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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 KipuKai Kuali’i, 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, Juno Ann Apalla, 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?
Yes. The county’s approach to all future development, including reconstruction of flood damaged properties, must change to account for the devastation caused by extreme weather and climate change including super rainstorm flooding and sea level rise. Permitting, zoning and shoreline setback laws need to be updated and strengthened in order to keep all our residents safe, as well as protect private and public property including infrastructure.
2. Are changes needed in how the County Council is run, and if so what are they?
The council’s most important job each year is setting the county’s annual budget. In order that the council could do a better job with budgeting, here’s the changes I believe are needed.
• That the council receives semi-annual confidential reports (written and presented) from the Vacancy Review Committee with recommendations for budget savings and cost cutting.
• That the council receives an annual report (written and presented) from the Cost Control Commission with recommendations for budget savings and cost cutting.
• That the council receives from the mayor’s administration an accurate, audited version of our labor force numbers (i.e. number of employees, salaries and wages for those employees, etc.) for operating our county by divisions and departments instead of broad functions as showing in the unaudited section of the CAFR.
• That the council changes the scheduling for its’ budget process including allowing time at the end of decision-making’s cuts and adds to make any changes to tax rates; allowing two rounds of decision-making cuts and adds with at least a three-day break in between and allowing the first round of decision-making cuts and adds to start on a Wednesday in place of that week’s council business meeting.
3. Kauai County recently implemented a 0.5 percent GET surcharge for public transportation. Do you support this decision? Why or why not?
On the council in 2016, I helped lead the effort to defeat the GET surcharge. Because of a few hundred votes, I was not there to help do that again in this last term.
I don’t support the GET because it’s a regressive tax that hurts our struggling families and the poorest among us the most. If the county really needed to raise additional revenues, which I don’t agree it did, fuel, vehicle weight and property taxes should have been utilized first.
I also don’t support the GET because I don’t see the county’s road repairs and maintenance backlog as a result of under-funding. The funding that the council did provide year after year didn’t result in the completion of road repairs and maintenance it should have. That backlog is less attributable to a lack of funding and more to ineffective management over the years. Thankfully, the county has put key individuals and processes in place to resolve that problem. However, the last council should have given it a few years to see what a difference being more efficient could have made in addressing the backlog. I believe resorting to the GET surcharge was extremely premature and entirely wrong.
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?
New development is critical for jobs and housing. Jobs and housing are critical for everyone’s quality of life and for tackling homelessness and the high cost of living. Protecting our limited environmental resources is critical for our agricultural and sustenance lifestyles (gardening, gathering, hunting and fishing); for our people’s enjoyment of the aina and for optimal visitor experiences.
These two interests which you purport as competing can be complementary with good planning, place-making strategies and smart growth principles. Balance can be found by focusing most, if not all, new development in our walkable, livable town centers and nearby areas with multi-use housing and neighborhood businesses. And, by keeping new development away from our special places (i.e. Hanalei Valley and Kokee), cultural sites and open spaces.
5. What would you do, if anything, to strengthen police accountability?
While there’s probably always some room for strengthening police accountability, I know that in the past few years KPD has overcome a big hurdle with accomplishing accreditation. I also know that they have successfully implemented a body camera program that is beneficial to both the police and the people they engage with.
Perhaps as a council member, one thing I might be able to do is help foster a strong working relationship between the mayor, the police chief and the council. And, another might be to support the mayor in finding the best people available to appoint to the Police Commission and in ensuring that they receive first-rate training.
6. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
As a council member in 2016, I was part of enacting a strong lobbying bill requiring lobbyist to register with the county. The county also has a strong code of ethics requiring disclosures by all managers, elected officials and appointees, as well as a Board of Ethics.
I would support the mayor in finding the best people available to appoint to the Board of Ethics and in ensuring that they receive first-rate training.
7. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes. However, in order to reduce the cost as much as possible, the county should be making public records available electronically whenever possible.
8. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
In order to improve communication, I will work to do the following as I’ve done before when I was serving on the County Council:
• Be accessible to constituents as much as possible.
• Continue being the same approachable person to constituents as I am to my neighbors as a homestead community association leader.
• Keep regular office hours allowing for face-to-face meetings with any constituent who makes a request.
• Be regularly available to constituents by phone, text and email.
• Utilize social networking to engage with constituents,
• Attend as many community meetings as I can to learn from constituents.
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 science of climate change brings with it new sets of data that we need to pay attention to with regards to extreme weather, sea level rise and the potential impacts to our county, our residents and our aina.
As I’ve stated before, the county needs to update and strengthen permitting, zoning and shoreline setback laws in order to keep all our residents safe, as well as to protect private and public property including infrastructure.
Both long-term and short-term planning must take into account the new data we have on sea level rise inundation zones. I think I saw somewhere that we have to account for a sea level rise of 3 feet.
The county also, together with the appropriate experts from the state and federal governments, needs to address the impacts and threats to our reefs and coastal areas.
The county should also come up with a plan to reduce our net carbon emissions to zero and be an example for other entities, companies and residents to follow.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
The most pressing issue facing our county is the lack of affordable housing. With a lot more affordable homes and rentals we should be able to bring down prices and rents to help our growing families. Addressing this one pressing issue will also help with creating jobs, supporting local businesses, traffic congestion, diaspora, homelessness, invisible homeless (overcrowding) and the high cost of living.
My commitment is to work with the mayor, our county housing agency, landowners and other community partners to put forward tax and land use incentives for the accelerated building of a lot more affordable housing.
I will support and work to build support for purchasing lands, partnering with public and private landowners; partnering with non-profit developers, strengthening laws to ensure developers complete requirements, prioritizing affordable housing projects for expedited review and permitting, integrating affordable housing with market-price housing and negotiating lease agreements that assure permanent County-ownership of affordable housing rental projects
The council has been working to increase affordable housing supply by approving ADU’s/ARU’s in high density areas like Lihue. Rather than only starting with a pilot in Lihue, I support doing the same simultaneously in both Kapa`a and Waimea as well.