Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 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 Ross Kagawa, candidate for Kauai County Council. The other candidates for seven positions are Addison Bulosan, Bernard Carvalho, Felicia Cowden, Billy DeCosta, Luke Evslin, Fern Holland, KipuKai Kuali’i, Lila Metzger, Nelson Mukai, Mel Rapozo, Roy Saito, Rachel Secretario and Shirley Simbre-Medeiros.

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

Candidate for Kauai County Council

Ross Kagawa
Party Nonpartisan
Age 56
Occupation Teacher
Residence Lihue

Community organizations/prior offices held

Kauai County Council member (2012 to 2020).

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

High cost of living for middle and poor class families and the high cost of housing (rent or purchase) and thus lack of affordable housing inventory. We could create unique tax breaks or initiatives that pay sellers of homes to sell to local residents at discounts that may be subsidized as part of a new affordable housing policy. Leaving the real estate market to do this itself is obviously failing.

We also need to continue to monitor our county spending as  inflation gets worse. Checks and balances between the council and the mayor are integral to government working for the people of Kauai. We need to do this more than ever as increasing any tax by government at a time like this would seem ridiculous.

Unfortunately we are not the federal government where we can just experiment with ideas and dreams whenever we want to because we can just print more money every time we mess up. We need to be accountable and the council needs to fill this role, not be rubber stamps.

2. In the last four years, Kauai’s north shore has endured two major weather events that have severed entire communities from jobs, schools, pharmacies, banks, doctors and other essential services for many months. Should this change the county’s approach to disaster preparedness, and if so, how?

I think our administration and state have worked well to take care of the entire island in regard to our emergency preparedness. I commend Mayor Kawakami and KEMA and our county agencies and volunteers for their work.

3. There are nearly 14,000 cesspools on Kauai that must be removed by 2050. With an average cost of $15,000 to $30,000 to convert to septic, many homeowners say making the transition is not affordable. How can the county help to jump-start cesspool replacements?

Regarding cesspool conversions, the state and federal government leaders need to urgently step up to the plate and offer tax breaks similar to solar energy credits for households and this would significantly bring down the costs with huge benefit to the environment. It’s a win-win. The county can help with policy to make this happen as soon as possible in regards to zoning and permitting.

4. Traffic is getting worse on the island of Kauai, and different regions face different challenges. What would be your approach to improve Kauai’s transportation problems?

Continue to work with the state on highway improvements and adding lane(s) as needed in well known congestion areas. Also, working with private landowners to acquire or access cane haul roads, specifically Koloa to Puhi connector road to alleviate traffic at Tunnel of Trees to main highway.

Alternative means of travel for tourists needs to be improved to minimize rental vehicles on the island as well as keeping our tourist numbers stable or reduced.

5. Do you feel the governor and Legislature appreciate the issues of your county, or are they too focused on Honolulu and Oahu? 

Everyone at every level of government needs to do more for Kauai and the whole state. Times are tough, the future is not bright, and we need to do more for our local families.

6. For more than a year the median price for a single-family home on Kauai has topped $1 million. What would you do to help address the deficit of low-income, affordable and middle-class housing?

We need to look outside of the box collectively from our congressional delegation to our state Legislature and the County of Kauai to work tirelessly to find solutions that can put more locals into homes and home ownership rather than mainland or foreign owners wanting to move here.

7. Even as the Covid-19 pandemic winds down, local businesses are struggling to hire and retain workers, which has led to shortages of everything from grocery store cashiers and restaurant workers to teachers and school bus drivers. What, if anything, would you do to address this economic instability?

Mayor Kawakami  and his team are doing a tremendous job in dealing with Covid-19 and I will continue to work with him to excel in this area.

8. Kauai’s landfill in Kekaha will soon run out of capacity and there’s still no timely plan in place to build a new one. What can the county council do to address what could become a garbage crisis for the island?

We need to find and site a new landfill as soon as possible. We also need to improve our waste diversion and recycling methods to the fullest extent.

9. Overtourism can degrade the environment, threaten biodiversity, contribute to wear and tear on infrastructure, generate traffic and disrupt neighborhoods. What more can be done to better manage the island’s tourism sector?

I’ll defer to the mayor and the state in coordination with tourism agencies to address this problem. This is a very big concern to the people of Kauai. Enough tourists, no more growth, our island is maxed out.

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 Kauai County. Be innovative, but be specific.

We need more home rule for items such as pandemics and other government-controlled functions such as affordable housing policies, fishing laws, etc. We are not the same as Oahu and Maui, we are much more rural. Some things we need to be more restrictive and vice versa.

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