Politics — A Summation Of The Council District 9 Race: Honokaa, N. and S. Kohala

By Alan McNarie

Incumbent Margaret Wille of Waimea faces two challengers: Ronald S. Gonzales of Honoka`a and Oliver Shimaoka of Kamuela.  Unfortunately, a glitch happened with Gonzales — he said he hadn’t received his copy of the questionnaire, despite repeated attempts to get it to him, until we re-sent it on the night of our deadline. We apologize for that, however it happened.  If he gets it back to us, we’ll print it online. 

Highlights from Margaret Wille’s five-page response:

Wille’s top “issue” for the island was actually a triple challenge: “Reduce the high cost of living—including the council’s high property tax rates—while at the same time improving the health of the people and our environment.”

Her responses:  ‘“I am on the Council’s Real Property Tax Task Force working to revise this program to be fairer and close loopholes – with the aim of being able to then pass on the savings to resident homeowners by increasing the deduction afforded resident homeowner taxpayers. I am also very active in securing the County’s rightful share of the Transient Accommodation Tax revenues. I also encourage consideration of ways we can increase the streams of revenue that would not add to the burden of real property taxpayers. At the same time I am always mindful of the big picture need to care for the wellbeing of our island ecosystem and our ocean resources, as well as preservation of our cultural sense of place and identity.”

Other island wide priorities, for Wille, include “protecting our Home Rule rights to county level government decision-making, promoting diverse community based agricultural sustainability and ag-tourism, working towards the best possible long range plan for solid waste, and upgrading our community level emergency preparedness.” Re solid waste, she notes “If we adopt a “green” solid waste program, we will create ten to hundreds more jobs than if we pursue a large scale mass burn incineration solid waste program.” Her list of concerns in her district include the lack of a community building in Kawahae, the need for more buses and for a “mass transit hub” in Waimea, and the need for services such as a women’s shelter.

She’s “open to considering further use of geothermal –provided can be done safely and after involving the affected community so as to eliminate and mitigate against adverse impacts.” She thinks any new geothermal development should have “County approval should be required, including county council approval. She once “leaned toward” biofuels, but now favors “cleaner less costly alternatives.”

“If a cable is put in using power generated on Hawaii Island, I will first ask what benefit will we Hawaii residents receive?” she says.

Among several actions she proposes to promote raising more food locally: “Instead of promoting generic ‘BUY LOCAL’ programs, the County should promote county level branding, for example HIP (Hawaii Island Produce). We also need to encourage farmer markets and school garden programs.

Wille authored the county’s recent ordnance limiting GM crops on the island. She supports county regulation of pesticides if state regulation is inadequate.

Re the homeless issue, she believes, “First we need to provide shelters, showers, storage units…. places that attract folks who don’t have a home – rather than treating them as criminals. Likewise we need to focus on what social services will enable those who are homeless to be able to provide for themselves.”

She emphatically opposes a private prison on this island. She favors decriminalization of marijuana, and might support outright legalization, depending on what she sees happening in the states that are trying it.

“I’ve come to realize I’ve got five districts in one,” says Oliver Shimaoka. Each community in his district, he says, has its own unique needs. In Waimea, the issue is agriculture: “Encourae young people to become farmers. I believe that Waimea is quie the agricultural hub, not just of the island but of the state.” Waikoloa is “the largest cul de sac in America,” and needs an escape route. A second way in and out is also a concern of Puako; so is a closer transfer station. With Kawaehae, “You’ve got people building houses that live there less than a month” before the buildings turn into vacation rentals. Kohala? “It’s always infrastructure there.”

Island-wide, he thinks, it’s the garbage problem and Mayor Kenoi’s proposed waste-to-energy solution.

“I’m pro waste-to-energy, but I’ve got to see more evidence of our being able to control the ash that comes from burning trash,” he says.

He sees “tremendous potential for green energy,” especially Waimea: “We have it all: geothermal, solar and wind.” He thinks there are “hot spots” on Mauna Kea that could be developed for geothermal, and notes Parker Ranch’s desire to become a “power broker” for “green energy.” To mitigate community concerns about geothermal safety, he suggests, “I know that geothermal is being used in several other places around the world, so I think what we should do is get involved with some of these companies that been involved with geothermal a lot longer than we have. I’m pro any kind of energy initiatives, but I want to see safety first.”

He’s keeping an open mind about biofuels: “I know that we have the guys down in Kea’au that have been doing that for awhile,” he says. “It’s kind of like wait and see how this thing develops.” He’s also playing the waiting game on any proposed interisland power cable. “Let’s get it (green energy) working on the Big Island to where it benefits residents here first.”

A Vietnam vet himself, as well as a retired policeman and minister, he’s involved in projects including  a “Wets for Farming  and “Farming for the Working Class” project.  He himself sells tomatoes to two hotels. He says the “jury’s still out” for him on GM crops; he recognizes the contribution they made to the papaya industry, though he supports GM labeling and definitely opposes GM livestock. His own tomatoes are organic. He thinks county regulation of pesticides “makes common sense.”

He’s also still gathering data on the issues of affordable housing and homelessness: “You really don’t know until you get into office what you can to and can’t do.  As far as affordable housing, I think it depends on how much help we can get from the state and federal government.”  One concern he has with the homeless, he says, “…is we have some states on the mainland, the way that they deal with the homeless situation is that they buy people one-way tickets to HI.”

And he responds with questions, rather than answers, on the idea of a private prison:  “Is it good for the island?  Is it good for the community as a whole?  Does somebody have to be the sacrificial lamb in this case?”

But as an ex-cop, he does have definite opinions about family violence and marijuana. He wants to toughen penalties for family violence: “Enforce where he’s gotta take therapy. We’ve got to do something that’s got more sting. And he “wouldn’t favor” legalizing marijuana” at this time: “In Colorado, they say it’s booming, but you also attract the other side…I now one person who grows medical marijuana, and gets ripped off on a regular basis.

He opposes public funding for elections.  “We’re having a hard time in the economy,” he says. “Why take public money when you can raise it?”

“The most inportant issues facing my district and the entire County are protecting our farmers and ranchers, providing clean safe parks and beaches, maintaining our roadways, managing our water, addrssing our solid waste issues, increasing self-sustainability and developing more alternative energy sources,” believes Ronald Gonzales.

He supports in geothermal energy, but adds, “Our next geothermal project should be placed as far from populated areas as possible.” He doesn’t support biofuels on prime ag land—“good farmland should be used for farming, he says, but adds, “There is poorly rated agricultural land that could be used for bio-fuel production.”

“If through the use of alternative energy we have enough energy to power the ENTIRE Island, then yes we should sell electricity to the neighbor islands,” he believes. “But we must somehow structure the sale in a way that will reduce the cost of energy for Big Island residents.”

“Conservation,” he believes, “must come from the individual.”

Food: “To encourage more local food production, we must not restrict, undermine & penalize our farmers & ranchers,” he says. “I do not support the regulation or increased regulation of GMO products or agricultural pesticides at the county level. Our county does not have a Department of Agriculture. Any legislation or regulation should be done at the state level and include the entire county. I believe in the proven science that GMO technology is sound. If we use genetically modified seeds that are pest and weed resistant, we would drastically cut the need for much of the pesticides being used now.”

His solution to affordable housing is not cheaper houses, but more money: “We need to create jobs so that people can afford to buy a house. District 9 has plenty of room for growth. Reponsible growth leads to more jobs which in turn builds a stronger economy. We need to get our Keahole Airport up to international standards so we can get direct flights from Japan, China A Korea. This will fill our South Kohala resorts and provide plenty of work opportunity.

We must support small business. Small communities must band together and support each other. In Honoka`a, there is a program called First Friday. Every first Friday of the month the entire town has a celebration to support local businesses. This was a project driven by the community that has proven very successful.  More initiatives like that will help build small business.

He emphatically opposes the building of a private prison on the Big Island. He thinks domestic violence can be reduce by” punishing offenders consistently” and by going after “ice” dealers, whom he blames for “much of the crime and domestic abuse.”.

“Marijuana decriminalization is not a county issue,” he says. “This must be addressed by the state or federal government.”

Road maintenance is the biggest transportation issue for District 9, he believes: “The military uses the roads in District 9.  We should seek federal funding for the military use of Waikoloa road.”

On waste and recycling: “I support the Mayor’s plan for our solid waste.Reducing the amount of solid waste must be accomplished on an individual level.  We must all do our part to recycle and conserve wherever we can.”

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