KAPAA — When it comes to issues facing the community, Holly Harris believes traffic is lower on the priority list.
“We have more problems than just traffic. Environment surmounts all,” she said. “I’m worried about our reefs and how we take care of them. I’m worried about our grounds and the land’s that just sitting there and we don’t know what’s happening to them.”
Harris, who lives in Kapaa, was one of about 40 people who attended a town hall meeting with state Rep. Nadine Nakamura (D-14) Friday at the Kapaa Neighborhood Center.
Nakamura was elected to represent D-14, which covers Hanalei, Princeville, Kilauea, Anahola, Kapaa and Wailua Houselots in November 2016.
The 55-year-old served as managing director and councilmember for the County of Kauai before being elected to the House of Representatives.
“The really eye-opening part was driving to Capitol and thinking ‘I can’t believe I’m here,’” she said. “It was an amazing experience to be able to contribute and represent this community.”
The town hall meeting was hosted by the Kauai Women’s Caucus.
“The inspiration from Women’s March, Trump and that agenda,” said Laurel Brier, co-chair of the caucus. “We have a very big platform, which is justice for all and caring for neighbors, each other and the environment and world we live in.”
She said the caucus wanted to organize a town hall meeting as a way to keep state leaders accountable.
“I’m also concerned about what’s going on on the south and Westside, and what the military base could be doing that we don’t know about that could effect the reefs,” Harris said.
While Harris noted improvements in Kapaa, like the construction of a sidewalk down Kawaihau Road by the Mahelona Memorial Medical Center, she also said people need to be aware of growth.
“We need to make sure we are cognizant of new buildings and resorts and how they affect quality of life here,” she said.
The almost two-hour long meeting was moderated by Patricia Wistinghausen, another member of the Kauai Women’s Caucus and included questions that were drafted ahead of time by the caucus and some from the audience.
Homelessness, paid sick leave and gender equality were just some of the topics explored.
When it comes to homelessness, Nakamura said the state needs to address the entire spectrum of what causes people to be homeless.
It’s just not just about homelessness. It’s about mental health, substance abuse and physical issues,” Nakamura said. “We have to look at it holistically.”
She also said the state needs to take away the stigma of homelessness.
“We need to make sure they are able to vote and participate,” she said. “Just because they don’t have an address, doesn’t mean that should stop them from getting certain services.”
Nakamura said she is committed to do more to get more women in government.
“It’s easy to have men on all boards and commissions,” she said. “We need to get women on boards and commissions, and we need a steady flow of women be willing to step up and serve. The female perspective brings a lot to state and county government.”
During the meeting, Sherry Glass said she is concerned about adequate services for seniors. “In 2020, 30 percent of our population will be over 65. This is a challenge to our social safety net,” she said. “They will focus some sort of loss of sight, hearing, mobility and we need to be prepared to provide proper services. We need services for our kupuna.”