourages young farmers to grow crops on the island while maintaining an eco-friendly tourist destination. Visitors can participate in a lively local experience and as well have an opportunity to be stewards of goodwill toward the sustainability of the island. The other partnership is between the visitor industry and media arts and technology. I wonder why we can’t incentivize the next innovator of the most useful technology to invent and create here on the Kauai? This will look like a partnership between think tanks, generators, and media arts technology for collaboration in the emerging industries. Growth in this sector can stimulate job creation and economic sustainability.
5. What would you do, if anything, to strengthen police accountability?
Kauai Police Department is ahead of the trend with the use of body cameras for the case of protection and accountability. Access to the footage for ethical use in investigations can truly strengthen police accountability. Maintaining these technologies and among other expenses to increase the number of police officers on duty for the whole island at any given time should also be a priority for the county.
6. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
Kauai County passed regulation to disclose lobbyist activities and I think this was the right decision. Also, the Kauai County Code of Ethics as managed by the County Board of Ethics outline the fines and fees related to any non-adherence to our county’s code of ethics. The aforementioned provisions should be sufficient to hold individuals accountable to an ethical standard.
The county also utilizes the OpenGov financial reporting system in their website to disclose publicly the financial reports of our county. These tools are sufficient tools for any citizen of our county to use for their own research. This tools in the hands of normal citizens can be better watchdogs and hopefully inspire the citizens to practice their skills through public discourse. Maybe this can also help us all to shape government as a collective rather than working in silos.
7. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes, however only if the fee elimination coincides with the public records’ online access. Digital copies are much more environmentally friendly, portable, and easier to manage because it would not take much real estate in the county’s busy office and could make room for county personnel to build a work environment conducive to building culture and a bit more comfortable for workers who literally live in their offices. Furthermore, online access can easily be designed so that the county can track users’ activities of public records. With data insight to the citizens and business behavior in terms of public data use can help the county better understand the demand for record keeping.
8. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I turn to Oracle’s White Papers to help illustrate my support of any technological development and use for communication with constituents. Technology is already demonstrating the power of connectivity and instantaneous communication from health care to social media. I think it benefits the majority if we could research, develop, and implement a technology that will allow federal, state, and county level governments to improve quality and efficiency of their communications. These technologies could be very similar to the private sector for customer service — I believe deeply that government should be implementing the CEX and EEX (Client Experience and Employee Experience) indexes to measure its success. In a world where hyper-technology rules most of communications, for the modern resident, we must enable them to speak in their terms — technology. The significant majority of individuals complaining that their government does not listen to them are the very ones who probably gave up listening, reading, researching, and voting.
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?
The most current and engaged department in this topic would be the planning department. They are currently working on a community assessment plan and their approach is to engage the community members who live and work in the communities affected by potential sea-level rise. The county should do more through public education and key stakeholder engagement. The department can’t do this alone and needs the whole county on-board. Some very important feedback that they must receive are key concerns of community members in West Kauai, for example their wish to preserve cultural aspects of their town and affordable housing.
The general plan puts into play the blueprint for more town core or town centers. It is imperative that the community members in the affected areas should be engaged in the discussions, especially when major decisions are made for them and their children. The county can do better in educating the public in climate issues and modeling the way for the leaders of the county to move towards sustainability. Maybe taking the example of leadership in the local utilities cooperative, KIUC. Setting goals as lofty as 100 percent recycling by 2020. I believe initiatives such as these are aligned with the current state and federal government objectives.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Kauai is not districted and therefore I have a hard time answering this question. If I were to interpret this question in the county level, then I can better reply that the most pressing issue facing my county today is fiscal responsibility of spending less than we earn (and spending what we must so we don’t lose the funding), meeting the emerging needs of our community through infrastructure and housing, and lastly economic sustainability (job creation and talent retention).
I’d like to be known for bridging opportunities with the right people who can execute the solutions to our issues — doing so with integrity and without covert agenda. Today, the issues we must address — and plans we must execute — are mostly written in our community general plan.
Ahead of us are a series of community planning sessions to address the needs for West Kauai. This task needs everyone’s hands. I come with a fresh slate of untainted politicking, safe relationships with fellow politicians, and the advantage of longevity, which is an opportunity to build a future with you. Thank you for the continued support and for your votes this primary election.