HANAMAULU — Traffic, affordable housing and taxes were all on the table Thursday night as four candidates for Hawaii’s lieutenant governor went head to head in the first Kauai political forum of 2018.
Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. highlighted his ability to turn the people’s vision into action, state Sen. Will Espero touted his years of political experience, Kim Coco Iwamoto presented herself as a fresh candidate with new perspectives, and state Sen. Josh Green spoke about leadership and results.
About 50 people attended the event. The candidates were put through two rounds of random questions, presented to them in the order in which they were sitting.
Carvalho kicked off the forum in support of removing the Transient Accommodation Tax cap for counties, saying it’s the only way to maintain infrastructure.
“We want our visitors to come (and) we need to take care of our land,” Carvalho said. “Remove the cap so we can continue to maintain and manage our island.”
He also responded to questions about traffic on Kuhio Highway, saying the solution to congestion is creating and maintaining complete streets and walkable, bikable areas.
“We have the footprint, (let’s) take that footprint to the state level,” Carvalho said.
Green emphasized the importance of keeping middle class families in Hawaii through affordable housing and a higher living wage.
He suggested developers of luxury resorts and alike properties are “honor bound” to also provide reasonable housing for Hawaii’s residents.
“Right now it’s impossible to be a middle class family and live in Hawaii,” Green said. “We haven’t … stood up to the developers and it’s not just about building capacity, it’s about raising wages.”
He also spoke about connecting with neighbor islands and the importance of an active and involved lieutenant governor in Oahu.
“The most important thing is to hear people in person,” Green said. “I fancy myself someone who goes into the trenches.”
Espero’s first question was about how to promote a return to agriculture in Hawaii, and he answered with evidence of his legislative support of hemp crops and the medical cannabis industry.
“I support diversified ag. Our next golden crop is hemp and cannabis,” he said, pointing out the crop can be used to create many things like biofuels, clothing, and rope.
He also responded to a question about domestic violence, again highlighting his experience in the Legislature and the need for Hawaii’s police force to take the issue seriously.
“We will not tolerate any domestic violence in Hawaii,” he said.
Iwamoto put her Oahu affordable housing apartment building on display as an example of one way to end homelessness in Hawaii, also targeting luxury developers who are competing with affordable housing markets.
“There should be a moratorium on permits for all luxury (building) until we have adequate affordable housing,” Iwamoto said.
She also spoke about the need to diversify the economy by establishing debt-free college, which Green also highlighted.
As they wrapped up the forum, Carvalho reminded the audience that he’s got a good thing going on Kauai, and plans to take that to the state level by investing in farming, complete streets and connected communities.
Espero again pointed out his legislative background and experience.
“Leadership is what gets it done,” he said.
Green and Iwamoto emphasized the need for fresh leadership and new ideas, with Green pointing out the need for action and Iwamoto suggesting a total system change.
“I have immense frustration (about the) struggle we’ve normalized,” she said. “We need to stand up, call the system out.”
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.