Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 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 Gregory Lum Ho, candidate for Hawaii County Council District 4, which includes the eastern portion of Puna. The other candidate is Ashley Kierkiewicz.

Go to Civil Beat’s Election Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.

Candidate for Hawaii County Council District 4

Gregory Lum Ho
Party Nonpartisan
Age 55
Occupation Airframe technician, Hawaii Army National Guard
Residence Keaau

Community organizations/prior offices held

Head coach, Keaau High School, cross country and girls basketball.

1. What is the biggest issue facing Hawaii County, and what would you do about it?

The biggest issue facing Hawaii County is jobs and job creation. If we can improve infrastructure this could create a lot of good-paying jobs.

If we could get more technical and trade schools for nontraditional students, this would also be a benefit. Create an apprentice program with established companies in the community where people can learn a skill and work their way up the company ladder. The goal is primarily to create jobs that aren’t solely dependent on tourism.

2. Overtourism can degrade the environment, threaten biodiversity, contribute to wear and tear on infrastructure, generate traffic and disrupt neighborhoods. What do you think about the amount of tourism on the Big Island and how it’s managed?

In an economy based on tourism, there is no such thing as overtourism. If we want to get away from this and have our economy reliant on other types of jobs, then we must come up with a plan.

It’s too easy to say the tourists are hurting our environment, infrastructure and traffic, among other things, but Hawaii, and Hawaii Island is the most beautiful place in the world. People pay big dollars to visit where we live. Let’s welcome them and appreciate the monies and jobs they support. If any lessons were learned during the pandemic, it’s that we are reliant on tourism and must not take it for granted.

3. What needs to happen to relieve traffic congestion in and around Kailua-Kona and along the Puna-Keaau-Hilo corridor?

As far as Kona is concerned, I’m not too familiar with their traffic situation. Maybe adjusted work schedules for state and county workers.

On the Keaau side, we need to open Railroad Avenue, which would open Highway 130. I do understand that residents living along Railroad may put up a fight, but the traffic situation and emergency access out of Puna is critical.

Opening Railroad would leave Highway 130 to just the people traveling to drop off kids at school or those heading volcano direction. It’s an easy fix, roads are already in. But getting residents along the road to agree will be the challenge.

4. The cost of living on Hawaii Island is rising rapidly. How are working and middle-class people expected to buy a house or pay the rent as well as take care of other expenses? And how can the county government help?

This comes back to jobs. It’s always going to be jobs. As individuals we must be accountable to ourselves to do our best to afford housing and/or rent.

Maybe local government could build houses for local residents to rent, subsidized by the county. These houses would only be available to local families, maybe by showing a local diploma or having lived here for a set number of years. A percentage of their rent would be put into a bank account for their future use to purchase a home of their own. The county then could make money off the interest of their account. After a determined number of years at the residence they must move out to give the next family the same opportunity. The county has employees to take care of these houses’ upkeep, as well as taking care of repairs between families. It’s a wild idea, but we got to start somewhere.

5. What is your view on Mauna Kea? Is there a way to support astronomy but also respect cultural concerns and be environmentally sound?

As far as the environmental impact from TMT, the EPA will handle that. My views on Mauna Kea and TMT are this: I support TMT and I respect what the people of Hawaii are trying to do. But TMT will create jobs, for generations to come. If we want to get away from tourism this is an opportunity for jobs not tied to tourism.

The best way to support TMT is for both sides to respect each other. Astronomy is about the future. Culture deals with ideas, customs and social behavior. Respect from both sides needs to happen or astronomy and cultural values will fail.

6. Do you feel the governor and Legislature appreciate the issues of Hawaii County, or are they too focused on Honolulu and Oahu? What would you do to change that?

I feel our concerns and issues are appreciated and valued at the governor’s and state Legislature level. With most of the population living in Honolulu County, it’s easy to see why people may think Hawaii County isn’t getting their fair share.

Obviously, the news coverage is going to be dominated with Honolulu County. As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If we want our piece of the pie, our state legislators must speak for the people of Hawaii County.

7. Half of Hawaii’s cesspools are on the Big Island, some 49,300. Seepage from cesspools can make people sick, harm coral reefs and lead to a variety of ecological damage. By law, cesspools must be upgraded to septic systems by 2050. What can be done to help people who may not be able to afford the conversion?

To help people that may not be able to afford to install a cesspool by the 2050 deadline, maybe the county could offer low-interest loans. To expedite the process, make the interest of these loans increase each year or every five years, so homeowners can get a jump on installing their cesspool.

The quicker a single cesspool is installed the less impact it will have on the environment. This obviously will create more jobs, a cleaner environment and relieve the mad rush as we get closer to the deadline.

8. Climate change is real and will force us to make tough decisions. What is the first thing Hawaii County should do to get in front of climate change rather than just reacting to it?

The county just needs to keep focused on green and renewable energy. Solar, wind and even ocean energy are all available to us here on Hawaii Island. Let’s harvest as much of that energy as we can to do our part in controlling or slowing down the effects of climate change.

9. Should the Hu Honua biomass energy plant be allowed to start operating? Why or why not?

I believe the Hu Honua Biomass Energy Plant should start operating. From my research, the infrastructure is there. The fuel used to create this energy is there. All permits have been met and approved. Why shouldn’t it start?

Once again, here’s the common theme, jobs! Plus, jobs nonreliant on tourism. Selling energy to Helco, to cut down on our effects of climate change. Everything ties in and it starts with jobs. Current jobs and jobs for future generations to come.

10. 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 County. Be innovative, but be specific.

Reinvent Hawaii? I wouldn’t change a thing. No matter what you do there will always be flaws. A new pandemic, natural disaster or other problem will always arise. We need to be ready to deal with the next crisis. Especially our leaders at the highest levels. People need to come together and come up with solutions and not create more problems. Be the change for the good. Participate in local events and make your community better. From there it will have a snowball effect.

My one idea for Hawaii County is being a voice for my community if I’m so fortunate as to be elected. I understand the difficulties of beating an incumbent, but my feeling is this, I’m not running against the current officeholder, I’m running to give back to this community that has given me and my family so much.

Yes, the answers given were my views and mine alone, but if this is not the direction or ideas the people of District 4 have, then I must listen to them and come up with a solution and represent them accordingly. Not everyone will be happy, but representing them and their views is the most important thing an elected official can do.

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