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 Victoria Franks, candidate for Kauai County Council. Other candidates include Jade Battad, Addison Bulosan, Donovan Cabebe, Bernard Carvalho, Mason Chock, Felicia Cowden, Mike Dandurand, Billy DeCosta, Debralynn Desilvacarveiro, Luke Evslin, Richard Fukushima, Ed Justus, Arryl Kaneshiro, KipuKai Kuali’i, Jakki Nelson, Wally Nishimura, Rory Parker, Shirley Simbre-Medeiros, Naomi Taniguchi and Clint Yago.
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?
It is not feasible to eliminate tourism as our major source of revenue. Yes, we rely on tourism for the most part and need to open our islands to visitors sooner. We need to streamline the process for new businesses to open easily and offer incentives for those who want to open new businesses.
Small business is the backbone of our economy and should be protected. This shutdown is unprecedented and should have come to a conclusion within the 60 days that the governor was allowed legally to use. We must now open safely but quickly to save our local businesses.
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?
I would recommend an audit of all departments to pinpoint areas which could be cut rather than blindly acting with the taxpayers’ money.
The problem is not the revenue, it is incompetent leadership decisions. Eliminate the unnecessary items and defund the programs that are failing and you will have a revenue stream.
3. What would you have done differently to handle the coronavirus crisis on Kauai?
It would have made more sense to shut down all travel in and out of our island and quarantine those who are sick and use social distancing and masks rather than treating everyone like they are sick. The fear and panic which has overwhelmed our island was unnecessary.
There have been life-altering consequences that are far worse than the coronavirus — including an increase in domestic violence, increase in drug use, increase in mental breakdowns and suicides.
4. Homelessness remains a problem statewide, including on Kauai. What would you do to come to grips on this persistent problem?
I have worked with others to identify existing vacant housing and buildings which could be renovated and put into the affordable rental market or used for transitional housing. I also helped bring Family Life Center to Kauai, which is a social services organization whose sole purpose is getting homeless families into housing.
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 Kauai County? What should be done to improve policing and police accountability on Kauai? Should oversight of the police department be strengthened or reformed?
Kauai was one of the first police departments to use body cameras in Hawaii. I know the police chief and have confidence that he is working for the people he has sworn to serve and protect.
We must base our decisions on statistics and actual data rather than react emotionally to what we see on TV.
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?
The government order put into effect should have expired by now.
I do not agree with the way things were handled. This action feeds the public opinion that there is too much secrecy and corruption in government.
7. What more should Kauai County be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
I have researched and found that we could greatly benefit from a multi-recycling facility. This would make curbside recycling available to everyone, reduce the amount of waste going to the landfill, and create jobs.
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.
Pragmatism is doing something to make you feel better whether it works or not. Spending money on something that has failed ever since it has been instituted has been the status quo in Hawaii.
Just eliminating what is failing would monumentally change our state. I propose a statewide audit of all departments to ensure money is going where it is supposed to and cutting funds to those areas that are failing. There have been audits in the past that were shut down when they found inconsistencies. I would propose an audit that cannot be shut down internally and that the data must be used to improve our system.
9. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
The people of Kauai believe housing is our biggest issue. We need to identify structures that can be repurposed and vacant houses that can be renovated and put into the rental market. I propose public/private partnerships with the goal of creating new public housing options as well as freeing up land that can be sold more inexpensively to the local public.