comscore 2020 Election: Felicia Cowden | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

2020 Election: Felicia Cowden

  • Felicia Cowden
Name on ballot:

Felicia Cowden

Running for:

Kauai county council

Political party:


Campaign website:

Current occupation:

council member



Previous job history:

engineering, business, education

Previous elected office, if any:

Council member

Please describe your qualifications to represent the voters of your county.

Decades of Kauai community advocacy and a career history in engineering, business and education have prepared me to serve the people of Kauai in my current first term in office as a county council-member. I have full-time availability with no competing job, business or family responsibilities to divide my focus. Putting People First is my motto. I am honored to actively assist solving constituent challenges with our people as it helps me to understand the subtleties and implications of the policies we create. I am willing to listen to ideas from the range of our people with an open mind in order to help develop win-win solutions. I humbly ask for a second term in office.

What will be your top priority if elected?

My top priority for Kauai is to help the citizens find ways to regain economic strength and stability in order to thrive. This was an evident problem before the COVID19 event, which has remarkably amplified the challenge of being over-reliant on the tourism industry that also serves to market the island to outside investors, cascading our difficulties in being able to afford life on our island. The global economic pause has given the world an opportunity for a reset on our values and strategies. Hawaii must be pro-actively engaged to create anti-speculation policies so we don’t re-emerge from this pandemic crisis with further ownership losses of our lands, businesses and homes. We must diversify our economy to return to a more self-reliant, locally-based prosperity.

As Hawaii faces the COVID-19 pandemic, what more should county government do to protect residents’ health?

Kauai’s county government did an excellent job of protecting residents’ health for the COVID19 virus by closing our island off to outsiders quickly and effectively. The difficult question of balance comes into play with how long-term health is impacted by avoidance of other medical care and a community slide into economic distress with related hardships and despair. The governor has more control over the difficult process of regulating arrivals. Where possible, strategies that restrict travel from high-incidence COVID19 locations and include testing prior to visitor flight departure and after arrival would be best.

What should county government do to help residents who have been economically affected by the pandemic?

Kauai’s county government has focused on dispersing the CARES Act grants to economically assist food producers, businesses, non-profits and residents as much as possible, most recently with a $28.7M funding package. We have a new $38M source to manage our river flood planes affiliated with the April ’18 event working to focus on local sub-contractors. We have a deferment for Real Property Tax payments in place. A good addition would be a county task force to aid constituents with effectively working with the overwhelmed State Dept. of Labor and Industrial Relations. Currently, so many people on Kauai have experienced helpless frustration with the communication barriers. Creating the anti-speculation protections, and encouraging the business diversifications discussed in above questions folds into recreating economic stability. Businesses being open to the residential economy is a good start on the path to recovery.

Should public worker furloughs, pay cuts or downsizing be used to help the county deal with lower tax revenues and higher expenses during the pandemic? Why or why not?

My perspective is that furloughing government workers is likely to create more economic problems than it would solve. Our population needs efficient government support on a full-time basis especially in this time of need. Government expense of retirement benefits and debt service is a significant cost of government that would persist. Downsizing would come from providing essential services and would be less beneficial than it may seem. We are not buying new equipment and are allowing for some attrition and hiring freezes.

What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness?

To combat homelessness, we have five workforce housing developments underway including a wrap-around therapeutic village, with a further community scheduled for the Eleele area. This past year and continuing, a suite of ordinances have been put into place to allow density in our residential neighborhoods and urban core so that families can add addition dwelling units to assist their ohana and financial strategies in a variety of formats. Encouraging multi-family housing and mixed usage to include living spaces in commercial areas through tax policy is underway. Our present emergency grants for rental and mortgage assistance is intended to keep housed people in their homes. We have $2 million budgeted for moveable tiny home development to offer safer shelter for our chronically houseless. We are in process of updating our housing policy to incentive urban renewal in town cores. The dynamic challenge is in managing the seemingly inexhaustible level of outside demand in order to fill the new supply of living units with our existing population. Secure housing and affordable living is our on-going number one problem on Kauai.

Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.

Kauai Police Department has been in the process of reform for at least about five years. As Council Committee Chair for Public Safety, I have a watchful eye on this issue and have begun my position with a critical perspective. What I have experienced has beat my expectations. I took the 13-week Citizens Police Academy, regularly attend Police Commission meetings, recruit graduations, community outreaches events, trainings, do police ride-alongs, and routinely interact with the police department, including at the recent three Black Lives Matter events on Kauai. I have active interface with Kauai Community Correctional Center and volunteer as a court moderator. Police work is a difficult job and there is always room for improvement. That said, I believe we have a conscious and responsible police team. I interface with the State Department of Public Safety and am part of a National Association of Counties’ Justice and Public Safety group. I care deeply about this issue.

Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?

My community experience has also included small scale food production, Hawaiian Studies and an exploration in our more traditional land management systems. As we navigate potential future threats from Climate Change, economic and political instabilities, supply chain disruptions, pandemics or whatever life may reveal to us, there is high value in reclaiming appropriate land management strategies. The introduction of invasive crops such as albizia trees and guinnea grass has amplified the challenges of managing our rivers from destructive flood events. Holistic planning strategies are important that better reflect our traditional wisdoms rather than policy templates designed for continental commerce. Hawaii is blessed to have a rainbow of cultural knowledge from our range of people that have brought strengths to our unique collective culture that needs to be nourished rather than eclipsed by the dominant culture that is not designed for an isolated island chain. May we balance the influence of the world with the maintaining of a prosperous and resilient localized economy, and retain our rich Hawaiian heritage.

View more candidate questionnaires or see more 2022 Hawaii elections coverage.
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