Politics — Council Dist. 5 Campaign Questionnaire: Tiffany Edwards Hunt

TiffanyWhat do you think are the most important issues for your district, and what would you do about them?
We’re suffering from a slack of representation.
Re previous Puna representatives: “They go to Hilo and they don’t look for Puna in the rear-view mirror.”
First responder issues one ambulance in Pahoa and one in Keaau
We have a population of sickly people who do not utilize a private physician or urgent care. They call the ambulance. It’s so bad that Public Health is trying to do preventative care with them.  Say somebody was en route with the Pahoa ambulance. That’s a two hour transit time for the ambulance. If someone  from Leilani or Ainaloa, they would have to come from Kea’au. Then if someone from Kurtistown called, the ambulance would have to come from Hilo or Kau. Its’s just a real critical problem for someone who may need these ambulances.
We had a representative say, oh, this is a good budget, and we had it pass again, with still only on ambulance for Pahoa and One for Kea’au.

Police: We’re at least two officers short. Hilo has eleven, and we should have at least eleven, because we have the same population as Hilo.

What do you think are the most important issues for the Island of Hawaii and what would you do about them?
We have to look at our trash problem. Since 1993, the EPA has been saying that we have to shut down our unlined landfill in Hilo. The County councils have been playing hot potato with it ever since.
We’re in our second attempt to get an incinerator here on the island
Hilo is billing itself as a health and wellness mecca. But if we burn our solid waste, we’re no better than Taiwan.
Solid Waste is the answer to our job deficit. If we come up with a new terms and call it a resource….
Social enterprise: tires to playground matting, glass bottles to road aggregate and reuse them into bottles.
We’re just obsessed with importing and we have an unlined landfill. It just doesn’t work
Let’s put some RFPs out for some really innovative jobs that will deal with our trash.

If not covered above, what are your views on:
1. Do you believe the island should increase its use of geothermal energy?
I believe it perpetuates the grid and we shouldn’t see any more of it—certainly not until it addresses the health concerns that were laid out in the recent health study. We’re paying 40 cents per kilowatt hour and that’s the highest rates in the state, and we are the only island in the state that currently has geothermal operations. There’s no incentive to have more geothermal if we’re not getting economic benefits now. It would be one thing if we got discount electrical rates and had geothermal. That might make it a little more palatable. It makes it pretty difficult to embrace when we’re not seeing any cost benefits from it.
The current company that does geothermal here in Puna—they’re viewed as the boogie man in the neighborhood….When you drive by the geothermal site, there’s no sign. All you see is overgrown cane grass. If you go down Pohoiki Road, you pass by the NELHA site and it looks like the ghetto. It’s like having a nightmare neighbor who doesn’t even cut their grass….Show some pride. Do some beautification around the site. Build a geothermal education center at the old NELHA site. Set up a marquis sign that announces routine maintenance shutdowns and the response line phone number. Help the community build an emergency Room.

2. If so, what can be done at the county level to address community concerns about geothermal safety?
Compel the company to work with Civil Defense to develop an emergency evacuation and a notification system that actually notifies people in case of emergency. Improve the circulation in Lower Puna…there should a way to get out of lower Puna in case the highway near the geothermal plant is cut off. I’m suggesting that the coastal road or even Railroad along Hawaiian Beaches be opened up.

3. Do you believe that Big Island farmland should be used to produce biofuels for local power generation and/or transportation?
I believe that if we’re not going to perpetuate the grid, we should be looking at local sources of energy. I can’t really speak at length about biofuel—I’m not really well-informed on the subject–but I do believe that so long as community concerns are met… So long as we recognize that we are the health and wellness Mecca of the world. We have to make our decisions about the economy and jobs and energy with that as our central focus. We don’t want to compromise air pollution standards. We have such a fragile ecosystem here and great biodiversity…we’ve got to be careful about the biofuels and introducing a species that could compromise the endemic and endangered species that exist on the island.

4. Do you believe that Big Island farmland should be used to produce biofuels for off-island use?

Generally speaking, no.
5. Do you believe an undersea power cable should be built to transport Big Island-generated energy to O`ahu? Why or why not?
Absolutely not.

6. What can be done to allow the county and its population to use less energy?
A lot of it has to do with us living and working in close proximity to each other.
Our obsession with producing housing that mimics the mainland—what’s wrong with a little grass shack in Kealakekua? If we would truly embrace locally grown products and food, we would be whittling down our energy consumption. Even if we change the style of our tourism, to really promote ag or eco-tourism, rather than build a big mausoleum type building that’s air conditioned and consuming mass quantities of food in buffets that gets thrown away and drinking bottled water that isn’t recycled. If we shift our style of tourism to really walk our talk as the health and wellness Mecca of the world, we will reduce our energy consumption. And these big old box stores that we ship all this product in for…

1. What can the county do to encourage more local food production for local markets?
This one of my passions. Think of when you walk into a farmer’s market and approach one of the food stands. Is that really from a locally produced food?
Focus on truth and labeling here. Encourage more farmer’s markets with a locally grown labels as a focus. If we have more famers’ markets and make them truly farmers’ markets rather than flea markets and have this Hawaii home grown campaign… Have our building division actually embrace the famers. An example: A farmer in Hawaiian Acres wanted to build greenhouses for strawberries and tomatoes. Building Division took six months to approve his greenhouses…. Time is money. The longer you delay him from doing his business, the more likely you are to kill the business. I would suggest we not require building permits for ag buildings as part of an effort to encourage farming and ranching. There may be loopholes, but let’s address the loopholes and start rewarding people for doing the right thing.

2. Do you support the regulation, at the county level, of genetically modified crops? Why or why not?
Yes. I do support, and I would suggest that we really again embody our health and wellness stature…take some pride in labeling locally grown foods, pesticide free and GMO free.

3. Do you support increased regulation, at the county level, of agricultural pesticides? Why or why not?
Yes. Absolutely. I think we should really be looking at that. I think we should be modeling that–Our county–at the parks and along the roads, should be looking for other ways and leading the way by modeling. Maybe we should have a neonictinoid ban and a “save our honeybees” campaign.

Housing, employment and homelessness
1. How can the county encourage the building of affordable housing?
Overhaul the building code. I think that we used to have—at some point it went by the wayside, but if I you built a structure that’s under a specific footage, you didn’t have to have an architects’s stamp.
May we should have an either/or option: either pay an architect or engineer to certify, or go the slow route and wait for a count-paid inspector.”
We really need to look at the fact that we are adopting the universal building code, but it’s making the little grass shack in Kealakekua, HI impossible. The reality is people on the Big Island live in little grass shacks or jungalows or bungalows or screened in octagons. The fact that we are requiring double walled construction and safe rooms—that does not encourage increasing the affordable housing inventory. Consider that many people prefer to live in intentional communities. The code should address that, and therefore help to increase the affordable housing inventory.
Intentional communities actually create affordable housing. There are people who do not want to live in a three story appt. building .They want to live in a little jungalow in the forest and that should be okay.
So long as sanitation measures are being met…Many covenenants in subdivision focus on aesthetics. We should focus on health and safety, and beyond that, so long as health and safety issues are addressed, then the county should focus on doing everything possible to allow people to homestead.
I suggest creating days that a building plans examiner comes out to the outlying districts and makes himself available to look at plans so people don’t have to go into Hilo to do it. Be business friendly. Be homesteader friendly.

2.  For decades, economic debates have centered on creating jobs, and jobs were often assumed to be employment with large companies or the government. But efforts to create jobs with large corporate endeavors have often met with fierce local resistance on this island—Oji Paper, the Ka’u private prison, and various proposed resorts come to mind. And Hawaii Island’s economy has always included thousands of people making their livings in other ways, such as self-employment and even subsistence fishing, hunting and farming. Entire communities, such as Holualoa, Hawi, and Honoka`a, have little corporate presence but many locally-owned businesses and home-based entrepreneurs. Given this context, what can the county do to promote more livings of all sorts on this island?

What I hear more often than not is improve the cell phone reception, maybe look at free wireless and internet.
If we’re truly embracing the grow local buy local concept, we need to be creating the infrastructure that allows people to sell their products. An example is creating wireless Internet instead of making people go into Hilo to find a coffee shop to use the Internet.

3. Historically, planning for housing and jobs on this island has not been conducted with energy sustainability in mind, as evidenced by the long commute between affordable housing in East Hawaii and jobs at the resort nodes in West Hawaii. What can the county do to put people and livings closer together?
Number one, we have an obsession with shopping centers. We think that if we create shopping centers we create jobs. Embrace entrepreneurship and social enterprise.

4. How can the county do to get more homeless people into housing without taking their things or putting them in prison?

I really believe there’s a plethora of reasons that people are homeless. Address our drug and alcohol and mental health component that we really need to look at. We need to work smarter. We need to have a maestro effect: all the agencies and nonprofits what are working on their own need to be working together. State needs to step up to the plate and do a little more on the mental health component—that seems to be the elephant in the room. Revise code to legitimize intentional communities. If we legitimize these structures, then people will rent out their jungalows… A lot of these people are homeless because they don’t have families to go to or because they’re single mothers and they can’t afford 800 a month for an apartment, but they could pay $400 for a jungalow.

Crime and prison reform
1. Would you favor the building of a privately-owned prison on the Big Island?
I’m very wary of the prison monopoly that exists in the country. I also think that we need a reform of the prison industry and the justice system and I think we really need to look at who we’re incarcerating and why. If you look at drug cases, a lot of those are actually mental health cases. We have lot of people on our island and in our society who self-medicate with drugs or alcohol and then they end up in our criminal justice system. We also need to look at how we’re punishing people for their crimes. Instead of locking people away, unless they’re violent or are sexual predators or have a predilection, we need to have them contributing right away to their community, giving back not just restitution for theft… but we need to have them out there with weedwackers, cleaning up the county and state rights of way.

2. What can the county do to reduce domestic violence and promote domestic harmony on the island?

A lot of our domestic violence problems are stemming from people feeling very desperate in poverty and ignorance. We need to encourage job creation and also increase vocational education if not higher education. The Dept. of Health, the County Prosecutor’s Office and the Police Dept. need to work with the media in a public awareness campaign, and help to educate people on the proper way to interact with a loved one and the consequences for not doing so and make those consequences very harsh. We also should be publicizing domestic violence abusers, and we need to provide more services to domestic violence victims. We’re eight in the nation for domestic violence murders. Puna is probably the worst here on the island for domestic violence, but we don’t have a domestic violence shelter here, and the county needs to work to change that. We also need to lobby our state legislature to change the law for mandatory reporting—if they get a call for domestic violence and the alleged victim refuses, they still need to make an arrest–the system is currently not taking into consideration that children are domestic violence victims; they just may not be able to speak for themselves—even if the parent doesn’t want to pursue a complaint. Mandatory arrests will help diffuse a volatile situation by removing one person from the equation at least temporarily.

3. Do you favor the legalization of marijuana? Why or why not?

I do. I think that we should start with providing marijuana patients with dispensaries. I think the current law is set up to fail. I think that the state should legalize marijuana not just as an income generator, but also to destigmatize marijuana…I also think that it will legitimize a lot of entrepreneurs who currently exist here in an underground economy.

4. What else can the county do to reduce crime and/or lower the number of incarcerated island residents?

I think that we need to get the police out of their cars and actually patrolling their beats and being proactive rather than reactive. We need to look at what are crimes. I don’t think smoking marijuana is a criminal act, and yet our criminal system is clogged with marijuana cases. I personally don’t think not wearing a seatbelt is a criminal act. I think we have given away too much power to the government, and we need to look at reforms in that respect.
1. What is the biggest transportation need in your district and what can be done to meet it?
A couple of concerns: 1. Bus system. We need to increase our bus runs, establish some bus stops and come up with a better way of publicizing our routes. The way to afford all this is to establish a bus route to and from our airport. It defies common sense that our public bus does not go to the airport. At the same time that we increase our route and include the airport, we need to change our rate system. We need to reward people with lower fares if they have Hawaii IDs, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to charge non-residents at least $5 a run, particularly if they’re coming from the airport out to Puna. Currently they’re paying about a hundred dollars in taxi fares. No. 2 is subdivision connectivity. We need to open up more routes in and out of Puna and we’re only going to do that by traversing subdivisions.
2nd most common question that residents ask me, after legalizing marijuana, is whether I will pursue opening up Railroad Ave.
2. How can the county reduce the amount of driving that its citizens must do?

Along with increasing the bus routes and making riding the bus more attractive, we can increase telecommuting by promoting it at the county level (encouraging county employees to work from home.) We can encourage developments that allow people to live closer to their work, not just shopping centers, but smart jobs that provide livable wages. The other thing is wireless Internet…
Waste and recycling

1. Do you support Mayor Kenoi’s plan to build a waste-to-energy conversion plant in East Hawaii? Why or why not?

2. What can be done to reduce the amount of solid waste created in Hawaii County?
We need to allow for social enterprise and innovation. Add more recycle and re-use centers like Kea’au—more mulching stations and places to recycle food waste. Imagine the piggeries that could come and grab some food waste.

1. Do you accept campaign contributions from outside your district? Yes. I have friends and relatives who don’t live in Council District 5 who want to support my campaign.

2. Do you support publicly funded elections?

Yes. I’m doing partial funding which is the only thing available at this time.


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