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Q&A: Learn about Big Island candidates running for House of Representatives : Big Island Now

Hawai‘i County will have more representation in the State Legislature with one additional House seat created in January due to the increase in the island’s population.

Using data from the U.S. Census, the district boundaries are re-evaluated every 10 years. As a result of the 2020 census, boundaries were moved to make room for an additional seat: District 6. It encompasses Hōnaunau, Napo‘opo‘o, Captain Cook, Kealakekua, Keauhou, Hōlualoa and Kailua-Kona. There are now eight representative seats in Hawai‘i County.

Click here to view new district maps. Click here to view the Reapportionment Commission Final Report and Plan.

Big Island Now reached out to all candidates for Hawai‘i County’s House seats, asking questions about food insecurity, the housing crisis, fentanyl and legislative priorities. Here are their responses.

Dstrict 2: Includes Keaukaha, parts of Hilo, Pana‘ewa and Waiākea

Rep. Chris Todd

Incumbent Chris Todd, Democrat

Todd didn’t respond to questions from Big Island Now. He was elected to represent District 3 in 2017.

Devin Shaw McMackin
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Devin Shaw McMackin, Aloha Aina Party

McMackin didn’t respond to questions from Big Island Now. According to his Facebook page, a few of his initiatives include affordable housing, homeless assistance programs, education upgrades, aina-based businesses, human trafficking legislation and perpetuating cultural values.

District 4: Includes Hawaiian Paradise Park, Hawaiian Beaches, Koae, Kapoho, Pohoiki, Leilani Estates and Kehena

Greggor Ilagan

Incumbent Greggor Ilagan, Democrat

Ilgan didn’t respond to questions from Big Island Now. According to his campaign website, the representative’s initiatives include Homeowners association oversight, restoration of the Pohoiki Boat Ramp, housing assistance and community cleanup. He was elected to District 4 in 2020.

Candance Linton, Libertarian

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Linton didn’t respond to questions from Big Island Now.

Keikilani Ho, Republican

Keikilani Ho

What is the biggest issue facing your district and how would you address it?
There are many concerns residents in District 4 are facing. However, one area of concern that has come up multiple times has to do with road safety as it relates to street lighting, and the commuters affected on foot, motor vehicles and via bicycle. The limited visibility is a hazard. Possibilities for potential accidents are exacerbated at night due to poor lighting and limited visibility. Just last month in September alone, there were consecutive car accidents every day for two weeks in a frequently-traveled area in my community.

Potential solutions to enhance road safety such as increased lighting must not affect the fauna and flora of wildlife in the area, as well as the telescopes on Mauna Kea. There are eco-friendly options available to explore, which I fully support. Mobile solar-powered streetlights or eco-conscious reflective devices are options, as well as intelligent motion lighting systems that automatically activate as cars or pedestrians pass by. Eco-conscious solutions will also give Hawaii’s economy a boost by creating jobs and manufacturing opportunities. Reducing road accidents should be a top priority for all residents and representatives throughout the state. As an immediate solution, I propose the addition of mobile Yodock barriers as an option to enhance safety for traffic in all directions, while also helping to reduce the number of accidents and potential fatalities caused by impaired drivers. The Yodock barriers can also mimic the zipper lane on Oahu since they are not permanent structures & can easily be moved to accommodate morning traffic.

Our communities are evolving and expanding. With these changes, the infrastructure and safety of our roads must withstand the increased volume of all commuters.

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How would you address the housing crisis that is leaving many people homeless due to the high rental rates and unaffordable homes?

The housing crisis in Hawaii requires immediate solutions with an innovative approach. Residents should not be forced into homelessness due to inflation and a lack of options, especially for the “middle” class. The average cost of a single-family home is now $1,000,000 – this cannot be the starting point for residents in need of housing or who may want to explore homeownership at some level.

I had a unique opportunity to support a 2022 Gubernatorial Candidate in outlining potential solutions specifically related to Hawaii’s ongoing housing crisis.

Two of the solutions I championed include:

  • Allocating land for “mobile” home communities (tiny homes, container homes, van conversion homes, eco-manufactured homes)
  • Refurbishing existing structures/abandoned buildings to housing for kamaaina for kupuna-specific complexes

There is often a negative connotation associated when people hear “mobile home communities”. However, I know residents are interested in exploring more affordable, resourceful, and tangible solutions to address our housing crisis here in Hawaii.

There are many new innovative eco-friendly solutions that utilize the framework of buildings while enhancing what’s needed for residents to feel safe and comfortable in their new living space. Mobile communities also allow residents the freedom to quickly relocate should there be concerns or imminent threats related to weather or natural disasters.

Refurbishing existing structures and shipping containers also creates jobs or could be a fun project for families interested in personally overseeing their home renovations. Developing abandoned and vacant structures would create jobs and immediate housing solutions. Offering tax-incentives for shipping container companies should be offered when selling containers to Hawaiian residents who intend to use the frame as a form of housing.

Incorporating mobile housing communities/solutions throughout Hawaii also allows future homeowners a safe and affordable living environment while their investments and savings have the potential to increase for future homeownership purchases, without residents having to relocate.

These options would also help to reduce the volume of requests received by the Department of Permits and Planning. Too many Hawaiians have been forced to relocate or have become homeless for too long.

And what are the first steps you would take to help make the Big Island food secure?

Hawaii must become more self-sustainable. Promoting sustainability locally and statewide is a passion and priority of mine. Hawaii is the perfect environment to grow food and raise the livestock needed to provide residents with fresh, locally-sourced essential vitamins and nutrients.

Educating the community and empowering residents to grow their own food and supporting local farmers are so important. The education system in Hawaii should offer food, farming and nutritional health education to our keiki beginning in elementary school. As stewards of the land, it is our kuleana (responsibility) to ensure future generations respect and utilize the natural resources we have been blessed to enjoy and receive life from. All residents from keiki to kupuna can benefit from developing a better understanding and relationship with the foods we eat. Teaching others and learning about ancient farming practices and the impact of what we put in our bodies is a critical step to living a healthy lifestyle, which is also a concern of many living in Hawaii.

In addition to education and access to natural food resources, I believe that we should be making every effort possible to be self-sustainable. This includes reducing excess waste with foods and natural resources.

There is a huge waste problem locally, nationally, and worldwide. According to various reputable sources and articles, the U.S. generates the most waste on average, per person. The Hawaiian Islands do not currently have any reliable, easily accessible, eco-conscious methods to help reduce the waste generated.

A solution to help address the food accessibility problem and reduce unnecessary waste is to offer incentives to businesses that donate extra food or food banks and community centers where residents require meals, groceries, and items that help support an individual’s basic and essential needs.

I have seen firsthand how local businesses and corporations discard excess food, and home goods such as blankets, and pillows that many individuals and families would greatly benefit from. No one benefits from waste – the environment, animals, ecosystems, and people in our communities all suffer. Excess waste is a known factor in the increase of concerning climate change variables.

Fentanyl is hitting Hawaiʻi Island hard. How would you work with the community to deal with the crisis?
There are many devastating facts and rising concerns about the increase in deaths related to fentanyl.

What’s devastating about fentanyl is that people unintentionally/accidentally ingest it. In 2022, there has been over 75,000 deaths caused by fentanyl overdoses. Although this drug can often be mistaken for commonly prescribed opioids, traces of the drug have also been found in mass-manufactured products such as candy and is becoming more prevalent for individuals abusing criminally-classified drugs and controlled substances.

Efforts to enhance education and resources for individuals struggling with addiction must be a top priority. Drug abuse and addiction in the community must be addressed with compassion, understanding, and solutions. We can no longer allow our fellow community members and neighbors to continue jeopardizing their lives by intentionally abusing drugs and substances.

We can utilize natural resources to help promote overall wellness. by encouraging holistic health alternatives and advocating for natural medicine to be easily accessible in the community and at local markets. Here in Hawaii, we are surrounded by Lapa’au. We should be considering holistic health alternatives,

I understand some individuals intentionally abuse the use of opioids and Hawaii has a huge drug abuse problem, especially in the Puna area. Addiction is often rooted in underlining unresolved trauma and mental/emotional health variables. We need to strengthen our community with education while encouraging the practice of holistic health and wellness alternatives and utilizing the Harm Reduction Units throughout the state. We should also educate our children and communities about drug abuse prevention, and encourage our families and friends to take the time out to learn more about the dangers of opioid abuse. There needs to be a more concentrated approach and heightened priority in teaching our children about the dangers of drugs. Not just tobacco, but all drugs. If our children can gain an understanding of how the use of drugs will affect them short-term and long term, they will be less inclined to experiment with substances as adolescents and as adults.

If fentanyl is becoming more available and often camouflaged in commonly-used products or consumer goods, action needs to be taken at a national level to ensure an adequate screening and testing process takes place for all manufacturers in concern, where consumers have an elevated risk of ingesting the drug. Educating residents about Narcan (naloxone), and how it may help save someone’s life may also be helpful if the numbers continue to rise.

What action would you advocate for to address climate change at the local level?

Every single person can stand to reduce their carbon footprint. I believe educating the public on ways they can be less wasteful and more eco-conscious is a great place to begin.

Many people don’t realize the global and environmental impact of their daily choices related to lifestyle and food consumption. Basic choices like eating more vegetables and consuming fewer meat products can surprisingly help to profoundly reduce individual carbon footprints.

If we can teach the public how to consume and waste less, it will lead to producing fewer emissions. Also, I love to repurpose things. Who doesn’t love a DIY project or refurbished treasure? Encouraging consumers to purchase items that have recyclable or biodegradable packaging is a great way to spark inspiration in your local communities. Local restaurants and small businesses should be incentivized to be the leaders in the areas of suitability and eco-conscious solutions in our communities.

Education is essential. As someone who loves to share creative projects and ideas, I enjoy teaching my ohana and neighbors how to repurpose things like recyclables, clothes, and especially furniture – which can take up a lot of excess space when improperly stored or discarded.

Encouraging efforts to reduce our overall carbon footprint is also a priority of mine. I believe in building community, ride shares, and eco-friendly transportation options to safely get residents to their destinations whenever possible.

Educating the community on home appliance purchases is another way to help reduce carbon footprints. Encouraging residents to opt for electric stoves instead of gas stoves, unplugging electronics at home when not in use, and utilizing eco-conscious laundry options such as line-drying clothing vs a dryer are all a few ways we can contribute to this effort to start.

We all love and appreciate the aina. Reducing our carbon footprint should not be an inconvenient chore. If we can familiarize the community with what exactly is needed and how collective efforts help the greater good, they can do their part, positive changes can be enjoyable.

I always believe in the saying “whoever has the most fun wins”… and what’s more fun than preserving and enjoying the beautiful land and natural resources we are all blessed to draw life from.

What is your priority for the upcoming legislative session?

The education and safety for Hawaii’s children, creating affordable housing solutions for local residents, crime and drug-use reduction, addressing homelessness, and helping individuals with mental health variables are my main areas of focus and priority.

As someone who attended public schools in Hawaii and now as a parent, I have been deeply concerned about the education system in Hawaii. Once elected, my top priority will be to ensure the appropriate infrastructure and safety measures are in place for our keiki within the education system and otherwise. I am a proud mother of three and come from a large family. I will always fight for Hawaii’s youth and make sure the state’s leadership is held accountable to guarantee the people of Hawaii are safe, healthy, prepared, and properly advocated for.

I am a dedicated leader who believes in the sacredness of our culture and people. Every action and cause I choose to pursue with legislation will align with my core values of respect, honesty, integrity, faith, freedom, and homage to Hawaii’s sacredness.

Brian Ley, Nonpartisan

What is the biggest issue facing your district and how would you address it?
Biggest issue is traffic infrastructure in district 4. I see two choices first restrict building permits until infrastructure catches up. Which would only drive up housing costs and create many more nightmares. Second choice would be to pave Railroad and old government road, which would be the quickest way to relieve traffic congestion. Downside is upsetting special interest groups and the people currently living on those roads. We need to be proactive our infrastructure should be ahead of the curve. Traffic in Puna has always been horrible and current plans aren’t taking into account our growing community, so we are always going to be dealing with traffic issues. Of course if someone has a better idea, I’d be all for it.

How would you address the housing crisis that is leaving many people homeless due to the high rental rates and unaffordable homes?
Housing crisis there are several options. One open up Hawaiian homelands and let the Hawaiians build homes, reducing the demand of housing. Second open up the options for property owners. No reason people can’t be allowed to build several rentals on their property. It’s been done in other countries with success.

And what are the first steps you would take to help make the Big Island food secure?
We got HB 1872 passed giving our game animals to be recognized as a valuable food source. I would like to help our cottage industry flourish. Give our game animals economic value allowing the harvest of game animals for the community instead of current eradication programs wasting a valuable food source. Big tax breaks for local farmers that grow and sell locally. Hawaii County could be self-sufficient with proper management and cutting back government regulations on our small farmers and ranchers.

Fentanyl is hitting Hawaiʻi Island hard. How would you work with the community to deal with the crisis?
Dealing with the Fentanyl problem. We need to start looking at non addicting pain killers, instead of the opioids that are addicting people. Who turn to fentanyl as a cheaper and easier solution to their addiction. We need to get more drug and alcohol rehabs, to deal with Fentanyl and our other drug problems.

What action would you advocate for to address climate change at the local level?

Living on an island we should be looking into wave technology as a 24/7 energy source. Plus being able to locally source our food supply reducing import fuel. Start growing hemp and manufacturing hemp products for self-sustainability.

What is your priority for the upcoming legislative session?

My priorities would be legalize marijuana, for a tax base to support drug and alcohol rehabs. Pass a citizen initiative, giving power back to the people. Get a thriving cottage industry going. Cut back government regulations on the growing and manufacturing of them.

District 5: Includes Kea‘au, Kurtistown, Mountain View, Glenwood, Volcano, Pāhala, Punalu‘u, Nā‘ālehu, Miloli‘i, Ho‘opuloa, Ho‘okena and Pawaina

Jeanné Kapela, incumbent

Rep. Jeanné Kapela

What is the biggest issue facing your district and how would you address it?
Local farmers are the heartbeat of West Hawaii. Our farmers grow some of Hawaii’s most iconic agricultural treasures, including Kona and Ka’u coffee and macadamia nuts. Yet, the looming threat of climate change threatens to undermine food security for our community and wreak havoc on our farmland. To combat climate change, I believe we need to establish a Green New Deal for Hawaii that uplifts workers’ prosperity and the well-being of our planet.

I will also fight to protect the Kona name from commercial exploitation by expanding coffee labeling requirements to include ready-to-drink beverages, requiring coffee blenders to disclose the geographic origins by weight of each origin that their blends contain, and increasing the minimum percentage of coffee that is required to advertise a coffee product as being from a specific place (like Kona or Ka’u) to at least 51 percent.

Regenerative agriculture is a pathway toward food security and climate resilience. Instead of investing in agribusiness exports and industrial operations that poison our land with pesticides, we should support small and indigenous farmers who are restoring the aina and feeding the communities in which they live.

How would you address the housing crisis that is leaving many people homeless due to the high rental rates and unaffordable homes?

To begin, we need to redefine what constitutes affordable housing in state law. Our current legal paradigm is based on giving tax breaks to developers to incentivize the creation of affordable housing. Yet, we have seen that this is a failed strategy, as housing costs have skyrocketed in our state, even during the recent economic crisis. I believe that we should focus on building housing for those earning no more than 60 percent of area median income.

Additionally, I support instituting a social housing model for our islands, in which housing is viewed not as a commodity for the private market or wealthy investors, but as a human right that should be available to all in need. We should pass a rent control program and retaliatory eviction ban for Hawai’i to prevent predatory landlords from taking advantage of their tenants.

I also believe that we should empower nonprofit developers to create affordable housing for Hawai’i, since they are not driven by shareholder profits.

The Food Basket is struggling to collect enough food to meet the needs of people struggling to feed their families with the skyrocketing cost of groceries. How would you address the food shortage? And what are the first steps you would take to help make the Big Island food secure?

As our state continues to develop plans to diversify Hawai’i’s economy, we should prioritize regenerative agriculture, which will empower local farmers to meet the needs of their communities. Additionally, in 2021, I introduced House Bill 8, which would have crafted a plan to create permanent food security for our state, including deriving a majority of Hawai’i’s food supply from locally-produced, sustainable, and regenerative sources by 2035. That is a goal toward which I will continue to work.

Furthermore, Hawai’i does not have a standardized food security metric system. In order to increase food security and self-sufficiency, we should develop methods to accurately determine how much food is locally produced in the state, along with a standardized system for evaluating our level of food security each year.

Lastly, we should significantly strengthen our state’s food/excise tax credit and create other tax benefits to help working families meet their basic needs, like a state child tax credit and tax breaks for the cost of child care. We can subsidize tax fairness for Hawai’i’s most financially vulnerable residents by increasing taxes on the wealthy, tourists, and nonresident investors that commodify our islands for their own personal gain.

Fentanyl is hitting Hawaiʻi Island hard. How would you work with the community to deal with the crisis?

Fentanyl dangers have become all too common in our society, especially for youth. Fentanyl is 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin according to some experts. To begin, we need to invest in rehabilitation programs that give people struggling with Fentanyl and other forms of addiction an opportunity to address the root causes of their substance abuse problems.

Additionally, we should establish high-quality rehabilitation, mental health, and medical infrastructure for Hawai’i Island, particularly in rural and remote communities. Our medical infrastructure pales in comparison to our urban and Honolulu peers. That disparity is a form of systemic discrimination. It must end.

Finally, I believe we should expand access to potentially life-saving treatments, like Narcan, that can reverse the effects of an overdose. Gary Yabuta, Executive Director of Hawai’i’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, recently said that he would like to see Narcan distributed more widely in schools. Yet, less than 20 percent of Hawai’i’s schools currently have access to Narcan on campus. We should ensure that all schools have access to this essential treatment.

What action would you advocate for to address climate change at the local level?

Climate justice is essential to public health and economic prosperity. According to the Hawai’i Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission, over the next 30 to 70 years, sea level rise will expose approximately 6,500 structures and 19,800 people statewide to chronic flooding, costing our state $19 billion and endangering public health.

We need to establish a Green New Deal for Hawai’i that uplifts people and our planet. Our islands remain overly reliant on unsustainable industries to drive our economy, like tourism and the military-industrial complex. We should rebuild our economy by investing in renewable energy innovations that advance our fight against climate change and regenerative agriculture that delivers food security and restores the health of our land.

I also introduced legislation in each of the last two years to establish green fees for Hawai’i, which can be used to increase funding for Hawai’i’s conservation and sustainability programs. New Zealand, the Galapagos Islands, the Maldives, Cancun, and Venice all have green fee programs for visitors that range from $1 to $100. New Zealand spends $188 per tourist on environmental programs. Hawai’i spends just $9 per tourist. We need to catch up.

Moreover, with sea level rise accelerating, it is time to develop a comprehensive plan to begin a managed retreat from our coastlines. To pay for some of these initiatives, I support passing a carbon tax for the islands, which one study found could generate up to $365 million during its first year of implementation.

The climate crisis is the most urgent issue facing humanity. We must take bold action today to preserve a sustainable future for the generations to come.

What is your priority for the upcoming legislative session?

Economic justice is a critical issue for Hawai’i. Our cost of living and our housing prices continue to skyrocket, while working families are left behind. That is why I launched the Working Families Caucus at the Hawai’i State Legislature.

We need to establish tax fairness for working families. While making the earned income tax credit permanent and refundable this year was important, we can do more, like increasing the low-income household renters’ credit and establishing a state child tax credit to reduce child poverty in the islands. We can pay for those tax credits by closing tax loopholes that benefit the rich, like the loopholes for real estate investment trusts and capital gains.

Additionally, we need to establish paid family and sick leave for Hawai’i’s workers. Between 175,000 and 200,000 workers lack access to sick leave in the islands and can’t afford to take time off when they become ill. Establishing paid family and sick leave would ensure that they don’t have to sacrifice their financial security to care for their personal well-being or to provide care for their keiki and kupuna.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that the annual cost to cover 16 weeks of family leave for a worker making $48,000 would be roughly $58 annually, a little over one dollar per week for invaluable financial security. I believe that creating paid sick and family leave programs is the next big economic justice fight in Hawai’i, since we worked to raise the minimum wage this year.

It’s time to put people’s needs before corporate greed.

Lohi Goodwin, Republican

Lohi Goodwin

How would you address the housing crisis that is leaving many people homeless due to the high rental rates and unaffordable homes?

First and foremost, our limited lands must be protected from foreign sales, including China. Our island state is limited in land area and must be preserved for our residents, both Kanaka and Kamaaina. We must protect our Native Hawaiians and our culture by finally clearing the DHHL waitlist by opening homesteads to Kanaka and freeing up rental housing units. We must also discourage those buying second homes and using our housing market for profit by implementing a special tax rate for nonresidents and investors.

The Food Basket is struggling to collect enough food to meet the need of people struggling to feed their families with the skyrocketing cost of groceries. How would you address the food shortage? And what are the first steps you would take to help make the Big Island food secure?

Let’s stop killing off our native food supply and increase access to our shorelines. These are our iceboxes so to speak and “Hogstop” and administrative roadblocks to the coastlines hurt local families who depend on our Aina and Kai for food. We must invest in our future food security by reviving our fishponds and restock our oceans like our ancestors once did, and provide inexpensive leases for local farmers to produce vegetables and fruits for our residents. We must cut regulations to allow local ranchers access to meat processing facilities to process local livestock for consumption of our people instead of sending to the mainland for processing which increases costs.

Fentanyl is hitting Hawaiʻi Island hard. How would you work with the community to deal with the crisis?

Fentanyl is a very dangerous drug. Unfortunately with our porous southern border this drug has made it into our country, our state, and our county. This Chinese manufactured drug is posing a great danger to our residents, both adults and keiki. We must crack down on those who deal this poison to our communities. We must educate our people on the grave effects of even touching these drugs let alone using them. We must be more diligent at our points of entry to stop this dangerous drug from entering Hawaii.

What action would you advocate for to address climate change at the local level?

I will not advocate for taxing any Hawaii resident any more than we are already taxed presently, as a matter of fact we must decrease taxes to aid in our survival here. We are already stricken with poverty in Hawaii and the middle class is on it’s way to extinction. The socialist Green New Deal will eliminate the middle class by taxing it for breathing, driving, and working which supports our Ohana. If carbon is the problem, which I don’t believe it is, why don’t we reforest our islands, with native trees? If ocean levels are on the rise, why is Obama building an ocean front mansion in Waimanalo? Does he know something we don’t? Hmm…

What is your priority for the upcoming legislative session?

My priority is to restore 100% transparency and integrity to our SERVANT government. Exposure leads to change. We’ve had ‘Nuff Already

Michael Last, Libertarian

Michael Last

What is the biggest issue facing your district and how would you address it?

The continuous growth of the state and county governments. I’d try to reduce the number of employees in government. (Except those employees who were found guilty of accepting bribes, they’re off the payroll anyway.)

How would you address the housing crisis that is leaving many people homeless due to the high rental rates and unaffordable homes?

The housing crisis is directly related to the number of regulations imposed on builders by the government. Reduce the number of regulations and watch the quantity of affordable housing increase.

The Food Basket is struggling to collect enough food to meet the need of people struggling to feed their families with the skyrocketing cost of groceries. How would you address the food shortage? And what are the first steps you would take to help make the Big Island food secure?

 Eliminate the Jones Act and watch how the cost of food items (as well as other items!) decreases. We pay a minimum of $5.89 per gallon of milk here in Hawaii. That’s totally unacceptable.

Fentanyl is hitting Hawaiʻi Island hard. How would you work with the community to deal with the crisis?

I believe that as an adult you have the right to do whatever you want with your own person or property, provided it doesn’t affect a non-consenting other adult! That’s the opinion of a Libertarian.

What action would you advocate for to address climate change at the local level?

Nothing. The summer temperature this year has been cooler than last year. Global warming?

What is your priority for the upcoming legislative session?

To become the next impartial House member is my first goal. Then we’ll see what changes I can effectuate.

District 6: Includes Hōnaunau, Napo‘opo‘o, Captain Cook, Kealakekua, Keauhou, Hōlualoa and Kailua-Kona

Kirstin Kahaloa, Democrat

Kirstin Kahaloa. Chamber of Commerce photo.

What is the biggest issue facing your district and how would you address it?

We have so many priorities facing our district. The new district 6 runs from Kailua at Hualālai Road and runs south to include parts of Hōlualoa, Keauhou, Kealakekua, Captain Cook, Nāpoʻopoʻo, and Hōnaunau. I think access to healthcare needs to be a focus. We need to build a new hospital in North Kona so that our community has a new, modern hospital to support its healthcare needs. We need to attract, retain, and develop our health care professionals. The pandemic and living in a community with little access to housing requires that we grow incentives to attract this needed healthcare workforce. We need to improve our infrastructure so it is easier access to our current hospital while we await a new one. We also need to support telehealth, transportation to healthcare options, as well as support our community health centers. 

How would you address the housing crisis that is leaving many people homeless due to the high rental rates and unaffordable homes?

We need more housing in Hawaiʻi, and especially in Kona. The demand for housing at all levels is far bigger than the supply. We need to build more of the right kinds of housing, and regulate short term vacation rentals to preserve housing inventory for kamaʻāina families.

We also need to reexamine our zoning and land use decisions of long ago. We must explore today’s best practices of walkable, transit-connected, livable communities. These concepts could inform lower infrastructure costs for affordable housing developments, and reduce the environmental impacts of urban sprawl and vehicle dependence.

Fentanyl is hitting Hawaiʻi Island hard. How would you work with the community to deal with the crisis?

Substance abuse is a health and mental health issue first as we care for our people, and the supply of substances like fentanyl is a law enforcement issue. Community health centers and their health education programs are key for the health aspects of the crisis, including a heavy emphasis on education. I will work to secure funding for health services, prevention programs, law enforcement needs, and other needs to combat this crisis. 

The Food Basket is struggling to collect enough food to meet the need of people struggling to feed their families with the skyrocketing cost of groceries. How would you address the food shortage? And what are the first steps you would take to help make the Big Island food secure?

One way to address the food shortage is to help scale up our local food producers on Hawaiʻi Island. If we buy more local and eat what we grow, we will be able to purchase more affordable items. I am thrilled that our Food Basket is the leader in supporting our state’s Double Bucks program. This helps the community, our economy, and our farmers. Not everyone has access to growing food in our yards, but for those that do, growing food like ʻulu can aid in our food security. In Hawaiian culture, planting a ʻulu (breadfruit) tree when a child was born signaled that food would be available for that child and their future family. We need to bring back that mindset. If a family grows one or more ʻulu trees in their yard, they can become members of the Hawaiʻi ʻUlu Cooperative and generate a small amount of income for their family. We also need to build more meat processing facilities so that we can eat more local proteins. Hawaiʻi Island is blessed with more land than any other island in the state and we should be able to grow enough food to feed our island and the rest of the state.

What action would you advocate for to address climate change at the local level?

There is a lot of work to be done to meet our state’s climate change goals via the Aloha+ Challenge. I love all of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, but my three focus areas are local food production, natural resource management, green workforce & education. Hawaiʻi Island has the potential to be the bread basket of our state and feed more of our communities. The challenge is transportation and distribution. Supporting our local food hubs is a priority as well as ensuring that we work towards increasing locally sourced foods in our school cafeterias and other state facilities like our prisons and hospitals. For Natural Resource Management, we need to ensure that our water systems are healthy. Protecting our watersheds and supporting conservation efforts to improve our watersheds are vital across the island. We need to plant more trees, fence to protect ungulates from conservation areas, and manage ungulates hindering our natural resource management. We have an abundance of beautiful ʻāina on our island. To steward and protect our natural resources, there is an opportunity to create more green jobs and establish it as an important economic sector. Funding to support green jobs is something I support. 

What is your priority for the upcoming legislative session?

I am excited to start right away to work collaboratively with the Hawaiʻi Island delegation and my other peers at the legislature to create policy for the Hawaiʻi we want for our families today, and the families our children will raise in the future. The issues raised above and others, are all priorities I would like to address. In addition, we need to expand our broadband connectivity across the island and support efforts to meet our statewide renewable energy goals. I also want to ensure that all the right procedures and plans are in place to execute the funding for universal preschool in Hawaiʻi. 

Jonathan Kennealy, Republican

Kennealy didn’t respond to Big Island Now questions. However, according to his campaign website, issues he is championing include overhaul of the state tax code, emergency service equipment update and training, airport restoration, addressing human trafficking and drug abuse, education and 2nd amendment rights.

District 8: Includes Hawī, Waiaka, Waimea, Makahalau, Palihooukapapa, Waikii, Waikōloa, Waikui, Kawaihae and Mahukona

Incumbent David Tarnas, Democrat

Rep. David Tarnas. PC: Hawai‘i Legislature

What is the biggest issue facing your district and how would you address it?

The biggest issue that is blocking the development of two major affordable housing projects in or near my district is lack of sufficient potable water resources. To address this, I am advocating that CWRM approves the potable well permits that would benefit two different affordable housing projects – one in Kealakehe and the other in Waikoloa. For an alternative source of potable water for the Kealakehe affordable housing project, I was also able to gain legislative support to fund a UH study to assess the feasibility of tapping the freshwater aquifer that lies underneath the seabed offshore of the Kealakehe area.

How would you address the housing crisis that is leaving many people homeless due to the high rental rates and unaffordable homes?

As Chair of the House Water and Land Committee, I would continue to work closely with the Chair of the Housing Committee on bills to facilitate more affordable housing development by improving the State Historic Preservation Division approval process, making it easier for the Counties to get district boundary amendments for parcels up to 50 acres to be used for affordable housing projects, and supporting investment of State CIP funds into infrastructure for areas designated for affordable housing development.

The Food Basket is struggling to collect enough food to meet the need of people struggling to feed their families with the skyrocketing cost of groceries. How would you address the food shortage? And what are the first steps you would take to help make the Big Island food secure?

In my district, hunters and fishers provide important protein to our community. That’s why I worked so hard to get the $8 million in funding to repair the damaged breakwall at the Kawaihae North Small Boat Harbor and make that launch ramp functional again. That’s why I worked hard to pass a bill that ensures that all the decisions DLNR makes must consider the value of public hunting and fishing as sustainable sources of food for Hawaii’s residents. For farmers in my district, the most critical need is access to affordable agricultural water. With Senator Lorraine Inouye, we got legislative approval for $5 million to pay for the development of a new agricultural water production well at Upolu in North Kohala. This rural community lost their main source of irrigation water when the Kohala Ditch closed down. This new well will provide a much needed water source to sustain agricultural production in the area. This new infrastructure investment will significantly increase the resilience of the North Kohala community. Another capacity building investment from the State legislature to improve food resilience in my community is a $170,000 2022 Grant-in-Aid to the Hawaii Institute of Pacific Agriculture (HIP Ag) in North Kohala for farmer training, youth education, Kupuna Box distribution, farm-to-school food sourcing, and expansion of the Food HUB in North Kohala. The work of HIP Ag directly helps make our community more food secure.

Fentanyl is hitting Hawaiʻi Island hard. How would you work with the community to deal with the crisis?

I would work to make sure our State agencies had the support they need to address this fentanyl crisis. For many years, the State has been chronically underfunding substance abuse treatment programs and I advocate for a significant increase in State funding for these programs. We need to recognize this is a public health crisis. I know there are many different ways the State agencies are working to address this issue. I am eager to see the new administration’s request from DOH with a description of the programs and budget to address this issue. I will support these budget requests in our State budget.

What action would you advocate for to address climate change at the local level?

If I am fortunate enough to return as Chair of the House Water and Land Committee, I would continue my work to help Hawaii adapt to the effects of global climate change. I will advocate for increased funding in the State Budget for watershed planning and management; wildfire prevention, response and recovery; biosecurity systems at all ports-of-entry; alien species response; and expansion of landscape-scale mosquito population control to prevent the imminent extinction of Hawaii’s native forest birds. I will continue to advocate for strengthening state statutes regarding management of seawalls, facilitating managed retreat from the shoreline, increasing efforts to restore coral reefs and beaches, and ensuring full disclosure by sellers of a parcel’s risk exposure to sea level rise and related flooding and coastal erosion. I will also continue to urge each of the State agencies to develop and propose to the legislature a sea level rise adaptation plan with a schedule and financing for new public infrastructure that is resilient to sea level rise.

What is your priority for the upcoming legislative session?

My priority for the upcoming legislative session would be to serve the people of House District 8 with honesty and diligent hard work. My priority would be to conduct the business of the Water and Land Committee with transparency, efficiency and courtesy to facilitate public engagement in the legislative process. My priority would be to respond effectively to constituent requests and provide timely accurate information on bills during the legislative session.

Monique Perreira, Republican

Monique Perreira

What is the biggest issue facing your district and how would you address it?

Housing. Definitely the housing situation in my district is a huge problem. So many families cannot find a home to purchase or rent: let alone something affordable. We need to make it easier for local developers to build, by removing some of the regulations and roadblocks that inhibit development.

How would you address the housing crisis that is leaving many people homeless due to the high rental rates and unaffordable homes?

Property owners need the support of the state and county to allow Ohana’s, and additions to be built affordably and quickly. I have young adult children and the chance of them buying a property and building a house right now are slim. But if I could enclose my garage, or build a extension, they can live with me until they are able to save up for a down payment.

The Food Basket is struggling to collect enough food to meet the need of people struggling to feed their families with the skyrocketing cost of groceries. How would you address the food shortage? And what are the first steps you would take to help make the Big Island food secure?

Provide education and support to encourage family farming. Develop programs with UH to create self-sustainable farming practices. Grow more food and keep our food right here in Hawaii.

Fentanyl is hitting Hawaiʻi Island hard. How would you work with the community to deal with the crisis?

Education is key! Get information to the schools and parents. Prosecute, to the full extent of the law, anyone involved with fentanyl production and distribution. Utilize more drug-detecting dogs at every point of entry and screen all packages delivered by mail carriers

What action would you advocate for to address climate change at the local level?

Plant more trees, use less energy, hang clothes. Make water refilling stations available to mitigate single use plastics. Put a carbon tax on private jets and high-consumption luxury homes.

What is your priority for the upcoming legislative session?

Put the people of Hawaii first. Update the tax code so outside investors and foreign investors pay their fair share of taxes to our State. Protect our Keiki from unlawful medical practices. Restore parental rights. Bring our TAT taxes back to the Island of Hawaii. Legislate for school choice, where the funds from the state follow the student where ever they choose to be educated: homeschool, private school or charter school.

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