Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 3 General 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 Dandurand, one of 14 candidates for seven positions on the Kauai County Council. Other candidates include Jade Battad, Addison Bulosan, Bernard Carvalho, Mason Chock, Felicia Cowden, Mike Dandurand, Billy DeCosta, Luke Evslin, Richard Fukushima, Ed Justus, Arryl Kaneshiro, KipuKai Kuali’i, Wally Nishimura and Shirley Simbre-Medeiros.
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?
This pandemic has shown us our vulnerability to tourism. It’s not if, but when another pandemic will happen. We need to turn inwards to our own local residents for economic survival and food security. When Kaua’i’s 72,000 residents decide to spend their dollars locally on businesses owned and operated by Kaua’i residents, we move our island economy from a non-sustainable linear one to a sustainable circular one. Our local economy can be improved by supporting our local farmers and producers .
• Create food hubs for local produce and dairy goods at major population zones.
• Support local food hubs by creating a farmer’s network online order and delivery system.
If we were to utilize marketing effectively to promote a local farmer food hub, we could change the way we shop and feed our families. This would:
• Decrease reliance on tourism by assisting to diversify our economy.
• Increase custodial land use.
• Increase employment opportunities in farming, delivery, distribution, marketing and environmental management.
• Decrease non-recyclable plastics from Big Box Stores in our landfill.
• Keep money on Kauai by circulating the dollar.
• Support a circular economy rather than a linear one.
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?
Kauai is resilient. We have survived hurricanes, recession, floods, and now a pandemic. I have no doubt that we will get through this as well. Kauai’s budget is 80% property tax, 20% tourist tax. We have a rainy day fund thanks to our past administration’s forethought; and we have received $28 million in CARES Act monies. In addition, many of us have reengineered our business to accommodate our local clientele. We will survive this and come out with a new island philosophy and outlook.
• Tax companies that bring in packaging that is non-recyclable. We need to make these operations responsible for the waste they bring to our island.
• Tax rental car companies for every car they bring on island that clog our roads and ruin our air; 8,000 to 10,000 cars daily is too much for Kauai.
• Tax any non-residentially-owned business and investment properties to supplement costs for affordable housing, infrastructure and mental health and drug rehab facilities. If you want to buy a piece of Kauai and not live here, you should pay for it.
3. What would you have done differently to handle the coronavirus crisis on Kauai?
Our Mayor Kawakami did a great job. He made some tough decisions for the benefit of Kauai. He showed courage and intelligence.
4. Homelessness remains a problem statewide, including on Kauai. What would you do to come to grips on this persistent problem?
Homelessness is a problem that will always be with us. If we built a thousand affordable homes, we would still have the homeless. Not all homeless are the same and there are some who choose to be homeless. We have drug addiction homeless, we have mental illness homeless, we have economic homeless. Affordable housing coupled with financial education and support and money management training will help our economic homeless. For drug addiction homeless, we need a rehab facility that is easily accessible. For mental illness homeless, we need a treatment center that is easily accessible.
I would also take a hard look those newly arriving on Kauai with a one-way ticket, no money and no place to stay. They come simply to get a free handout and live off of our limited resources. Many of these “tourists” become part of our homeless problem.
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?
We all can learn to be more aware of how we treat others. I support continued training on deescalation and restraining individuals in the KPD. Anyone who is given the responsibility to protect the public and the right to hold a gun should be held to an extremely high standard.
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 can understand the need for speedy decision-making in the wake of this pandemic. That being said, the Governors Office should be transparent in all decisions.
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?
Kauai paid for a Climate Action Plan (CAP) in 2016. Rather than reinvent the wheel and spend more money on a new plan, let’s look at the recommendations and move forward with what makes sense. Briefly, not approving building permits on Kauai’s shorelines in anticipation of water level rise is prudent.
Establishing emergency relocation areas in the event of a disaster is also a good idea.I also agree with updating zoning based on current models. On a side note: With the lack of tourism, our beaches are cleaner and our reefs are returning.
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.
My perfect Kauai is happening right now. We have our beaches back, our roads back, our parks back. Restaurants and small businesses are catering to the locals again. We are spending less, buying more local products, eating healthier, growing our own food, caring for each other. Two things need to happen to continue this:
• I want to create multiple food hubs where local and visitor alike can shop for locally grown produce, products and services. With a strong on-line presence and marketing, we can move our residents from the habit of running down to Costco whenever they need anything and sourcing things from local vendors.
• We need to re-engineer our tourism so that they use Uber, Lyft and Turo and local taxis and hotel hop-on/hop-off shuttles to get around, not rental cars. Every island needs the right to limit the amount of visitors arriving to our shores. I know it’s not possible, but one can dream.
9. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
In my district of Wailua, non-resident owned TVRs in residential areas need to be shut down.
And I recommend sidewalks close to county parks. Residents have a hard time walking along our roads
Mahalo for the opportunity.