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 Maurice Goulding, candidate for Hawaii County Council District 2, which includes Downtown Hilo, Bayfront, Wailoa, Portion of Waiakea Houselots, University Heights, Komohana Gardens, portion of Waiakea- Uka, Lanakila, Mohouli, Ainako, Kaumana, Piihonua, Wailuku and Waianuenue. The other candidates are William Halverson, Jennifer Kagiwada, Matthias Kusch and Timothy Wehrsig.
1. What is the biggest issue facing Hawaii County, and what would you do about it?
Survival. I know, it may sound alarming, but the pandemic has highlighted just how fragile our food supply is here when over 80-85% of our food is shipped in. Global warming will soon be responsible for lower food production globally, but specifically in California, the breadbasket of the United States.
We are also currently taunting Russia and we know areas like the Cascadian Subduction Zone could produce catastrophic tsunamis that could wipe out multiple West Coast ports we rely on. No matter what the cause is, sooner or later, if we are not producing our own food here, many of our people will die.
As a council member I will push to eliminate property taxes for landowners that either farm food staples that are consumed locally, or offer extremely low leases to farmers producing locally consumed staples. I will also work with the state to release more land at low-cost leases for those growing food for our island and to eliminate income tax for sales and distribution of these products.
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?
Our state’s economy relies on tourism, but how is that working out for us? When we hit a record number of tourists did we have record low crime and drug use, record low poverty, record low houselessness, record low sex trafficking? Do we all have better lives when tourism is high?
We absolutely need to manage the amount of visitors that come to our island in a way that will bring in more money for the largely underfunded programs that serve our people and our lands. This will reduce the wear and tear on infrastructure while increasing the money we have for conservation and rebuilding. Also, as we shift toward an agricultural economy, the money we spend and the money visitors spend for food will stay on our island. This will in turn create a very strong local economy that will allow our county and its residents to afford more and live better.
3. What needs to happen to relieve traffic congestion in and around Kailua-Kona and along the Puna-Keaau-Hilo corridor?
Hawaii County needs to invest heavily in public transportation, while doing much more to encourage carpooling, biking and walking.
When we change our definition of affordable housing and laws surrounding it to specifically include minimum wage earners so that there is more housing for them near their work, we will also reduce traffic.
Traffic lights need to be coordinated to reduce jams in many locations.
Through public announcements we could encourage our visitors to avoid driving during our rush hours. Though this will not solve the problem, it could help reduce it.
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?
When you hear developers discuss building affordable housing, know according to our code, 20% of what they sell or rent must be for housing those that meet the qualifications for affordable housing (as high as around $96,000 for a single person). What’s worse is that a minimum wage earner here in Hawaii County makes just over $20,000 a year and our county code doesn’t even address them under “affordable housing.”
We currently have an abundance of eucalyptus that can be used to create building lumber and or used as logs to build log homes. We have people on this island that would love to volunteer to build homes for our working class. I will connect these people with know-how and push to change our code to address those making 30-60% of median income. Developers must build or help pay to have these homes built to suit all of our working class to buy or to rent at 30% of their wages (current definition of affordable housing according to HUD).
I also support significantly higher taxes for vacation homes with owners that don’t live here and a one-time tax of 3% of purchase price for mainland transplants.
5. What is your view on Mauna Kea? Is there a way to support astronomy but also respect cultural concerns and be environmentally sound?
Astronomers come here from all over the world to look through the telescopes on our island. Almost every major modern astronomical finding has been made here.
It is a shame there isn’t a very large educational program that involves every visiting astronomer teaching astronomy to our students here at every level. Our island should be turning out more astronomers on top of their field. An island-wide program like this would accomplish this, but it could also help many to connect with Hawaiian culture.
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?
Hawaii County has the capacity to grow enough food for all of Hawaii. If for no other reason, the governor and Legislature will have to appreciate the issues of Hawaii County moving forward.
However, I am extremely persistent, creative and passionate about affecting positive change here for our island. I will certainly be in continual contact with all of our government officials to make sure they don’t forget about us and to make sure we have a seat at the table and a say in our own affairs.
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?
Here in Hilo we have a failing water treatment plant that has been underfunded for well over a decade, even though the Department of Waste Water has been asking for more money. Too often they have to discharge raw sewage directly into the ocean. This problem must be resolved immediately.
However, concerning upgrading cesspools to septic systems specifically, we must create an efficient permitting system in which the county holds several septic system designs that are already approved by engineers.
A homeowner or developer would only need to hire a contractor to walk in with a sketch of the property detailing where the septic tank needs to go, confirm how large it needs to be and which design to use and then walk out the same day with a permit to perform the work. This will save property owners a considerable amount of time and money and help them to do the right things sooner so that Hawaii can achieve its goal by 2050.
I must point out that many building inspections can be done virtually to save inspectors time and the county money.
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?
There is much we can do to reduce our carbon footprint and eventually to move toward carbon negative. However, we must react as if the world will not act fast enough to stop global warming. We are on track for a complete collapse of human civilization globally by the end of the century, if not sooner.
We must change our county code to allow for cooperative composting while teaching our people how to and why. We must start planning for managed retreat. Our coastal communities and businesses will be affected greatly as ocean levels rise. We must start planning for where they will go and how we will prevent buildings and land from polluting the ocean before they are swallowed. We will have to determine where the new tsunami zones will be.
Yes, all this is reactionary, but we must do it simultaneously while reducing our carbon footprint, by increasing traffic flow, installing EV charging stations in places that have none around the island, producing our own food and reducing our air travel until airlines have viable carbon-free alternatives.
9. Should the Hu Honua biomass energy plant be allowed to start operating? Why or why not?
I vehemently oppose Hu Honua. Carbon neutrality is a target we could have and should have set in the 1970s. If we want to stop global warming, we must be carbon negative, meaning we must extract carbon out of the atmosphere and store it.
Biomass energy from trees is more carbon intensive than burning coal. Hu Honua wants us to believe that planting two or three trees will do the job of a full grown tree. Can three babies do the work of an adult worker? Nope.
The electricity Hu Honua will sell us will be much more expensive than our alternatives. This is why the PUC struck them down twice already.
Our community does not want this project that will most definitely cause health problems for our island residents. Hu Honua should only be used for emergency power generation.
Go to my website for a 5-page letter with 17 citations for more.
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.
I love Hawaii, our people and our land. It’s why I am running for Hawaii County Council. I don’t know about “reinventing Hawaii,” but I know we need a working public transportation system, working roads, parking, housing for all, health care for all (including mental health care), education and vocational training for all and we need to be producing our own food and building our homes with locally sourced building materials when at al possible.
We need jobs in food manufacturing. We need clean energy, drug treatment programs for all ages and places on-island for addicts to medical detox and we need much more.
I believe it all starts with a government that encourages our people’s participation by constantly keeping us informed. It’s why, if elected, I will give weekly progress reports of what we did that week and what we are going to do next week and I’ll make sure everyone knows when to give testimony ahead of time. I’ll keep evening hours once a week, hold monthly town hall meetings and I’ll give out my cell phone number to everyone so they can come to me personally when they want to get a hold of me.
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