Politics — A Summation Of State House District 4 (Puna)

By Alan McNarie

One of the most hotly contested primary races may be District 4, where Democratic incumbent Faye Hanahano faces challengers Leilani Bronson-Crelly, Brian Jordan, Julia Peleiholani, and  Joy SanBuenaventura.  Big Island Chronicle published extensive interviews with SanBuenaventura and Jordan in our May edition, and those interviews are available here and here, along with Jordan’s and Bronson-Krelly’s questionnaire answers. Hanohano did not respond to the questionnaire. Another candidate, Lenny Terlap, has withdrawn from the race.

Faye Hanohano’s opponents may sense blood on the water after she was accused of making “racist” remarks about westerners and malihini and rebuking a DLNR official in Hawaiian without translating. Unrepentant, Hanohano gave a speech in Hawaiian on the House floor. She touts her many accomplishments as a “ proven legislature and an experienced leader using common sense approach.”

Hanohano says her priorities are “Education, Energy, Invasive Species, Marijuana , and Transportation.” Among her educational priorites would be equal funding for charter schools and creating “a stakeholder’s task force to revisit the State Public Charter Schools Commission” and “a pilot vocational workforce educational track for the Ka’u, Kea’au, Pahoa Complex.”

On energy, she wants to “Repeal Act 97 to reinstate County Home Rule and geothermal subzone,” and supports legislation to modernize the electrical grid.  She believes that there needs to be a “balance” of agricultural land use between biofuels and food production. “Geothermal production maybe expanded if there is a need to cut the usage of fossil fuels and to be in compliance with the State of Hawai’i Clean Energy Initiative.  The goal is to ensure that 70 percent of our energy supply is clean power (power doesn’t come from imported oil) by 2030.” But she thinks each island should develop its own renewable resources:  “The State should not invest in an undersea power cable to transport Hawai’i Island generated energy to Oahu.”

On food, she wants to “Increase state agriculture lands for more local food production for local markets and provide funding to assist farmers.” She supports the labeling of GMO foods, but thinks that should be done at the federal level with pressure from the state’s Congressional delegation. She supports   “increase[d] regulation at the County and State level for genetically modified seed production and pesticides,” and she wants to create a stakeholder’s Task Force to examine the GMO issue. She points to legislation she’s already sponsored to fund the control of invasive pests such as the coffee borer beetle and macadamia felted coccid.  She wants more agricultural inspectors and “educational outreach” to help with the invasive species problem.

She recommends “public/private partnerships” to increase affordable housing and worker accommodations. Re homelessness, she says the state should get “creative”; she suggests using old buses as temporary housing, for instance.

“The best way to relieve the overcrowding of Hawai’i’s prison system is to change policies. Low-risk inmate need to be placed in alternate programs instead of being locked up,” says Hanohano, a former corrections officer. “There is a need to overhaul the assessments system that is presently used. [We] need to decriminalize marijuana so individuals will pay a fine to the State instead of the State providing care and custody at the expense of the taxpayers. I am in opposition of building a privately-owned prison in the State of Hawai’i and Hawai’i Island. I am in favor of establishing a Pu’uhonua with a program based on Hawaiian values using ho’oponopono within the State Correctional System that is open to all prisoners.”

She accepts contributions from outside her district, but supports publicly funded elections “that are equally funded.”

Among the important issues facing the island, she believes, are preserving the county’s share of the Transient Accomodations Tax and enacting liability protection for county lifeguards.

  Leilani Bronson-Crelly’s main focuses would be “jobs! Support raising minimum wage towards livable wages. Initiate programs for farm to table value added products and places to produce them. Encourage entrepreneurial programs. Create tax initiatives to bring jobs and industry to Puna. Next is working with state department of transportation to provide connectivity through the region that works. Bring sustainable and renewal energy opportunities to the region. Also important is to improve the emergency response and medical needs to puna makai.”

Statewide, two of her priorities would be reducing Hawai`i’s dependence on imported energy and food. She would work with HECO and its subsidiaries to make the grid more accessible for solar energy. She would support the use of biofuels for local electrical generation and for transportation, but “with stringent air quality control measures in place prior to build-out.” She would oppose further development of geothermal energy, especially in Puna, “until the state requires better and more stringent monitoring and accountability measures with the needs of near-by residents in mind.”

She wants to “make farming and production of value-added products easier.”  She supports the labeling of genetically modified foods, and supports stronger regulation of GMOs and pesticides on both the state and county levels.

To reduce the prison population, She supports “preventative programs” to keep people, especially youths, from going to prison in the first place.  She supports the legalization of marijuana.

Like Hanohano, Julia Peleiholani is Kanaka Maoli, and many of her answer are informed by such native Hawaiian concepts as aloha, ahupua`a (land managed as a whole unit, from mountains to the sea), and ho`oponopono (a system of community based justice). One of her goals is “To preserve the natural resources that are here for us. There’s a lot of damage on O`ahu already I think Hawai`i should be the island where natural resources should be untouched and protected so the people can protect their natural resources….That’s how the people here live, through their natural resources. We have to protect them from the mountain to the sea.”

She believes three hot-button issues for her Puna district are geothermal, invasive species and genetically modified organisms. Hawaiian opposition to geothermal, she says, began in the 1980s, when “the kupuna and stated that we wish not to have geothermal here in Puna.” She wants to “find and get funding for people here in Puna to get solar.” She doesn’t support the use of Big Island farmlands for biofuels, or an undersea power cable to send Big Island-produced energy to O`ahu.

Her opposition to GMOs also comes from the fact that Hawaiians are “used to getting our food from the land.” She doesn’t oppose existing papaya farms, but believes the state should encourage and support the formation of small family farms to produce food for local residents. She supports the labeling of GM foods and increased regulation, both at the state and county levels, of GM crops and of pesticides.

Puna, she believes, has been on the front lines for invasive s species such as the little fire ant.

“[We need to] fnd ways and solutions about how we are going to tackle this problem,” she says. “All the government agencies—county and state—need to get involved.”

She thinks every island should have a prison facility for its own inmates. “Many of our local families…They’re missing the highest priority in their family, which is the father. A lot of children are raising themselves…. Every place should have their area, and not really call it a prison, but call it a house of healing.” She supports the idea of establishing a Pu`uhonua program in the state prison system. If a privately-owned prison is built, she says, “It has to be from here. They have to know how to take care of their own people.”

She supports legal medical marijuana.

She notes that much of the care for the homeless in Puna has come from the aloha of its residents: “It has been the outreach of families and of churches to help the homeless, whether it was clothing or any type of assistance, housing… They embrace them and take care of them. The state can help with funding to help establish programs. We need to work on a place where they could have a little shelter… A place to help with shelter and food, and the local farmers can help with food baskets.”

One big statewide issue, she believes, is Native Hawaiian recognition. She points to the impassioned testimony of native Hawaiians at recent U.S. Department of the Interior Hearings over a plan to grant Native Hawaiians status similar to those of American Indian tribes.  “This is a huge issue for us as native Hawaiians. Hawaiians should be able to have their land. They should be able to speak upon the management of Hawaiian resources, for us, we are not a tribe. We are kanaka Maoli—native Hawaiians.

“My next intention is to gather my generation and the younger generation that’s coming up now and get them involved… to educate and brief my generation and the next generation on all these issues that are impacting the State of Hawaii, because it’s their future that’s going to be impacted.”

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