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 Carol Kamekona, candidate for Maui County Council Kahului District. The other candidates are Deb Kaiwi and Tasha Kama.
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?
I believe COVID-19 has awakened us to the stark fact and truth that tourism is not a viable economic engine for our islands. We need to diversify and not be so dependent on outside factors. Maui has much open land sitting fallow. We could utilize these lands and move toward sustainability through agriculture. Finding a multi-use crop that would be grown, harvested, manufactured and distributed from Maui. The jobs generated from this venue could be astronomical.
A partnership with entities such as Hawaiian Island Land Trust, Maui Cultural Lands and other Hawaiian cultural groups could provide an incentive to visitors who would like to learn more of the host culture. A possible reward for volunteering could be an evening dinner at a local restaurant or resort. Just an example that could surely be investigated further.
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 cut advertisements as it relates to tourism. Just as the current council has done. Our islands sell themselves. They have a beauty all its own that entices anyone to come explore. I would also cut projects that are not essential during this time but could be funded when times are better.
We could also provide micro-loans or grants to small businesses. I would like to see a central co-op type market for farmers/vendors where they could rent a stall instead of an entire building or storefront. I believe this would provide a bigger profit margin for the farmers/vendors.
3. What would you have done differently to handle the coronavirus crisis on Maui?
Air travel is federally managed and airports are state managed. However, as soon as a passenger steps into the terminal, they come under county management. Maui has two wings at the airport. I would have landed all trans-Pacific flights in the far terminal (gates 23-35) for starters. I would then have required a station of check-ins, temperature checks, itinerary checks and contact info check. Then escort to a central lodging for the 14-day quarantine.
For food, I would have food trucks staged in the parking lot. For basic necessities I would have a “shopette” set up in the hotel with a weekly Costco run. All expenses of course would be listed as room service. As they do with animals coming into Hawaii with rabies vaccines and quarantine, I would have advocated for the governor to implement those kind of restrictions prior to departure.
4. Homelessness remains a problem statewide, including on Maui. What would you do to come to grips with this persistent problem?
To address our homeless population would be a step process. I would first form a task force. The kuleana of the task force would be:
• Ask homeless persons if they have family they could live with, and if so, reunite them.
• Assess reason for homelessness such as loss of job, drug addiction and mental illness, then offer assistance
• Determine site options for building alternative housing for persons in transition.
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?
Although I have not had any personal experience with police discrimination, I would suggest the following: Mandatory anger management classes. Mandatory quarterly or biannual counseling. Mandatory cultural sensitivity classes for all transferees to the islands. Mandatory attendance in non-violent communication training. In no way do these suggestions accuse anyone, it is a means to deter possible incidences.
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?
I disagree with the governor’s actions as being too broad. Hearings and proceedings related to land use have long had a tradition of open access. Additionally, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution imposes on any governing body an obligation to conduct pre-hearing conferences and contested case proceedings in a manner accessible to the public and the press.
Setting aside laws which impede on the rights of citizens in my opinion oversteps the lines of authority of the governor.
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 recommend the shoreline setback be moved further inland than the current 150 feet based on updated sea level and coastal erosion data. Alternatives to the use of sand bags or rock walls should be the preferred mitigation to current erosion issues affecting many hotels and residences.
I would support a long-range plan for infrastructures to be moved more mauka (ie: Honoapi’ilani Highway at the Lahaina/Olowalu bypass). To protect our reefs we need better mountain to sea water management plans to hold back sediment from reaching the ocean and choking our reefs, and vendors should not be allowed to operate directly from the beach to avoid high traffic impacts that strains our reefs.
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.
Revamp Maui’s economy! Make it more sustainable by offering alternative agriculture — hydroponics, raised beds, etc. Doing possible aquaponics. Rebuilding our soils and having multiple versatile crops such as hemp, a rapidly growing plant resistant to most pests whose maturity is reached in eight to 12 weeks. While we malama our aina, we need to malama our oceans to ensure pollutants are kept out. Proper permits should be required for any discharges into the ocean. A locally based agricultural system starts with healthy soils and healthy waters, promoting our aina’s ability to heal.
9. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
We have a pressing need for affordable housing yet so many empty storefronts sit idle like the many rental cars at the airport. These buildings could be repurposed or rezoned for a homeless shelter. Or maybe a rent-to-own option of affordable housing. Or a market-style facility for local farmers/vendors to sell products where they would only need to pay rent for a stall instead of an entire storefront.
Overhead would be minimal and farmers/vendors would have a higher profit margin. Build an indoor gym/playground for children or some form of indoor entertainment for families (i.e, bowling alley, billiards, escape room).