Name on ballot:
Bethany Joy Morrison
Hawaii county council – District 1
Previous job history:
County of Hawaii, Planning Department (2007-present)
Previous elected office, if any:
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.
I am connected to County Council District 1. I have roots here that go back generations. With four generations of family living in the district, I am committed to ensuring our children will have access to high quality jobs in our district and that our kupuna have the access to services to allow them to age in place within our communities.
I am a dedicated public servant. I have been working for the County of Hawaii Planning Department for almost 13 years. I am the acting long range planning program manager and have been the project manager for update to our County General Plan. I have built trust in the community through my ability to listen and be transparent. I have demonstrated my ability to encourage public participation in our processes. I am dedicated to changing the way we govern to best serve our community.
I have the knowledge and direct experience to serve as County Council. During my career, I have worked on issues such as climate change, hazard mitigation, sustainability, the Hamakua Community Development Plan, and the capital improvement budget. I have a working knowledge of how our county is organized and operates. I have built relationships and collaborated with county, state and federal agencies, and elected officials. I have the support of our unions and many leaders in our community such as Representative Mark M. Nakashima and Senator Lorraine R. Inouye.
What will be your top priority if elected?
Many of our families are on limited and/or fixed incomes and are not self-sufficient. We have to provide opportunities for high-quality job growth and access to local food within our district. In order to accomplish this we need to invest in our Agricultural industry with adequate infrastructure and services. We need to subsidize water supply and community scale processing and packing facilities. We also need to be sure our tax structure and codes are updated to provide incentives and remove barriers for agricultural uses. Finally, we need to provide market opportunities and use our Department of Research and Development to explore niche food crops that can feed our communities but also be exported.
As Hawaii faces the COVID-19 pandemic, what more should county government do to protect residents’ health?
Communication is the key to getting people accurate and timely information so that they can make well informed decisions. The role of county government is to ensure we are using accurate and timely information to guide our protocols and policies. We must also ensure we are setting a good example by ensuring our employees and facilities have adequate personal protective equipment and consistent health and safety protocols.
What should county government do to help residents who have been economically affected by the pandemic?
The county needs to support non-profits and other groups that are best positioned to provide financial training and support. We need to ensure any county grant programs are designed and implemented to maximize the return on investment. We need to advocate with our State and Federal elected officials to ensure legislation like the CARES act provides equitable opportunities for our rural communities. Finally, we need to diversify the island’s economy with supportive infrastructure and legislation. In my position on the County Council, I will prioritize funding for infrastructure projects that will support the agriculture industry in my district and on island. As a County Council member, I would prioritize modernizing our codes to identify designated areas to allow innovative land uses. I would also work to prioritize funding for infrastructure needed to support these uses.
Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and what should the county government’s role be in the process?
My position on TMT is multifaceted. As a County planner, I am very familiar with the land use and permitting requirements. The TMT site is within the State jurisdiction and not under the purview of the County. However, the project followed the State’s environmental and permitting review process and received approvals. It should be allowed to move forward with construction as long as those permit conditions are complied with. In general, I do think our permitting processes can be improved regarding native Hawaiian community and lineal descendant consultation about impacts of projects on cultural resources. I do support the protestors that have brought these issues to light, so that they can be addressed. However, that should not preclude TMT from moving forward as approved. I support TMT being constructed as approved.
Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.
I think because we are so connected to each other in our communities, we are able to set a great example of ensuring legal and peaceful protests that ensure police officers are safe to do their jobs. The demonstrations on Mauna Kea are a great example of that. However, there is always room for improvement and reform. We need to be working with our Police Chief and Police Commission to ensure adequate safety protocols, accountability, and regular training and training facilities are provided. We need to be sure that police complaints are heard by an objective body. We need to be sure that we are able to have the appropriate police ratios in our communities, especially given our rural island. Finally, we need to be sure that our police officers have adequate and reliable equipment.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
We are at a critical moment, and we are facing some very difficult times. Now more than ever, we need strong leadership that is connected and has the experience to hit the ground running. We do not need a candidate that can talk action, we need one that can take action. Our communities can no longer be pacified with empty promises and visions without implementation. I am best positioned to take action to face our challenges head-on.
Thank you and please vote Bethany Joy Morrison for Hawaii County Council District 1.
View more candidate questionnaires or see more 2020 Hawaii elections coverage.