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 Michelle Galimba, candidate for Hawaii County Council District 6, which includes a portion of North Kona, South Kona, Kau and the greater Volcano area. The other candidates are Colehour Bondera, Shane Palacat-Nelson and Henry Cho.

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 6

Michelle Galimba
Party Nonpartisan
Age 54
Occupation Cattle rancher
Residence Naalehu

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

County of Hawaii Windward Planning Commission, vice chair; USDA Farm Service Agency, County Committee chair; Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Administrative Committee, member; Agricultural Leadership Foundation of Hawaii, director; Big Island Resource Conservation and Development Council, director.

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

Our biggest issue, not just for Hawaii County, but for all of Hawaii and many other places, is lack of resilience in our economy and social structure. For a very long time we have prioritized the growth of tourism and a few other sectors over the long-term needs of our communities, leading to an unbalanced economy in which it is becoming increasing difficult for “regular folks” to make a decent living.

As a member of the County Council I would work to build a more resilient and equitable island economy that works for all members of our community.

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?

Overall, I think that we on Hawaii Island are fortunate in that we are not as over-invested in overtourism as some of the other islands. However we are definitely at a crossroads and we should very consciously choose to not become overly reliant on tourism.

We must prioritize the needs of the community over the profitability of the tourism industry. Above all, we need to reimagine tourism, and incentivize a new kind of tourism that helps to keep Hawaii (and other places) beautiful, vital and authentic rather than degrading and exploiting the places that it touches.

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

Looking at this question from a greenhouse gas emissions and climate change perspective, this is an opportunity for more and better public transportation and ride-sharing options, as well as a cultural shift that de-stigmatizes public transportation, so that we can make the changes necessary to have a livable climate and environment.

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?

Working and middle class people need help with affordable housing. The county can help by working with affordable housing developers to create affordable housing stock and by creating policies that prevent affordable houses from being flipped into the luxury home market.

As a community we also need to get a handle on short-term vacation rentals, which remove housing from the stock available for local families.

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

There may well be, but the concerns of the Hawaiian community about the abuse of Mauna Kea are valid and the outpouring of aloha for Mauna Kea is something that I respect. At the same time, the value of Mauna Kea as a site for science is unquestionable.

There is actually an overlap in there — we can all agree that Mauna Kea is a place of immeasurable value, a sacred place. Perhaps there is a way that is built around that overlap.

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 would agree our state government is Honolulu- and Oahu-focused. This plays out in a very concrete way in my district (Kau) where access to health care is very limited. We do have a small hospital and the staff do their best but care is very basic. But access to health care is a problem for everyone in Hawaii County.

One way we could change the Oahu-centric nature of our state government would be to require legislative committees to meet on the neighbor islands, rather than only on Oahu, so that Oahu legislators can get a better feel for the needs of the communities throughout the state.

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?

Cesspool conversion can and should be subsidized for those who are not able to afford the conversion, with priority given to those areas in which legacy cesspools do the most damage such as near the coast or other waterways.

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?

As I mentioned in my answer to the first question, a more resilient society that has climate change mitigation and adaptation built into the framework is the best way to prepare for the wrenching disruptions that are already happening due to climate change.

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

If Hu Honua can produce electricity in a cost competitive and truly sustainable manner then it should be allowed to start operating. However if it is going to raise prices for energy for ratepayers then it should not.

The land use required for biomass production is something that is also concerning, as thousands of acres of land may be required.

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.

Food is one of the most basic needs, right there with air and water. There are many innovative companies, co-ops and other organizations that are moving the needle on food resilience in Hawaii County. We should be supporting those companies, learning from their success, and helping more local people to become entrepreneurs in agriculture and food.

We should create a Hawaii Agriculture and Food Systems Investment Fund that will help our existing companies access research and innovations in agriculture and food systems from around the world, as well as fund agricultural and food system startups.

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