Politics — A Summary of The Council District 6 Race: Volcano, Ka`u, South Kona

By Alan McNarie

The southern end of the Big Island will choose from among three candidates: former Hawaii Tribune Herald Publisher Jim Wilson, Ocean View resident Richard Abbett, and Maile David-Medeiros of Captain Cook. Wilson did not respond to our questionnaire or phone calls. 

Richard Abbett sees one of the most important issues in his district as “returning tax dollars to the citizens to provide them with services–not increasing their taxes, but providing them with the services for the taxes that they pay. t In Ka’u we’re underserved to put it mildly.”

Issues important the whole island, in his view:  “Retention of the health of the natural environment and its economic productivity. As the last part of wild Hawaii, it deserves special attention.  We need sustainable economic activities and opportunities. We need to provide for our children the education and the job opportunities so that they can continue to live on the island… I would like to have a training program for emerging technologies and renewable energy technologies—to work with vocational training programs, union apprenticeships and higher education to create a learning center to provide a pipeline into those job opportunities and careers in those areas.

What he is not impressed with are big, centralized high-tech projects such as the plant that a company tried to put up in Pahala, which would have microwaved vegetation into biodiesel. That project got shot down by the Public Utilities Committee for its high costs to consumers.

“They utilize public funds to make proposals using scarce monies and resources and they often do not materialize—they often fail,” he says.  “Those things are a flash in the pan. We all know small businesses are more effective at creating economic growth and job opportunities. 

To promote local agriculture, he says, “Expand the community shares program…by providing money, you get shares of local produce. A person puts in $20 a month, and that provides some capital for local business so that they can provide organic produce on a monthly basis.” He supports local regulation of pesticides and GMOs.

He laments “The lack of opportunity for anything but government jobs and government-related projects….The reliance upon large amounts of capital from outside to export to markets elsewhere also results in the profits going off-island.” That lack of opportunity, he says, results in young people moving away from the islands.

One way to bring people and jobs closer together, he says, is a different kind of tourism: “Provide less impact, less centralized tourist activities in under-utilized areas, particularly the underserved market of international tourists who like outdoor recreational opportunities, not merely resort-based. This is a large and growing.” Moving tourism jobs out of the resorts, he believes could also help ease the biggest transportation problem in his district: the long bus commute West Hawaii resort jobs.

He opposes a private prison on the island.  He supports an end to the “war on our own people” over marijuana. The “real drug problem,” he believes, is ice.

The biggest challenges that District 6 faces, believes Maile David-Medeiros, are coffee borers, completion of the Ka’u Community Development Plan, and police services.  She would combat the first by continuing “education efforts and grants to assist farmers with increased costs of materials/labor.” She would “discuss status of completion” with the  CDP action committee, and “meet with police to determine current staffing in the district and discuss methods to accomplish increasing service.” Island-wide, she would “Advocate to ensure access to resources are available to the public for recreation, cultural subsistence and traditional practices. One big island-wide issue facing the council, she believes, is the “Waste to Energy RFP” [Request for Proposals] statutory   process” which” is already in process in the next phase of the RFP selection we need to ensure that reduce/reuse/recycle is the primary goal of processing our waste.”

She wouldn’t increase geothermal output, at least until an “EIS and official health studies are complete, and the community is given opportunity to weigh in,” She opposes biofuel development, which she believes would “would consume too much of our valuable ag lands that could be utilized for diversified farming.”She also opposes a power cable to O`ahu.

To increase local food production, she would “work with the state to provide more Agricultural Parks; especially in the Ka’u District.” She supports county-level regulation of pesticides and GMOs, though she adds that it’s “out of our hands” until the U.S. District Court rules on current lawsuits on the issue.

On affordable housing: “Developer affordable housing incentive requirements are not realistically “affordable” in a rural community.  Until we determine how to address this important issue either through code changes, I see seeking more funding into the Section 8 housing program.” To put jobs and housing together, she would ‘develop more workforce housing.”  To create more livings, she would “Ensure access to our natural and cultural resources and encourage community based partnerships and education to maintain protect these valuable livings sources.”

Re homelessness: “Homeless housing issue is a multi-agency issue.  Support the Mayor’s Task Force efforts to find solutions for our county.  Difficult issue requiring complex solutions“

She does not support the legalization of marijuana.

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