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 Mike Molina, candidate for Maui County Council representing Makawao, Haiku and Paia. The other candidates are Aja Eyre and Laurent Zahnd.

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

Candidate for Maui County Council Makawao-Haiku-Paia District

Mike Molina
Party Nonpartisan
Age 60
Occupation Maui County Council member
Residence Makawao

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

Hawaii State Teachers Association Maui chapter president and board member; Maui Evangelical Church president and board member; board member, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Maui Lions Club, Makawao Main Street Association, Maui Economic Opportunity; Maui County Council 2001-2010; U.S. Air Force and Hawaii Air National Guard.

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?

For the time being, the visitor industry will still be a primary revenue source for
 our economy; however, we need to explore other options to diversify our
 economy and to develop sustainable, well paying jobs with less reliance on the
 visitor industry. We should place a heavier emphasis on agriculture tourism and 
continue to promote educating our tourists to be respectful of island culture and
 culturally sensitive areas and change the visitor perception of Hawaii as being a
 place to “party and frolic.”

Hawaii, having a low amount of COVID-19 cases, will 
still be an attractive option as a tourist destination, however, we need to insure
 proper health precautions to protect our people before we open the “flood gates”
 for future tourism. Regarding other areas of economic diversification, we need to 
support all forms of agriculture to promote not only local products but food
 sustainability as well, in the event of another pandemic or war.

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?

As a member of the Maui County Council’s Budget Committee, I worked
 collaboratively with the administration and made decisions to reduce: operating 
expenses, expansion job positions, and capital improvement projects not “shovel
-ready,” which resulted in over $50 million in savings for our taxpayers.
With a bleak revenue forecast for the next fiscal year, I will continue to look for 
ways to reduce taxpayer expenses while balancing the need to maintain 
government efficiency. Regarding potential sources of revenue, I would support
 adding more personnel to “crack down” on illegal vacation rentals and working
with the state officials to consider taxing out of state pensions.

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

While I appreciate Mayor Victorino’s handling of the COVID-19 situation, I am 
hopeful he will consider my suggestions for the use of the $67 million Maui County will be receiving from the CARES Act. I have asked the mayor to
 increase the amount of assistance given to eligible families, revise asset
 qualifications and hire additional staff to expedite the processing of 
applications. In order to help people get back to work, I am asking him to also
 consider hiring temporary employees for 30-, 60- and 90-day periods to assist with
 government projects, maintenance and clerical work.

4. Homelessness remains a problem statewide, including on Maui. What would you do to come to grips with this persistent problem?

Regarding homelessness, I will continue to work collaboratively with law
 enforcement, government agencies, non-profits and faith-based groups to
 address this problem. I am open to the funding and creation of tiny homes and
 temporary shelters, especially for our working homeless. I believe it is important
 for our society to show compassion by providing services along with educational
 and job opportunities for our less fortunate so they can live with dignity, and
 elevate their socio-economic status.

5. 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 Maui County? What should be done to improve policing and police accountability on Maui? Should oversight of the police department be strengthened or reformed?

Fortunately, Maui County has not seen rioting and violent protests that have 
occurred on the mainland, however, our police and government officials should 
keep the “door open” toward looking for areas to improve policing and police 
accountability. In my opinion, government, our police commissions and 
community leaders should maintain strict oversight and work collaboratively with
 our police departments to support training programs that will help eliminate
 incidents of police brutality.

6. 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?

This is a difficult question to answer. On the one hand, I support the Sunshine
 Law, however, had the governor not suspended the Sunshine Law, it would have
 made it difficult for the Maui County Council to proceed with its time-sensitive 
work with the Maui County budget. The BlueJeans application was used to 
make it possible for council members and administration staff to work with each
 other while in full view of the public via computer and public television. Members
 of the public were provided the opportunity to give testimony via the BlueJeans 
application and by phone. Written testimony via email and traditional mail was
 accepted as well. Documents have been made available for public review on the
 Maui County website and by contacting our Office of Council Services and other 
county departments.

7. What more should Maui County be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?

I supported legislation to stop the use of injection wells and will support
 developing transmission lines to distribute and use recycled wastewater instead
 of injecting it into our ocean, damaging our reefs. I supported legislation to pursue
 a multi-state lawsuit against the oil companies related to climate change and sea
 level rise that has contributed to coastal erosion. Whatever compensation is 
received from litigation will be used to offset county infrastructure costs to 
relocate public roads and buildings. In the meantime, we need to consider
 changing our boundaries for development in our coastal areas because of the costly impacts that will be felt in our large resort areas like Waikiki and Kaanapali. 
CFD’s are one way to pay for the impacts of coastal erosion on shoreline
 developments.

8. 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.

I am supportive of developing private/public partnerships to upgrade technology
 for our departments. Long term, I would like to see us rely less on the visitor
 industry and expand the training and development of health care professionals
 especially on our neighbor islands. The effects of COVID-19 have impacted the 
economic ability for those who desire to obtain degrees and training in various
 health care occupations. I would like to see our counties collaborate with the
 University of Hawaii and private entities to expand educational and training
 programs on-island with the goal of keeping local talent here to provide much-needed service for a growing senior population. This would result in less costs for
 recruiting off-island workers and keeping individuals who possess a critical skill 
here instead of losing them elsewhere resulting in a talent drain and breaking up
 of families.

9. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?

One of the most important issues in my district is the need for an advisory
 committee for the Paia-Haiku District. This area of Maui’s North Shore is one of
 our fastest-growing communities and over the years has dealt with controversial 
issues such as cell towers, zip lines, short-term vacation rentals and
 development. An advisory committee, made up of area residents, would serve as 
the first level of public input before a proposed project goes before the planning 
commission and county council for final decision making. It would also empower
 area residents by giving them a greater stake in the future of their community and 
give individuals proposing a project the opportunity to meet with residents at 
the “grass roots” level to address concerns before moving forward.