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 Shaylene Iseri, a candidate for Kauai County Council. There are 13 other candidates for seven positions, including Kanoe Ahuna, Arthur Brun, Mason Chock, Juno Ann Apalla Billy DeCosta, Norma Doctor Sparks, Luke Evslin, Felicia Cowden, 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?
The County Planning Department has always tried to be conscientious in ensuring that homes and infrastructure are protected from natural disasters and other elements. Because of the terrain in this area of the island, strict administrative rules have been in place however, violations of these rules have sometimes been the core of the issue.
Most of the time, the owner or renter is not even aware of these rules and because of the limited staff of the Planning Department, enforcement of these rules is not of the highest priority. Funding for civil enforcement needs to be increased to bring awareness to owners and renters and time needs to be allocated to allow an owner or renter to be in compliance of these rules for their own protection.
2. Are changes needed in how the County Council is run, and if so what are they?
Changes to the County Council rules and procedures can always be improved. While Robert Rules of Order provide the general framework for its operations along with the County Council rules and procedures, the aloha spirit is always a welcome addition to allow persons to speak beyond a specified time given the particulars of a certain issue and given the number of persons waiting to speak.
Although it’s important to recognize order and structure at any meeting, equally important is to allow a minimal amount of flexibility to allow input from the community. Further, I believe meetings should rotate out of Lihue town, perhaps every quarter, so that persons who have limited time and/or mobility are able to participate in their home town.
3. Kauai County recently implemented a 0.5 percent GET surcharge for public transportation. Do you support this decision? Why or why not?
I believe it is important that the county adequately fund deteriorating roads for the following reasons: 1) vehicle repairs on cars definitely rise when roads are not paved in a timely manner; 2) smooth traffic flow is definitely hindered when vehicles are driving in an unsafe manner to avoid potholes and other destructions to the road and 3) frustration of drivers escalates when roads are in a poor condition. I would support this decision if the funding that has been allocated is insufficient. Oftentimes, however, the issue is not the funding, it’s the monitoring and poor planning of the scheduled repairs and repaving.
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?
Support growth in industries that protect our limited environmental resources. Strictly evaluate plans that go through an intensive environmental assessment that ensure not only that limited environmental resources are protected, but that these resources are replenished.
5. What would you do, if anything, to strengthen police accountability?
The County Charter provides the police commission with the oversight power over police accountability. The mayor has total appointment power over the police commission, subject to confirmation by the council. Given the important role of the police department, a more equitable division of accountability would be to allow the council to have appointment power of three members, the mayor to have appointment power of three members, and the members to appoint the last member.
A constant complaint has been that the commission serves the mayor, because he is selected by the mayor. The council, although it has confirmation power, has not really exercised much discretion over mayor’s appointees as rarely has it occurred that any appointment is rejected.
6. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
As an attorney, I have found it very difficult to get any consensus to get stricter laws of lobbying, ethics and financial disclosures. For politicians, because they serve the public, clearly higher rules of conduct should apply. For volunteers who are appointed, it’s much more difficult because if you want highly qualified appointees, many of them usually occupy administrative positions in large companies or non-profits, that would opt to not take the appointment than to have their finances, tax returns, assets, etc. disclosed.
7. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
As an attorney, I share the frustration of high fees for access to public records. For court public records, it is 50 cents per page. When I do a case pro bono (free of charge), it can be challenging to adequately prepare for a case, especially a land dispute matter, where documents can easily reach seven volumes. Yet, when I handle a court appointment case and charge for copies, the judiciary allows me to only get reimbursed for 15 cents. Moreover, if I make a color copy at my office, I can charge only 15 cents, even when it costs me $1 to make a color copy. Color copies are always more expensive than black and white copies yet, I am allowed to only claim the same 15 cents per copy unless I actually take the time to go to a business that makes color copies and provide a receipt from that business.
The disparity is very evident. The high fees for costs should be equalized to the same price, whether one is seeking reimbursement for copies or requesting a public record.
8. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
Given the digital age of communication, the County Council is up to par in accepting all emails in addition to phone calls, and texts. I feel an improvement in participation is to rotate council meetings out of Lihue every quarter to the various districts to bring meetings to other towns.
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?
Education. Education. Education. Partnering with various agencies such as the University of Hawaii is crucial to improving Kauai’s understanding and use of coastal hazard information and planning tools to increase the island’s resilience and preparedness.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Crime. It has changed the way we used to live. We long for that memory when we left the front door open to let the cool breeze in and when it was safe to run into the convenience store to pick up an item, leaving your car windows down and the keys in the ignition. Most of the crimes that occur on Kauai has been caused by the escalating drug use of meth, opiates and heroin. Drugs have torn families apart and have made once hard-working parents with children, become destitute, homeless and reliant on over-burdened government aid programs.
We need to provide more drug rehabilitation services ranging from outpatient to inpatient programs with after care that provides for financial literacy and job skills development. Low wages with the high costs of living lead to frustration of individuals that succumb to temptations to self-medicate with the use of drugs.
Children in foster care are becoming an increasing result of the social issues that pervade our community. Partnerships with non-profits and funding for increased programs such rent to own housing, support for security rental deposits, paid trade or vocational schooling, to assist families are a must.