President, Rice Street Business Association; vice president, Lihue Business Association; board member, Kauai Chamber of Commerce, Hawaii Foodbank - Kauai, Leadership Kauai, Hale Opio Kauai; member, Kauai Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, International Federation of Chiropractors and Organization; past board member, Junior Achievement Kauai, Rotary Club of Kauai, past director, Filipino Chamber and Kauai Filipino Community Council; past board member, Kauai County Board of Ethics, Kauai County Workforce Development Board.
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 is an integral part of our economy but it’s apparent that it can not be the only major industry. The County of Kauai, Kauai Visitors Bureau, and Hawaii Tourism and Lodging Association developed a strategic plan for 2019-2021 and our highest priority is executing this plan at a rapid pace. The first step is to establish better health protocols to ensure the safety of our community. When we are able to protect our workforce, we will be able to safely welcome tourists back.
In regards to diversifying the island’s economy, my focus is twofold. First, we need to establish stable and fast broadband connection for the entire island of Kauai. This will strengthen the movement toward work-at-home opportunities across different industries and fortify other industries that rely on this technology such as e-commerce, education and telehealth. This will provide more opportunities to the workforce who are mainly in tourism to utilize their customer skills in different industries. Secondly, my focus will be on the island’s food system and supporting our local farmers by connecting their produce to consumers. A project that the state is working on that I’d love to collaborate with is bringing local produce into our institutions such as hospitals and schools.
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?
My focus will be to increase efficiency and improve county services in hopes of avoiding cutting public services. Innovation will be key in this process and with lessons learned from the pandemic I believe our economy will be able to adapt if key pieces are improved. The main improvement will be broadband infrastructure and food security.
If we do get to a point that we have to cut expenses, I would focus on nonessential services such as our golf facility. Our county budget would be affected by the potential loss of revenue in the TAT and GET that we get from the state. Our county budget for 2022 may be affected by our property tax depending on what the market does on homes. With that said, other potential revenue sources that I’m open to are county road tolls for visitors, county parking fees for visitors and county park usage fee for visitors.
3. What would you have done differently to handle the coronavirus crisis on Kauai?
From our Kauai state legislators, Kauai mayor, and Kauai health care team, I believe our leadership on Kauai did an amazing job. One of the most difficult challenges during the pandemic that we did well on was communicating information out to everyone and giving people time to adjust. A big part of why Kauai was so successful is that our community has been through many different challenges together and we are a resilient and collaborative community.
As a health-care professional, there are two things I would have added to the recovery: One, I would have continuously encouraged our community to strengthen their immune systems by getting regular exercise, eating healthy, thinking positively and getting great rest. Sometimes the best defense against challenges like these is an offense toward healthy living. It’s no surprise that those who we were most afraid for were people who had chronic health issues that when coupled with the pandemic could have lead to potential danger. Secondly, by implementing these healthy protocols, I would have felt confident in transitioning to opening businesses sooner and allowing our community to get back on its feet.
4. Homelessness remains a problem statewide, including on Kauai. What would you do to come to grips with this persistent problem?
Houselessness is a multi-faceted challenge that requires several layers of solutions. One cause of houselessness is due to our high cost of living. I’m committed to helping drive down that cost by focusing on developing town core centers with multi-use buildings that provide more affordable homes, more cost-effective lifestyles, and walkable communities.
Another cause of houselessness is due to unfortunate circumstances. A solution I’d love to work on would be setting up transitional homes for people who are in economic crisis and need temporary support to get their feet back on the ground.
Lastly, another major cause to houselessness is the health-care challenge of drug addiction. The solution is multi-layered as well, but I believe it starts with prevention.
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?
No community is immune to this global challenge of racism — that is why it is resounding worldwide as we speak. I believe this movement is another global elevation in our understanding as a human race and our work toward enabling others to succeed in life. It’s a tragedy that it took many years of suffering for the world to come together but the shift is happening and I am excited to be part of the solution.
Kauai held several rallies and our chief of police has been transparent with our community. The dialogue has begun and movement toward change is happening. Developing policies that continue to be inclusive and protect all people is something I’m working on and look forward to bring to the table.
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 heavily lean towards keeping lines of communication open, especially in times of need. If put into a similar position, I believe I can learn how to navigate through challenges and ensure the organizational structure allows for clear communication and procedures that everyone can follow.
The type of procedure Gov. Ige utilized during emergencies is a common practice in most governments and is designed to streamline decision-making to execute ideas that may save or protect lives. It’s a social conundrum that history has shown that it can go either way. I agree that it was the appropriate action in an emergency and I believe the emergency is now under control and that access to information should become available.
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 believe the efforts we are focusing on is exactly what we should be doing. Reducing carbon emissions by working towards 100 percent renewable energy. Converting county vehicles to electric vehicles. A big component that we can work toward is continuing to develop our town core centers. This will help reduce transportation emissions by creating multi-modal transportation, localize lifestyle, and create more efficient multi-use buildings.
Every little effort we put toward taking care of our environment will continue to make a difference in our global challenge and will inspire others as well. My hope is that we can continue these efforts until new innovation in technologies can assist us helping our environment heal.
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 have two ideas, first would be to set up complete agricultural systems for all islands to produce complete food sustainability by utilizing traditional Hawaiian farming techniques. A quick shout-out to my dear friend Dr. Natalie Kurashima and the work she is doing with Kamehameha schools — I believe that this is part of the future for food sustainability and security.
Second, a complete overhaul and upgrade to our broadband system to enable the highest speed internet available across all islands. I believe by solving our food dependency, we will effectively reduce a piece of our cost of living and by improving internet access for all, we will effectively upgrade every single industry to be able to innovate and create a more prosperous community.
9. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Our most pressing issue we are facing on Kauai is that in order to thrive, we rely heavily on external resources — whether it’s importing food or having visitors support our economy. My efforts on the County Council will be focused on adapting, removing or adding policies that strengthen our Kauai industries to be more self-sustainable and to develop economies of scale that can contribute to our global economy.
It starts with our broadband connection and through a series of specific action steps that includes working on town core developments and education. In the midst of all these challenges I have a clear vision of prosperity for our community and I’m excited to get to work and collaborate with our community.
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