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 Harry Kim, candidate for Hawaii County mayor. Other candidates include Neil Azevedo, Paul Bryant, Bob Fitzgerald, Michael Glendon, Robert Greenwell, Stacy Higa, Wendell Ka’ehu’ae’a, Yumi Kawano, Ikaika Marzo, Mitch Roth, Mike Ruggles, Ted Shaneyfelt, Tante Urban and Lahi Verschuur.

Go to Civil Beat’s Elections Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.

Candidate for Hawaii County Mayor

Harry Kim
Party Nonpartisan
Age 81
Occupation Hawaii County mayor
Residence Hilo


Community organizations/prior offices held

Mayor of Hawaii County, 2000 – 2004, 2004 – 2008, 2016 - 2020.

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? 

The Island of Hawaii is presently in the most favorable position of diversifying the island’s economy. This is primarily because of its natural resources and opportunities it presents.  I do not believe Hawaii Island should rely largely on the visitor industry for its economic vitality, but it would be an important part.

Major parts of the island economy are to take full advantage of agricultural opportunities. To promote this phase of economic growth, assistance in marketing — transportation and higher valued products — must be provided by government. The island presents opportunities of science, culture and a place of cultural tourism that can complement Hawaii’s lifestyle rather than dominate it. The bringing back of tourism is to promote and exhibit a comprehensive and coordinated system of minimizing the risk of the virus to Hawaii. This must be done to ensure the safety of the guests, the workers, and the community.

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?

This administration, along with the Hawaii County Council, pushed for and was successful in acquiring the GE tax as an alternate revenue besides the property tax.  A new revenue would be to expand and develop an attraction of Hawaii as a place of science, culture, sports and a lifestyle.  Projects to expand and capitalize on would be of the state’s NELHA (Natural Energy Lab of Hawaii) and expansion of the UHH in areas of agriculture. A natural place for this expansion of the university would be on Hawaii Island.

3. What would you have done differently to handle the coronavirus crisis on the Big Island?

There seems to be a misunderstanding of the county government of Hawaii in response to the coronavirus pandemic issue. Listed are the dates of key actions taken by the county of Hawaii as it is important in answering this question:

Jan. 31, 2020: Hawaii County Civil Defense activated on a seven-day-a-week schedule (established missions, priorities, prevention, education)

Feb. 4: Public Information Program established seven days a week

Feb. 22: Established county’s task forces to achieve mission goals 

What to do differently? A closer involvement of policies on monitoring incoming visitors. Also a closer involvement at the start in contact tracing.

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?

This is such an important question to address as to the misinformation that surrounds the authority of the issue alone. The County of Hawaii government has no authority in the governance of the mountain and the issues of the TMT. My involvement was mainly the development of a vision of “A Way Forward – Maunakea.” This was done in response to Gov. David Ige’s request. There is a link to the county website which fully expresses my thoughts on Maunakea. What would I have done differently? Finish the “Heart of Aloha faster” and pushed for its support harder.

5. Homelessness remains a problem statewide, including on Hawaii island. What would you do to come to grips on this persistent problem?

The County of Hawaii completed its application for the state’s Ohana Zone funding and being first in line, acquired funding necessary to pursue the homeless program plan. The project in Hilo is well underway and the counterpart program will begin construction in three to five months. An interim encampment area is to start in two to three weeks in Kona.  Long delay was due to the acquisition of property. I am very proud of the program’s status.  Only wish things could have been done quicker, as always. What to do? Keep working on this growing problem.

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?

I believe the community as a whole trusts our police department. I do not believe discrimination against people of color is an issue. This is Hawaii – a place of cosmopolitan culture. The police and the County of Hawaii must always continue to work on relationships of trust with the community. This also must be an issue of accountability and oversight.

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?

It is agreed an emergency declaration needed to be established to respond to this crisis. The County of Hawaii established a similar declaration for the same purpose of speeding up responding and not a motive of suspending open government laws. Open government access to open meetings and public records is not a problem I am aware of. There is nothing to hide.

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?

This is such a difficult issue because of the unknown at the present. Preparation involves keeping abreast of the best information available and to mitigate risk where possible. This is of public information, hazard and risk assessment and any mitigation actions that can be addressed. Most important, what can be done to mitigate the progress of global climate change?

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.

Man-made natural disasters are always a possible threat to Hawaii state. The shut-off from its lifeline of fuel, medical help and food is a constant threat and problem. I will develop a plan and work harder for self-sufficiency. This is especially true of food and power, a natural for Hawaii state.

10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing the Big Island? What will you do about it? 

The most pressing issue facing the Big Island is the affordability of living in Hawaii. I will work to keep Hawaii’s development for those who call this place home and not for the development of Hawaii as a place to make money at the expense of Hawaii’s people.