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 Stacy Crivello, candidate for Maui County Council Molokai District representing Hana, Keanae and Kailua. The other candidate is Keani Rawlins-Fernandez.
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?
No, we should not rely heavily on the industry for economic vitality; however, Hawaii’s dependency on tourism has contributed to the highest unemployment rate we are experiencing, especially on Maui. Thirty-thousand unemployed Maui residents need a “kick start” to return to work.
If we do not prepare to restart this economic engine, we will experience social impacts that will generate other health ills. Loss of jobs results in the loss of homes and the fabric of family will disintegrate and the mental and emotional losses will be tragic. The psychological impacts of the laid off employees and furlough workers will infringe on our people’s quality of life.
We can bring tourism back by assuring residents and visitors alike that visitors will be tested through a process to develop a contact tracing/tracking mechanism. Training health employees will be necessary to provide capacity for testing and tracking.
To diversify the island’s economy, we need to inventory Hawaii’s assets.
Our greatest asset is our natural environment and we are responsible to care for our natural resources and systems. Government can support employment to maintain, manage and protect our resources. Support development of businesses relative to the establishment of scientific research, agriculture, fishing, forestry, filmmaking and biotechnology that depend on healthy natural resources.
On the state level, we should support our University of Hawaii educational systems with training and curriculum development for resource management. Also, support studies in the health and medical field. Economic diversification expands career paths in non-tourism business opportunities. Public and private sectors should develop strong partnerships.
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?
Before I can decide on what expenses to cut, I will need to do an overall check-up on the county’s financial health. The check-up will include a projected revenue balance sheet. To determine cuts, then we will compare the expenses to the revenues of the county. A short-term measure may be consideration to cut one-time spending projects and do not take on debt to balance the budget.
A healthy approach to seek new revenue sources will need to involve civic engagement. The intent is to collaborate a system to remap our revenue source and expenses to meet the needs of sustaining government and public service.
3. What would you have done differently to handle the coronavirus crisis on Maui?
I support Maui County’s daily handling of the pandemic. Maui County’s mayor kept the public informed on a daily basis and the mayor’s leadership during these unprecedented times provided processes for community testing for the virus; the mayor had also set up efforts to provide food drives; the mayor also enforced quarantines and informed businesses and the public with information as the shutdown slowly occurred.
The mayor provided access with a call-in center to respond to the public’s concerns. The mayor also provided exemptions to allow the continuance of construction work and exemptions for certain building permitting processes. The uncertainty of COVID-19 required a strong team. The mayor and his team displayed strength, empathy and transparency.
4. Homelessness remains a problem statewide, including on Maui. What would you do to come to grips on this persistent problem?
A bleak snapshot of homelessness on Maui varies with individuals of different health and mental challenges. A large percentage of the homeless are unemployed. Hawaii’s cost of living is the obvious contributor to homelessness.
The persistent problem can be addressed by providing Housing First. With Housing First, the homeless may receive case management and have access to different programs. Create policies to incentivize landlords to provide affordable rentals.
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?
No, I don’t see racial discrimination at the hands of Maui’s police. We recognize that all lives matter and the tragedies that happened on the mainland are sad and the black community is a target of discrimination. I believe Maui, as well as all of Hawaii, can be a model to other police forces on the mainland.
We need to recognize that our police officers are targets of some scary tactics. The recent rage at Diamond Head took the lives of two young police officers. We should also be asking, “How are we protecting our public servants?”
The Maui County Police Commission has oversight over the chief of police and the ultimate responsibility lies with the commission and chief of police. I believe the individual situations should be handled accordingly instead of lumping all police officers in one basket.
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 governor responded in accordance to what he felt is the right thing to do because of the pandemic. The Legislature is not held to the Sunshine Law and if the public feels the legislative process provides open meetings and public records in a timely fashion, then local government and boards and commissions can do likewise.
Timely agenda notices should be distributed with 6- to 7-day notices before scheduled meetings.
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?
The more we can do to protect our quality of life, then the effects of climate change will be part of our heartbeat. Maui County can identify what we can control and what nature controls. Set policies to protect conservation and our ecological system starts from mauka to makai.
The forests supply us with fresh water, control erosion, regulate climate and clean the air we breathe. With this, we should continue funding watershed projects. Coral reefs provide habitat for our fisheries; coastal management will need funds to restore our reefs and maintain the health of our ocean zone. Healthy reefs buffer coastal areas against storms and high waves and help create sand and surf.
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 would revisit the lives of my Hawaiian ancestors. Bring back the Hawaiian ahupua’a system. Living within the means of our land of water and protecting mauka to makai provide us the values of our cultural and natural heritage.
The health of our environment, economy and our people are intimately linked. The ahupua’a system links these assets with food security and water quality, and gives our people a quality of life.
9. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
My residency district is Molokai and the pressing issues are economics and drug use. Our economy has always been challenging. The pandemic did not put Molokai into driven panic. Today, the other islands are facing the same economic challenges as a result of the pandemic. My involvement in the community is long-term. I have been involved with a community empowerment process to create entrepreneurship for several years. Molokai continues to establish efforts to supplement our needs, whether it’s food production or subsistence living and we continue to provide for one another.
Residential treatment centers would help with recovery from drugs and stronger enforcement to cease the supply of drugs to our island. A stronger partnership with community and law enforcement will help to counter the supply and demands of drug infiltration. Education is also a critical component to address the drug use on Molokai.