Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 8 Primary 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 Bo Kahui, candidate for Hawaii County Council District 8, which includes Kailua View Estates, Malulani Gardens, Hualalai Farms, Keopu Mauka, Kona Heights, Kealakehe, Honokohau, Kaloko, Kohanaiki, Kalaoa, Keahole, Makalei, Makalawena, Puuanahulu and Waikoloa Beach Resort. The other candidate is Holeka Inaba.
1. Hawaii’s economy has been hard hit with the outbreak of the coronavirus and measures to prevent its spread, mainly because of the collapse of the tourism industry. Should we continue to rely largely on the visitor industry for economic vitality? What concrete steps would you take to bring tourism back? What else would you do to diversify the island’s economy?
While the visitor industry has been the No. 1 industry for our economy since the plantation era, Hawaii needs to diversify its economy to reduce our risk for continued economic failure as we’ve experienced over the last several months. Hawaii’s food security and energy security initiatives can be the catalyst to renew our economy and assist each resident and our economy the possibility to increase their disposal income while reducing the cost for food and energy.
2. As the economy struggles, the county may have to cut expenses and seek new revenue sources. What would you cut? And what is an area where you see potential new revenue?
The revised county budget which may include department cuts including operational and personnel budgets. County should cancel ineffective programs and service, and institute a department hiring freeze. Federal and state CIP programs should offer some economic relief offering construction and service jobs. New agribusiness and energy development could bring much-needed stimulus to Hawaii’s economy.
3. What would you have done differently to handle the coronavirus crisis on the Big Island?
Nothing; I believe Hawaii island did a great job handling the virus.
4. State and county residents, government officials and developers have been split over efforts to build the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. Do you support construction of the TMT? Do you support the protesters? What would you have done differently in the past year to resolve the issue?
The TMT has divided the community and each side has valid reasons for or against TMT. I have no position in the TMT issue at this time.
5. Homelessness remains a problem statewide, including on Hawaii island. What would you do to come to grips with this persistent problem?
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, it reported 2,035 people are homeless on Hawaii island on a given night. First, address the homeless social and health issues. Mental illness and disease has impacted the homeless issue, Second, find an innovative design approach for emergency shelters that support homelessness to include a transition plan to affordable housing. Finally, rebuild homeless lives that can contribute to their own well-being and long-term sustainability.
6. Recent deaths of citizens at the hands of police are igniting protests and calls for reform across the country, primarily aimed at preventing discrimination against people of color. Do you see this issue as a problem in Hawaii County? What should be done to improve policing and police accountability on the Big Island? Should oversight of the police department be strengthened or reformed?
No, not a particular problem in Hawaii County.
What can be done? Police training and community engagement with the police commission to seek and institute positive and collaborative changes to police policies when police are engaging with the public to reduce if not eliminate potential police abuse.
I believe the police commission included an annual community engagement opportunity to review current community concerns and issues affecting communities of all areas.
7. Hawaii’s public records law mandates that public records be made available whenever possible. Gov. David Ige suspended the open government laws under an emergency order during the pandemic. Do you agree or disagree with his action? What would you do to ensure the public has access to open meetings and public records in a timely fashion?
I understand the reason for the mandate, but disagree with his order as government information is unavailable and government meetings and transparency are lost and community engagement is not allowed. The public’s trust would be at risk if Ige continues to maintain his declaration.
8. What more should Hawaii County be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
The county must institute innovative renewable energy projects and measures to reduce the county’s carbon footprint. Other environmental projects should address ocean pollution, mitigating coastal communities and setting new planning and environmental policies to manage low-lying communities and environments to combat sea level rise impacts.
9. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, from outdated technology to economic disparity. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, to build on what we’ve learned and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share One Big Idea you have for Hawaii. Be innovative, but be specific.
Hawaii has been spared the horror of the COVID-19 virus due in part to our island isolation. The largest concern I have is the reopening of the tourist industry. If the Hawaii government opens the tourism industry, specific policy measures to the origin point of travel must include testing, which is used as a passport to the islands. Medical Visa? Maybe.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Solid waste systems and recycling programs are the most pressing issues affecting County Council District 8.