Name on ballot:
Fern Anuenue Holland
Kauai county council
No answer submitted
Environmental Scientist & Community Organizer
Previous job history:
Currently employed by Hawaiʻi Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA), since 2017, as a Community Organizer. I also do contract environmental and professional consulting work. From 2012-2020 I also worked as a server, bartender and the manager for Tahiti Nui Restaurant and Bar in Hanalei. Prior to this I was an environmental scientist and consultant with GHD in Australia.
Previous elected office, if any:
Please describe your qualifications to represent the voters of your county.
In addition to being born and raised on Kauaʻi, I believe my love for, and lifelong service to, Kauaʻi make me qualified to represent our community. I have a bachelors in science and three majors, in marine biology, wildlife management and environmental sciences. I believe my education and professional background will help me make good decisions for our county. My community involvement over the last 10 years, since moving home from college, has also makes me feel qualified for this position.
What is the most pressing need for the people you seek to represent, and what will you do to address that need?
It’s hard to say what the biggest problem is that we face, as we have a few that need urgent attention.
Affordable housing is the, or one of the, most urgent issues we must tackle. We must find county solutions to reduce the cost of housing and support affordable housing efforts in appropriate locations, that preserve our environment and rural way of life. We need to continue to develop projects like the Lima Ola affordable housing project and support the development of additional family units and rentals on existing properties to accommodate growing families, while tackling infrastructure upgrade needs.
Another major issue is the rate of drug abuse and addiction on Kauaʻi. We need to improve our port security and get drugs off our streets while we work to address the issue holistically with counseling programs, on island detox and treatment centers and housing first solutions.
I also understand the urgent need to address the new landfill.
Rising inflation has significantly worsened Hawaii’s already high cost of living. What can be done at the county level to help residents cope with high consumer prices?
To make a significant difference inflation really needs to be addressed at the state and federal levels. However, I believe that there are ways we can invest more in our circular economy and tap into revenue from existing tourism in a way that keeps more money on the island benefiting local families and helping us cope with growing inflation. Investing in innovation and entrepreneurship is another means that can assist us in addressing rising inflation.
Property tax is the primary lever the County Council can work with directly in the sense of directly lowering costs for struggling residents. Some ideas could be increasing exemptions and/or tax breaks for owner occupied (and long term rental) properties. Another mechanism may be to tie exemptions to inflation. This way when inflation goes up then tax exemptions also increase.
What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness and to make housing more affordable to residents?
I will work for housing first solutions and comprehensive plans that address the interconnected social issues our community faces around homelessness. I will support a comprehensive approach that looks to address homelessness holistically.
Affordable housing is the, or one of the, most urgent issues we must tackle. We need to find county solutions to reduce the cost of housing. I will continue to support projects like the Lima Ola affordable housing project and support the development of additional family units and rentals on existing properties to accommodate growing families and additional rentals.
I believe we must find ways to discourage off shore vacation rental home buying, which is playing a part in pushing local families out of the market. We need to look at out of the box solutions to help offset and reduce rental costs and encourage and incentivize home owners to rent their homes on long term affordable leases to local families.
We also must tackle the needed infrastructure upgrades to accommodate these additional units and developments. We need to work with departments to understand what is holding up approved family units and address those permit blockages and infrastructure needs. If elected I will dive into the research that has been done on things that have worked in other areas and connect with the groups working on this issue to address the gaps.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, what more should county government do to protect residents’ health?
While we have largely emerged from the global pandemic we are still seeing high case counts and continuing to monitor cases. We can continue to educate people about staying home when they are sick, social distancing, and the benefits of masks in high density situations along with hand-washing, staying healthy and talking to their doctor about the best and most appropriate way to prevent serious illness. I feel that at this stage it’s largely up to individuals to choose their level of comfort and how to protect their families from COVID. I don’t believe that county restrictions are still warranted.
The County can however invest in health education programs, opportunities for physical activity and ways to source and make quality food. We can work more to educate about the dangers of smoking, vaping, drug use and toxins we potentially expose ourselves to while providing more activities, opportunity and space for youth to engage in positive activities. I believe the County could also find ways to do more about assisting with mental health services on Kauaʻi.
What should county government do to help residents who have been economically affected by the pandemic?
The county should be supporting residents who have been economically affected by the pandemic by doing things that support entrepreneurship and small business recovery. The local government can be smart about how we spend with an effort to provide good jobs, source locally and do everything we can to invest back into Kauaʻi businesses at this time.
County governments should work to facilitate assistance opportunities for Federal and State programs and help local residents navigate what their choices are. I believe the County can provide more open door assistance to help residents connect to or work through permitting processes, assistance programs, skill and education programs and opportunities to meet their needs.
If elected I will immediately start connecting with the many organizations that help in our community in this way and understand the landscape of those economically affected. I am confident that there are pathways to address the economic impacts of COVID.
I am also passionate about helping us develop a more circular economy, where more of the revenue we do generate stays on the island and benefits local residents. To meet growing inflation, rising rent prices and our outrageous cost of living, we must think of out of the box bold solutions to provide and encourage high paying quality jobs for our people.
What reforms, if any, would you propose to make county government more transparent to the public?
Recent confirmation of corruption from federal arrests of Hawaiʻi State legislators has brought much needed attention to the changes that are needed to create a more transparent and accountable government. The presence of lobbyists and special interests and ‘pay to play’ politics is grossly visible at the State Capitol and has naturally resulted in big business and industry interests coming before residents. I have fought for more transparency on the State level for years.
On a county level I believe we can do more too. We could post online, for public review, all financial disclosures of all council members, mayor department heads, and planning commissioners. We could also look at requiring public servants to disclose their clients if privately consulting or doing private legal services. I believe we need some sort of disclosure database that allows people to follow the revolving door of local politics. This could be a simple database of public servants, elected officials, appointed positions and board members that summarizes their past and current roles within the public and private sectors.
Another way we could create more transparency on a local level is to require the posting, for public review, of all county contracts (bid and no bid). That way there is complete transparency in who gets contracts, especially non-bid contracts.
The County could also require agencies to comply with UIPA (freedom of information) requests in a timely manner and notify the public of such requests. It may be appropriate to have some form of reporting for when requests are not met, and a notification process for Council when the UIPA is not met, with an explanation as to why.
Do you think more needs to be done at the county level to manage tourism? If so, what would you propose?
I think there are other ways that we can grow our economy by channeling, appropriately managing and harnessing the tourism revenue we do have in our local economy, so a higher percentage reaches and benefits local residents and stays on island.
Developing shuttle systems and lowering the traffic in rural communities and reducing trampling of important sites is an important part of preserving our valuable places and resources. We must ensure we are responsible in how we manage and mitigate the impacts of excessive tourism in areas where communities are drastically and heavily affected.
The Kauai Destination Management Action Plan (DMAP) is a positive forward step in creating a better relationship with tourism that feels less extractive to local residents. I appreciate the goal to rebuild, redefine and reset the direction of tourism over a three-year period. We need to invest the money where the plan is. I believe that the aim of regenerative tourism as outlined in the DMAP, if harnessed properly, can assist with economic diversification and an expansion of eco-tourism, true cultural experiences and more revenue staying on Kauaʻi. Seeing how the County can support and encourage, instead of discourage, locals to engage and benefit directly from tourism is something I support also.
I strongly believe we must invest in opportunities for guests to visit our key visitor locations and destinations, without having to rent a car. Maybe an alternative bus route designed around visitor needs? The more we can expand public transport, shuttles, local tour and transport services, the more we can better manage the high number of rental cars on our roads.
I believe we need to halt the building of any new hotels and vacation units and invest in our infrastructure and resources. For the last few years I have been working with a diverse group to build a path for the former Coco Palms Hotel to be established into a cultural and educational center and resource for the community, driven and shaped by Hawaiians connected to this very sacred place. More about this vision is available at wailuanui.org. I am opposed to a hotel in this location and stand in solidarity with the many Hawaiians, and other community members, that do not want to see a hotel here and instead want this space respected, returned and restored for the betterment of Kauaʻi, local residents, future generations, visitors, food security, our economy and the world.
What would you propose to help diversify the county’s economy beyond tourism?
I believe we need to make economic diversity a priority. We need to expand beyond our tourism dependency, while doing more to keep its revenue local.
I am passionate about the County developing a flourishing agricultural industry that provides employment in food production, processing and distribution, and that pays living wages. To do this I will support efforts to expand local food production, processing facilities and infrastructure and work with community organizations to address needs to assist with marketing and distribution of local food while we also work to support current and next generation farmers. Expanding our local products and supporting their local consumption, as well as export markets, is key to growth for the agricultural sector.
For the last few years I have worked with the Kauaʻi Food Hub and learned more about the holes and importance of connecting the dots in our food systems. As a community organizer for HAPA I have helped organize a yearly eat local challenge, ʻAi Pono Kauaʻi, where we work to advertise, celebrate and support local food producers.
In addition to agriculture, I will investigate ways to support small businesses across the board and work with local business associations to address their needs. I believe we must support and encourage entrepreneurship, local businesses and economic diversity, where culturally and environmentally respectful.
What can county government do to mitigate the affects of sea-level rise?
I will be proactive with efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change and sea level rise. In college I took courses in climate science and learned about climate adaptation and mitigation.
When it comes to accepting grants and opportunities for support I will absolutely accept and seek out federal and state support to plan for and mitigate expected impacts to our resources and communities. I believe we need to establish site specific plans for low lying areas and ensure that we are protecting and or planning a retreat for critical infrastructure.
I will work with state agencies and nonprofits to create plans for the restoration of coastal native ecosystems and indigenous land management practices that will give us more resilience from rising sea levels.
I do not support coastal hardening or sea walls, unless absolutely necessary, and understand that this defers and relocates the problem, but does not fix it. In fact, it may make it worse in some areas.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
I have been an advocate for social and environmental justice my entire life. My life long community and environmental advocacy has motivated me to run for public office. My 10 years of involvement locally in State and County politics has led me to understanding that this is a way to make a difference for the betterment of Kauaʻi and our people.
I was born and raised in Kapahi and I understand the issues that matter to our islands. I am committed to doing everything I can to fight for local families. I believe that I can relate to and understand the needs of our diverse community and honor our unique and valuable history and culture while making good decisions for our future.
I am committed to addressing our drug problem in a meaningful way. I understand the major issues our community deals with related to drug abuse and addiction on Kauaʻi. We need to improve our port security and get drugs off our streets while we work to address the issue holistically with counseling programs, on island detox and treatment centers and housing first solutions.
I believe that my life experience, education and passion will benefit Kauaʻi and I will be a strong voice for our community. My environmental science background will help with important decision making around environmental issues that will need to happen in coming years.
I will be transparent, clear and thoughtful in the things I support and don’t, with an explanation and an open door.
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