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 Milo Spindt, 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 Juno Ann Apalla.
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?
Of the three accepted methods of dealing with climate adaptation in areas vulnerable to flooding, accommodation (the modification of existing structures) is the easiest and meets with the least resistance from members of the community. Protection (hardening of shorelines and stream banks) can be successful but causes issues for neighboring properties and has been found to accelerate erosion on adjacent properties. Managed retreat (relocation of roads and structures) is the most controversial of the three methods and is the most expensive and difficult to implement.
It is my feeling that our Kauai community answer is likely to be a combination of all three. In areas that are least vulnerable, accommodation can be used. In areas where no other immediate option exists, methods of protection can be used. However, all future plans for increased zoning density, roads, and other infrastructure planning should take managed retreat into consideration.
2. Are changes needed in how the County Council is run, and if so what are they?
I believe that it is challenging for council members to govern effectively when their seats turn over in just two years. Currently the Kauai County Council has seven members that are elected to two-year terms. This gives council members just one year to effectively legislate before they have to begin running for re-election. The recurring community suggestion of offsetting four-year terms for council members could be very productive for our island.
For example, in 2020 three members would be up for re-election and would serve a four-year term once elected. In 2022 the other four members would be up for re-election. Each member would maintain the current term limit of eight years before taking a requisite break, but the idea is to retain institutional knowledge on the council and allow council members three years to legislate before beginning their next run for re-election.
3. Kauai County recently implemented a 0.5 percent GET surcharge for public transportation. Do you support this decision? Why or why not?
Past County Council legislation has done a good job of keeping taxes for Kauai residents low as we have recovered from the Great Recession. However, as a result, we have sacrificed some funding of our transportation infrastructure. I support the 0.5 percent GET surcharge. It will spread the cost of much needed repairs out across our economy, allowing us to complete these repairs before our infrastructure has to be completely replaced at a much higher cost.
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?
In conversations with friends and members of our community, we hear stories of how Kauai was when “we were kids,” or how it looked when “we arrived here for the first time.” We would all like to keep Kauai the way it was when we first remember it, but it just isn’t possible. Our population is growing through a combination of in-migration and natural births. In order to accommodate this population growth, we need more housing and quality jobs so that our children will be able to live here, too.
In order to accommodate this natural growth, we should look to our new General Plan, which outlines the goal of preserving the rural character of our island while maximizing our urban areas. We can look to increase density in the urban core, creating new housing options near to new jobs so that we can encourage people to live closer to their work and prevent increasing traffic and urban sprawl.
5. What would you do, if anything, to strengthen police accountability?
The Kauai Police Department leads the state in police accountability with use of body cameras. This is an excellent tool for the protection of our police from false claims as well as keeping the police accountable to the public.
6. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
In order to sit on Hawaii’s state boards, public disclosure is required. While this law makes it more difficult to get volunteers to participate on boards and committees, it is important that the public can see if members have conflicting financial interests. It is important that we continue to make government more transparent and I am willing to consider new options as they come up.
7. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
In this era of computers in our pockets, it is confounding that our government charges for access to any public documents. I feel that all public documents should be accessible online at no charge.
8. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I have discovered the tremendous value of connecting one on one with community members through my adventures campaigning door-to-door. A suggestion that was given to me early on in my campaign was to continue to hold more regular community meetings where I can be one-on-one with community members. It is my goal to continue regular meetings with the community and to always uphold an open door policy.
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?
Many of the solutions for sea level rise are encompassed in the methods of addressing climate adaptation that I outlined in Question No. 1, regarding updating the county’s approach to flood planning.
There may not be many short term actions we can take to affect the increasing temperatures that are causing some of the issues with our reefs. However, we can work on creating better wastewater systems and converting homes and commercial properties off of cesspools and septic systems that continue to release pollutants into our groundwater, streams, and oceans.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Affordable housing is issue No. 1. The increase in demand and lack of supply has caused rental prices and home prices to dramatically increase during the last seven years of economic recovery, pricing many local families out of the market.
By following the Kauai General Plan, funding infrastructure projects in the urban core to increase water and sewer delivery, we can build affordable housing closer to jobs. The creation of housing in the urban core can also help reduce the demand on our roads, allow us to build more sustainable communities, preserve our rural areas for future generations, and reduce the per capita delivery of services to new properties.