County Council District 6 Election Questionnaire: Richard Abbett

Here in Hawaii County, we already have the ethic. Part of our ethos is water and energy conservation.

What do you think are the most important issues for your district, and what would you do about them?
Returning tax dollars to the citizens to provide them with services and not increasing their taxes, but providing them with the services for the taxes that they pay. In Ka’u we’re underserved to put it mildly.

What do you think are the most important issues for the Island of Hawaii and what would you do about them?
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.
Biofuel plant: I think that is an attempt to do typically centralized activities and I think that there are numerous ways to utilize our agricultural base that have less impact and more potential for economic growth and job opportunities.
They never seem to materialize. They utilize public funds to make proposals using scarce monies and resources and they often do not materialize—they often fail. They are short-term compared to the long-term needs in rural agriculture.

If not covered above, what are your views on:
1. Do you believe the island should increase its use of geothermal energy?

I believe that geothermal technology has potential with the applications of developing technologies as research goes forward. I am not satisfied with our current efforts in addressing the public’s concerns.
2. If so, what can be done at the county level to address community concerns about geothermal safety?
More research and development of technology that’s able to produce energy safely and cost-effectively without public health and safety concerns. Continue to put the public’s health and safety first while putting attention on addressing our own island energy needs.
Address the health and safety of our residents and require cleaner technology. It seems that after construction and at a tremendous cost of infrastructure for the conveyance of that electricity off island, that fewer jobs are produced than proponents claim.

3. Do you believe that Big Island farmland should be used to produce biofuels for local power generation and/or transportation?
There are intriguing possibilities in the future now that the state has allowed hemp research and development.

4. Do you believe that Big Island farmland should be used to produce biofuels for off-island use?
No. That is not its highest or best use.

5. Do you believe an undersea power cable should be built to transport Big Island-generated energy to O`ahu? Why or why not?
No, I do not. We are not currently in need of additional electrical capacity here. We are in need of cheaper electricity….The issue is a need for continued increases in the capacity of electricity in Oahu. Geothermal and wind power could be in that mix. But new facilities should be on island. I support solar development of residential and commercial structures and support large-scale solar production facilities where appropriate.
We need to continue to upgrade our transmission conveyance system to handle increased solar production from residential and commercial buildings as opposed to centrally located high-capacity generations requiring large amounts of capital. That’s the approach we used in the last century. The future of energy and water resources collection and distribution are local, including windmilling, catchment ponds and small hydro, …however, developers are responsible for electric and water and need to continue to work with the County to provide it. The vision of community development plans should reflect that.

6. What can be done to allow the county and its population to use less energy?
Here in Hawaii County, we already have the ethic. When you produce your own power from solar and battery storage, efficient use is required. Part of our ethos is water and energy conservation. I have always been a champion of the conservation of energy, especially when produced by non-renewable resources that contribute to climate change. Renewable energy sectors supported by local small businesses are more effective at creating economic growth and job opportunities. That is why, here in Hawaii, solar has become so popular.


1. What can the county do to encourage more local food production for local markets?
Expand the community shares program…by participating, 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.

2. Do you support the regulation, at the county level, of genetically modified crops? Why or why not?
Yes. The county has the responsibility to assure the health and safety of its residents.

3. Do you support increased regulation, at the county level, of agricultural pesticides? Why or why not ?
Yes. The county has the responsibility to assure the health and safety of its residents.

Housing, employment and homelessness
1. How can the county encourage the building of affordable housing?.
I think that the number of developments that have had considerations for affordable housing need to be increased.

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?

Large projects have reliance upon local subsidies and large amounts of capital from outside that also results in the profits going off-island. We need to have a sort of rural renaissance. Allowing agricultural lands to develop rental housing on available lands.
We need to concentrate on developing and utilizing markets of our own island.
We have the same access to electronic technology and the information age as anywhere else on earth.

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?

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 demographic that we can provide quality recreational experiences to.

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

First of all they’re symptoms of a social condition similar to a malaise. Communities without faith and trust experiencing economic deprivation become mired in hopelessness. Preventing homelessness comes first. Secondly, having an adequate safety net for those experiencing personal misfortune or expensive health-related conditions are often forced out of their homes. It’s much easier in the long run to assist people retaining their homes and being re-trained or recognized as potentially contributing in their own manner to the community. 3rd step: once you have homelessness conditions, the community as their larger family needs to provide transitional housing and refuge from the streets, combining those aspects with non-profits., charitable and religious organizations can provide the resources in finding ways for families and individuals to remain productive citizens.

Crime and prison reform

1. Would you favor the building of a privately-owned prison on the Big Island?

2. What can the county do to reduce domestic violence and promote domestic harmony on the island?
Combine those things that I said before to improve the quality of life, so that the stresses of everyday life combining education and support up front as well as for victims of domestic violence. First of all, we want to have a society or a culture that allows for job opportunities and improved quality of life, generation after generation. Involving all in the American dream is the first step, but on the other end, having adequate service for victims of domestic violence, needs to be addressed.

3. Do you favor the legalization of marijuana?
I support the end to the war on our own people over marijuana.

4. What else can the county do to reduce crime and/or lower the number of incarcerated island residents?
Address the real drug problem: ice, not pot.

1. What is the biggest transportation need in your district and what can be done to meet it?

Reliance on public transportation and the need for it because resorts and towns are so far away. Create economic opportunity and development opportunity closer to, and not regard it as the prerogative of bringing in large projects from corporations that have to export the profits for their shareholders.

2. How can the county reduce the amount of driving that its citizens must do?
Allow for the creation of housing, jobs and services closer to home. We can’t put a resort in everybody’s town.

Waste and recycling
1. Do you support Mayor Kenoi’s plan to build a waste-to-energy conversion plant in East Hawaii?

Unfortunately, at this point in time, the RFP will be moving forward, and I did not support that. I flatly do not support an incineration approach that undermines our zero-waste policy of the County.
Quote from Volcano Rotary Candidate Forum – “There is a good reason they haven’t been built for 20 years,” he said. He called incinerators “an all around outdated idea.” He also said that the RFP requirement that the chosen technology for processing waste for Hawai`i County have a minimum 15-year history elsewhere is “an excuse to use old technology.” He said an incinerator “would completely erode” the county’s zero waste policies.

2. What can be done to reduce the amount of solid waste created in Hawaii County?
We already have, because we’re on an island, a history of recycling and reusing material in innovative ways for other purposes. That can be built upon with aggressive implementation of our existing zero-waste policy with an education and outreach component that includes green waste collection. Reducing packaging by reducing imports and using more local agriculture is another way. We’re already adapting to the change in plastic bags in grocery stores and in our retail outlets. The earth didn’t stop turning when we did it. That’s a good example of the changes that we can make that have an immediate impact. Banning Styrofoam packaging is a next step.

1. Do you accept campaign contributions from outside your district?
Redistricting has changed the lines and I have accepted a donation from a past resident. I do not accept contributions from political action committees or off-island sources.

2. Do you support publicly funded elections?

And finally, is there any issue that you feel strongly about but which is not covered above? If so, tell us about it.

In closing, we can embrace new technologies and new ways of doing things without sacrificing our shared values and spirit of aloha.


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