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 Mason Chock, a candidate for Kauai County Council. There are 13 other candidates for seven seats, including Kanoe Ahuna, Arthur Brun, Juno Ann Apalla, 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?
Absolutely, we will need to revisit capacity issues for each community and as a whole island ask the question of where and how we should rebuild. Visitor access needs to be re-examined and limited where safety is a potential concern. The overlay of flood plains and shoreline impacts need to be redefined based on climate change patterns such as the rain bombs we may increasingly experience.
Maintenance of watersheds, rivers, streams, and culverts need to be better planned out and not allowed to fall behind. We will need to allow more ease of access to these areas for maintenance by community stewardship groups. Cesspools need to be transitioned, homes relocated or built higher to comply with flood standards. FEMA maps should be questioned and updated where necessary.
2. Are changes needed in how the County Council is run, and if so what are they?
Yes and no. I have worked very hard at building relationships and capacity at the council table in order to increase productivity and cohesiveness allowing discourse and complex problem solving to occur. Because of my efforts, I am proud of our council committing to a process that has kept people at the table despite differences and personalities. Can we do better? Absolutely. The dynamic of every council will be different and I believe it needs to be re-evaluated every term to decide as a group how to best structure our process.
The issue is gaining agreement on our process and holding people accountable when they over step on the agreement. Whatever we agree to, we will need to commit to and follow through on those agreements. Moving forward, my hope is that healthy dialogue and conflict can be supported so that the community can be best heard and represented. This may require a few rule changes as deemed necessary by the body. For instance, the allowance of questions and dialogue should have a place in the process between members and also with the public.
3. Kauai County recently implemented a 0.5 percent GET surcharge for public transportation. Do you support this decision? Why or why not?
Yes, I support this decision, because our roads and bridges are far behind in maintenance and we cannot pass this burden on to our next generation. Also, we need to increase capacity in all of our multi-modal options so our county has the ability to do everything possible to implement traffic mitigation measures.
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 should be defined by our values, way of life and culture not just at the surface, but fully integrated in function. Far too often, we are subjected to outside influences that are not in alignment with the ideals we need prioritized at the highest level. Our natural environment and its finite resources need to be at the top of the list.
I strongly believe we need to enlist and integrate Hawaiian thought and principles through the cultural resources and practitioners of each moku and ahupuaa around our state into the planning and development approval process. A cultural advisory council with powers to oversee development with the integrity we deserve would go far in striking this balance.
5. What would you do, if anything, to strengthen police accountability?
Kauai was the first to implement the body cam program and I believe it has been a successful addition. When used correctly the body cam is a great way to keep everyone more accountable. As county leaders, I believe we need to provide more focused support on accountability, leadership, customer service and ethics education for all of our departments. In addition, we need to encourage our commissions to take a more active role in conflict management and resolution so that when incidents arise, they can be fully addressed and resolved resulting in setting standards that help protect officers as well as the community.
6. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I believe Kauai County passed one of the strongest lobbying bills in the state last term. Is there more to be done? Always. First we need to follow through on the current laws set up to keep transparency at the forefront of our processes. Second, we need to be courageous enough to enact investigations and audits where there is a question of disclosure and ethics brought to public attention. Third, once we are following through on our current laws, we need to constantly re-evaluate necessary changes and needs to our current laws.
I would like to see our ethics commission take a more proactive role in pre-screening appointees before they are presented to the council for confirmation.
7. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
I would support this as long as there is a feasible plan to fully fund the cost associated with these requests and that taxpayers agree with paying for it.
8. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I have been working on building communications capacity through platforms interfacing community with government leadership that will allow more objective information sharing, as well as organizing information that allows for efficient response and interaction. This will require some investment in time and money to create these efficiencies so we can organize the volume of information that is circulated within government decision processes as well as community interests.
The great thing is that we don’t have to re-create the wheel. Technology is already proficient in achieving this benchmark being requested.
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 will need to revise our emergency response plans for each community based on the potential climate change impacts we are currently experiencing. In addition, we need to appeal to our state and federal agencies to help protect and support our threatened reefs, fishponds, and estuaries. Better planning on the county level making adjustments for the future effects of climate change and global warming is imperative.
The county should support those programs and organizations that are proactively working at protecting the environment from these worldwide impacts. In addition, we can do much more in our solid waste program to deter the effects of environmental degradation that ultimately contribute to climate change. If we follow our solid waste plan and refocus it as a high priority, Kauai will see us taking a strong stance to prepare for these forthcoming effects.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
I believe the most pressing issue facing Kauai is the high cost of living and the issues associated with it. We need to be more self-sustainable so we can take care of ourselves amidst the growing cost of living. This includes growing our own food, creating our own affordable housing, protecting our precious water, preserving access for fishing. gathering and farming. We need to not allow outside influences to determine how our communities are managed by raising the cost of housing through the use of transient vacation rentals.
We need to diversify our economy so that we are not solely reliant on tourism as our way to survive. We need to provide our people options that will establish their livelihood and well-being for future generations to come. I will make decisions that will continually enforce the needs I have identified here.