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 Holeka Inaba, candidate for Hawaii County Council District 8, which includes North Kona. The other candidate is Lee-Ann Heely.

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 8

Holeka Inaba
Party Nonpartisan
Age 28
Occupation County Council member and educator
Residence Kaloko, Kona


Community organizations/prior offices held

County Council District 8 member; vice-president, board of directors, Uluhaʻo o Hualālai; president, board of directors, West Hawaii Mediation Center.

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

Affordable housing is the biggest issue facing Hawaiʻi County. I have worked on legislation to improve Chapter 11 of the Hawaii County Code which houses our county’s affordable housing policy. Upon receiving the anticipated study report from the Office of Housing Community Development later this year, I will work diligently to ensure that recommendations from the report are incorporated into the chapter’s amendments I have already drafted.

With an influx of funds from both the state and our own county going toward homelessness and housing development, it is imperative that we work to improve the policies that will ultimately guide the use of these funds and as a result, the future of our housing situation.

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?

Even with high rental car and hotel prices, we continue to see a high return of tourism to our island. I continue to believe that the visitor industry can improve education and outreach to visitors. Following the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s Strategic Plan and the Hawaii Island Destination Management Action Plan that have been created, both public and private sectors have a kuleana to support:

— Aina-based education and actions centered around community-driven stewardship.

— Opportunities for community-led decision-making.

— Two-way communication and engagement between government, the visitor industry and communities.

— Management and protection of natural and cultural resources.

— Residents’ quality of life.

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

The widening of Kuakini Highway is a priority for relieving traffic near Kailua-Kona. The Department of Transportation has indicated its support for widening Queen Ka‘ahumanu highway and Kuakini highway between Henry street and Kamehameha III.

With an estimated cost of $30,000,000 to add one additional lane and contraflow measures, the project would be one of the most significant road projects in West Hawaii. Completion of this project will allow the thoroughfare that serves as South Kona’s critical lifeline to Kailua-Kona to flow more efficiently at all times of the day.

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?

The county can help this situation by ensuring that a road map for affordable housing development is completed. In creating this road map, the Office of Housing and Community Development can then work to leverage the county’s own funds to secure additional state and federal funding that will help to increase affordable housing production, especially in West Hawaii.

In addition, the county could find ways to make it easier for developers of affordable housing to take advantage of HRS tools such as HRS 46-15 for experimental and demonstration housing, as well as HRS 201H-38 for exemption from statutes, ordinances, charter provisions and rules.

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 a Native Hawaiian educator, I support the continued use of existing facilities on Mauna Kea. However, this can only occur with attention to cultural and environmental concerns on the mountain. In addition, I would like to see our local schools benefit more from the research and knowledge being created by astronomy facilities on their island.

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 that our Hawaii island delegates at the Legislature do a good job advocating for the needs of the respective districts they represent. However, as we continue to see questionable and illegal activities taking place in the Legislature, it does beg the question of whether a systematic change is needed to improve the legislative process at the Legislature.

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?

The state should consider options to assist residents in securing a portion of the costs associated with making this conversion. This program may also include a low-interest loan program as well. If we want to see compliance with the 2050 deadline, these options need to start being provided to residents now.

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 effects of climate change continue to reveal themselves in various ways across the islands. Hawaii County should review its policies by taking a closer look at activities in SMA areas near the coastlines to ensure that current and future developments are planning accordingly for sea level rise.

In addition, serious consideration must also be made to monitor the grubbing and grading of large areas in the uplands above Kailua Village where in recent years, we have seen an increased number of flooding events.

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

After lengthy discussions on the matter, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission has denied Hu Honua’s request to operate their facility. I respect the body’s decision in light of the significant information and testimony provided both in favor and against the project.

We should continue to find other alternative energy sources and create contracts that are not tied to the price of oil if we want to protect our residents from extremely high electric costs.

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.

If I could change anything in Hawaii today, it would be committing the state and the county to significant and sustained investment in agricultural production. With so many innovative new methods of farming such as vertical farming, we could be doing so much more to grow and provide our own food here in Hawaii. This should be an important priority for all.

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