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 Paul Bryant, candidate for Hawaii County mayor. Other candidates include Neil Azevedo, Bob Fitzgerald, Michael Glendon, Robert Greenwell, Stacy Higa, Wendell Ka’ehu’ae’a, Yumi Kawano, Harry Kim, Ikaika Marzo, Mitch Roth, Mike Ruggles, Ted Shaneyfelt, Tante Urban and Lahi Verschuur.
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?
Tourism returns as a danger to the welfare of all via the unintentional spread of COVID-19. Until a vaccine is commonly used we must be vigilant about visitors both from abroad or interisland. A definitive test, whose cost is borne by the airline used, will determine who should be quarantined or refused entry (again the airline’s cost). This will not be popular but necessary till all threat’s eliminated.
Our future will undoubtedly be different but how much can only be determined by businesses affected working with the county administration. Agriculture is touted as one major focus for the future. It now carries less than 1% of our economy. Moving it to the forefront will be a monumental task. Other ideas will have to come from outside the box we live in.
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?
Until any potential mayor lays eyes on details of county operations, cutting expenses is not reliable even as a suggestion. However I can see one new business that could have international value is production of solar collectors for implantation in roadways. Using up-to-date technology, this basic idea can be extrapolated to other uses.
3. What would you have done differently to handle the coronavirus crisis on the Big Island?
I would not have waited for the state to act but rather acted quickly and definitely. It is apparent that every day wasted was a day closer to further widespread infection.
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?
First, I would have refused the governor’s suggestion I be the middle man in his TMT problem. It does seem now Mayor KIM was not the man to do that job. I support the TMT project having talked with numerous Hawaiian kupuna without finding one who opposed it.
Their reasoning was based on the historical fact that Hawaiians first followed the stars to arrive here. Those opposed have a legitimate worry that promised removal of older telescopes will not happen and eventually an argument will be made that they are needed. I feel strongly that promises should not be broken for any reason.
5. Homelessness remains a problem statewide, including on Hawaii island. What would you do to come to grips with this persistent problem?
Homeless often cannot be induced to live amicably in multiple-unit housing. With that in mind, small houses could be one solution much like the collection at the now-defunct Kawaihae village built by Catholic Charities. Less expensive but equally sturdy Quonset tenting could be a West Side solution. A variety of formats need to be investigated.
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?
Our police could be better trained about defusing domestic situations. I recall one nearby situation here in Laupahoehoe where the man was mentally challenged and shot dead from a great distance. Another “escapee” in downtown Hilo was shot dead running away.
Why? Training is certainly the answer. Better oversight from leadership within the department and from a knowledgeable board should do the job. There doesn’t seem to be discrimination against any particular group but I do have thoughts about ticketing and speed and tourist drivers.
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?
Government records should be freely open to anyone. Gov. Ige was wrong and all county leaders followed along like sheep. They are guilty too.
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?
Climate change is here and heightened temperatures will affect the future of growing many of the crops we are most familiar with: coffee, bananas, papaya, not to forget many of the greenhouse crops. That and sea level changes will take world answers we must be a party to and active on. We cannot ignore the experiences of other nations.
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.
A group of community members could convene to brainstorm these problems. Thinking outside the box is a valuable resource regardless of how immediately outlandish any idea might seem.
A lot of development comes from fresh ways of viewing problems. We need to be suggesting solutions that have kernels of great value that can become fully formed solutions.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing the Big Island? What will you do about it?
How we protect the public for secondary infections of COVID by aggressive testing. If needed, the cost of this testing and quarantine should fall on the shoulder of the transporting company. Our own populace should be fully vaccinated against COVID to safeguard everyone from suffering through another pandemic.