comscore 2022 Election: KipuKai L. P. Kualii | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Election

2022 Election: KipuKai L. P. Kualii

  • KipuKai KUALI_I
Name on ballot:

KipuKai L. P. Kualii

Running for:

Kauai county council

Political party:

No answer submitted

Campaign website:

www.kualii.com

Current occupation:

Councilmember / County of Kauai; Director of Operations / YWCA of Kaua`i

Age:

60

Previous job history:

No answer submitted

Previous elected office, if any:

Kaua`i County Councilmember: Current (2020-22); 2018-20; 2014-16; 2011-12 Kaua`i County Council’s Housing & Intergovernmental Relations Committee, Chair Kaua`i County Council’s Finance & Economic Development Committee, Vice Chair

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

My commitment is to be a passionate advocate for our people and for our islands; using my dedication, knowledge & experience to work on protecting and improving the quality of life for all of us. These are the qualifications I bring forward to represent the voters of our county. I have over thirty years’ experience working and volunteering in Government, Labor Unions, Non-Profits and Community Organizations. As a sitting Kaua`i County Councilmember for 3 of the last 4 terms, I’ve proven myself to be hardworking, trustworthy and thoughtful. I’ve also demonstrated my dedication to public service, my legislative policy experience, my strength with budgeting, my understanding of the issues and my commitment to always doing my homework, listening carefully and working collaboratively. What qualifies me most though is the genuine concern I have for Kaua`i and Ni`ihau and my commitment to making a difference!

What is the most pressing need for the people you seek to represent, and what will you do to address that need?

The most pressing need for our people is addressing our housing shortage disaster! Here’s some of what we are doing, as well as what we need to do and will do.

Incentivizing Private Developers & Infill Development in Town Cores – Working with Council Chair Kaneshiro, Housing Director Roversi and Mayor Kawakami we’ve brought about critically needed improvements to our Housing Policy incentivizing private developers to build more units especially in our town core areas close to existing infrastructure where we’ve also created Special Management Areas encouraging higher density housing projects like four-plexes, townhomes and apartments. And, we’re currently working on even more improvements.

Incentivizing Homeowner ARUs – Last term we passed several bills supporting Additional Rental Units (ARUs); waiving zoning permit application, sewer & building permit fees; creating a subsidy for water meters; and exempting EIA’s saving over $20k per ARU in fees alone. We also passed a bill I co-sponsored with Councilmember Evslin supporting tiny houses; legalizing sleeping lofts, lowering ceiling heights & allowing for stairs and ladders designed for small spaces.

More County Housing Projects- We must push for more housing for local residents by supporting replicating successful projects like our 30-unit Kealaula transitional housing, our 53-unit Pua Loke affordable rentals and our multi-phase, multi-unit Lima Ola project in Ele`ele that includes senior, single family and affordable housing. These successes result from partnering with the State & developers, tax credits, fast-track permitting, a streamlined regulatory process and/or having available funding.

More County Funding – In order to build our Housing Development Fund, Councilmembers Chock, Evslin & I recently voted to increase the Vacation Rental tax rate to the same level as Resort. We fell two votes short. I also helped spearhead sending a Council charter amendment proposal to the voters to approve dedicating 2% (est. $3.5m) of real property tax revenues to our Housing Development Fund.

Expanding & Maximizing Existing Infrastructure – Besides additional funding, we must support expanding and maximizing our existing infrastructure. We must support our County working closely with the Dept. of Water to ensure water distribution expansion plans line up with plans for increased density and infill development within our town centers, as well as for other housing development in the larger town areas. We must support our County Planners engaging with Dept. of Water Planners updating the County Water Plan to guide system expansion, improvement, rehabilitation, and rate structures that support growth consistent with housing development plans. We must support our County properly maintaining our four wastewater treatment plants which were built before 1980 and fund the necessary upgrades to our current systems; even if that means increasing sewer fees. We must also support our County working in partnership with private entities wherever possible and proposing new residential developments in Lihu`e in order to take advantage of that treatment plant’s significant excess capacity.

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 be quite honest, I don’t think this is an issue that can be addressed by government at the county level. In fact, I’ve read that due to increased consumer demand being the main driver of inflation, there isn’t much government can do except for the Federal Reserve raising interest rates which I believe is happening. Raising interest rates will make it more expensive to borrow money to buy a house or to buy a car, or for a business to buy equipment and that should drive down demand, slow economic growth and slow inflation. There are a few other strategies that could be employed by government – but, all of them are at the federal level.

As individual consumers there are 10 things we each can do to cope with inflation:
1) Create a household budget (tracking your spending helps you spend less)
2) Cut spending where you can
3) Negotiate lower interest rates on your credit cards (just call & ask for it)
4) Hunt for discounts & coupons to save on purchases
5) Stockpile canned goods & household items
6) Get a side job to earn a little extra cash
7) Postpone unnecessary big-ticket item purchases
8) Set thermostat back to save on cooling costs
9) Drive more conservatively (accelerate slowly & evenly)
10) Switch to an online bank

What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness and to make housing more affordable to residents?

First and foremost, we must all begin to think of Housing as “a basic human right” for all our people. In this next term, I will work with, push and support our Mayor, our Council Chair, our Housing Agency Director and our entire County Council to dedicate ourselves fully to addressing the housing shortage disaster. We know what we have to do. And, we even have a few examples of successful housing projects to emulate like our Kealaula transitional housing project that provides shelter for several of our homeless families, as well as the successful kauhale village projects on O`ahu.

Together, we all will work with and push the next Governor to grant us an emergency declaration (fast-track permitting & a streamlined regulatory process) and emergency funding as was done with Ohana Zones for the COVID-19 pandemic – but, instead for the housing shortage disaster. With that, our County should more easily and more quickly be able expedite in the next few years the replication of projects like Kealaula in two or three other locations across the island. And, we will work with and push the State to develop two or three kauhale village or agricultural village type community shelter projects for our homeless in different parts of our island.

With regards to the part of the question regarding “making housing more affordable for residents”, please see my answer to the question near the top about “the most pressing need for people”.

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

I don’t think there is much more that our County government should do to protect residents’ health. Because I didn’t have the hands-on, managerial, decision-making experience day in and day out, all I can say is that from my vantage point, our Mayor, Emergency Response Team and Kaua`i Department of Health Office seem to have worked together very well and did an amazing job responding and protecting our health throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As it continues, I feel very comfortable with where we are and where we are heading. If anything, maybe we as a County government should try to continue assisting with making masks and tests readily available for free. And, I would like to see regular and continued outreach and education in order to keep our residents informed and current with any other variants or potential pandemics. On a personal note, I will say that my extended family members, including my 88-yr-old pure Hawaiian Dad all came through without any serious sickness because of all the precautions including curfews, social distancing, closures, masks and vaccines. We’re all so thankful that most of the restrictions have all gone away; but, still feel safer when wearing our masks and that we took all of the recommended boosters.

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

The coronavirus pandemic turned our economy upside down and inside out requiring us to all come together just to survive and eventually work on our recovery. We perhaps are now at a place where we can again focus, with even more conviction based on what we’ve been through together, on our economic resilience and diversification. We do this by turning to the recommendations in our community-generated plans: our Kaua`i County General Plan, our Kaua`i Comprehensive Economic Development Strategic (CEDS) Plan for 2022-2026, our Kaua’i Destination Management Action Plan (DMAP) 2021-2023, as well as the many recommendations from our Kaua`i Economic Recovery Strategy Team (KERST).

As for helping residents who have been economically affected, our county government should continue to provide whatever resources and referrals for resources that we can.

What reforms, if any, would you propose to make county government more transparent to the public?

I don’t have any reforms to propose at this time to make the County of Kaua`i more transparent to the public. However, I am open to hearing from constituents who have any particular concerns or any proposals.

In reviewing our County website I’ve learned that Ballotpedia has graded our County’s transparency with an A+. And, I also found the following information…

Financial Transparency – Our County has a Financial Transparency Portal where users can view financial data based on the current budget or up to the current month. Users can manipulate the data and drill down to finite details or scale up to the big picture. Users can also download the data as an Excel spreadsheet to use at home.

Visual – This web-based financial transparency tool provides annual and current year reporting of the County’s revenues and expenses. This site is designed to help you understand how the County spends and receives money.

Value – There’s nothing quite like being able to examine financial data by viewing charts and graphs or downloading the information into an excel spreadsheet. That’s why the County of Kauaʻi has engaged with OpenGov to assist with providing the public an interactive way to learn more about the city’s finances. This resource is a part of the County’s ongoing effort to enhance transparency and public engagement.

If you go to our County website at www.kauai.gov, you will be able to research a lot of information like Accessing a Government Record, Grant Funding (Federal & Private / Non-Profit Awards), Federal / State Lobbying Initiatives, Registered Lobbyist and more.

Do you think more needs to be done at the county level to manage tourism? If so, what would you propose?  

Yes. One thing I support is the real property tax bill we’re currently working on that would establish rates being tiered at three different assessed value levels for Residential Investors and Transient Vacation Rentals. Properties with an assessed value under a certain level would pay the Tier 1 rate. Properties with an assessed value higher than the Tier 1 level but under a higher Tier 2 level would pay the first portion at the Tier 1 rate and the second portion at the Tier 2 rate. Finally, properties with an assessed value over an even higher Tier 3 level would pay the first portion at the Tier 1 rate, the second portion at the Tier 2 rate and the last portion at the Tier 3 rate. These tiers will allow for taxing everyone equally within each tier and also allow for taxing at higher rates the portions of total assessed value that are in the Tier 2 or Tier 3 level ranges. Single properties paying different amounts in part per tier means avoiding the drastic increases that would occur if properties were bumped up and taxed entirely at the higher rate when their assessed value passed a certain amount. As a possible example, a TVR assessed at $3.3 million dollars would pay the 1st million at the Tier 1 rate, the next 2 million at the Tier 2 rate and the last $300k at the Tier 3 rate.

Setting real property tax rates annually during budget decision-making provides Council a distinct time and tool for prioritizing Council’s policy values that advance our quality of life such as disincentivizing multi-million-dollar vacant mansions and funding more housing development. Having these tiers would allow us more options when setting those rates.

In our Council budget process next year, I intend to introduce or co-introduce bringing parity to our existing tax rate structure by increasing the rate of Transient Vacation Rentals to the same level as Resorts. In fact, in this year’s budget process just a few weeks ago, Councilmembers Chock, Evslin & I were three votes to do just that. Though we were two votes short, we were able to have extensive, deliberative discussions that I believe has brought us to a new starting point for next year’s budget decision-making.

What would you propose to help diversify the county’s economy beyond tourism?

We all agree that we absolutely have to diversity our economy beyond tourism. And, collectively we’ve been developing strategic plans to do just that for years now. COVID-19 has turned our economy upside down and inside out. We have had to put all our time and energy into just surviving and even still into our economic recovery. We perhaps are now at a place where we can again focus, with even more conviction based on what we’ve all been through together, on our economic resilience and diversification. We do this by once again turning to the recommendations in our community-generated plans: our Kaua`i County General Plan, our Kaua`i Comprehensive Economic Development Strategic (CEDS) Plan for 2022-2026, our Kaua’i Destination Management Action Plan (DMAP) 2021-2023, as well as the many recommendations from our Kaua`i Economic Recovery Strategy Team (KERST).

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it very clear to us that we must transition our traditional tourism to a new regenerative tourism; one that gives back more than it takes. Regenerative tourism focuses on the supply-side, host communities and ecosystems, rather than just the visitors’ needs and wants of the market-demand approach. Regenerative tourism management enables our island to be left better than it was found. How cool is that? Sounds a lot like our Native Hawaiian values of aloha `aina, kuleana, the kapu system and malama `aina.

Together we must reinvent what “quality tourism” means on Kaua‘i by creating systems and conditions for our `aina and our people to be rejuvenated rather than depleted; to flourish rather than wither; to experience joy rather than frustration. We can and will connect with visitors and encourage them to “give back” while visiting and leave the place better than they found it. We can start with places like Ha’ena, Koke`e, Polihale and Wailua! Also, outreach and education has already started with visitors; giving them important information upon arrival on how to be a responsible visitor and how to be respectful of our `aina and our people.

What can county government do to mitigate the affects of sea-level rise?

Currently Councilmember Evslin & I are working with you and other stakeholders on a bill to support EV-ready charging stations in parking lots. I plan to work further with Councilmember Evslin & others on bills that take advantage of innovations and new technologies.

As for steps I’d take, I will..
• work to ensure that our land use, capital improvements and all our programming considers our statewide and county plans and policies addressing climate change and sea level rise
• continue supporting Housing & Planning bills that increase housing and livability in our town cores so people can live close to jobs, services & recreation and rely less on driving.
• work to move our Kaua`i Bus to fully electric and move the rest of the County fleet to electric as much as practicable.
• continue supporting bills that make all our buildings more efficient, and
• support all extensive waste diversion efforts to reduce our solid waste hauling.

Our County Planners are gathering critical public input in order to draft our first Kauai Climate Change Adaptation Plan which will guide development, natural resource protection and community resilience in the face of climate change-related impacts.

We are absolutely called to action because of the science and data that tells us that extreme weather events will only get stronger and more frequent. The rising seas and flooding require us to look at limiting and even restricting any further structures being built along our shorelines and along our rivers.

Our Kauai Climate Change Adaptation Plan will indeed include “Managed Retreat”, a difficult response to coastal erosion where oceanfront property structures are demolished and rebuilt inland. It will show a land swap option to move our most vulnerable coastal homes in West Kauai onto the County’s Waimea 400 lands more mauka; allowing new County beaches to form.

We live on an island. Climate change is quite possibly the biggest threat we will be facing for the unforeseeable future. In little and big ways, we all need to be doing whatever we can to reduce our carbon footprint; and, as institutions and industries, like our county, our business community and our visitor industry, we need to be leading the way.

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

I want voters to know that it’s always been my passion to be an advocate for our people and for our islands; using my dedication, knowledge and experience to protect and improve our quality of life. And, of course, how deeply appreciative I am to have the opportunity to serve as one of your seven elected County councilmembers.
I also want them to know that these are the priorities I will advocate for:

Rebuilding, Diversifying & Strengthening Our Economy – Creating Jobs & Supporting Local Business. My commitment is to helping bring folks together to make our economic recovery our top priority! That includes providing direct assistance to businesses & community non-profits such as the the federal CARES Act and ARPA funding. It also includes working with our Office of Economic Development, as well as State, business and community partners including our eight economic recovery strategy teams to implement recovery strategy recommendations, our Kaua’i Destination Management Action Plan (DMAP) 2021-2023 and our Kaua‘i Comprehensive Economic Development Strategic (CEDS) Plan for 2022-2026.

Budgeting Responsibly & Limiting Taxes – Managing expenditures, revenues & funding priorities. Being Accountable Always. My strength as a detailed, numbers guy fighting for our citizens hard-earned tax dollars is needed now more than ever.

Building Affordable Homes & Rentals – Incentivizing, funding and leveraging the faster building of more Affordable Homes and Rentals for our Growing Families, our Overcrowded (“invisible homesless”) and our Homeless. My leadership as Housing Chair is bringing about vital improvements to our Housing Policy, legislation to support more Additional Dwelling Units (ADUs) & Additional Rental Units (ARUs); and, legislative action to significantly increase the available funding in our Housing Development Fund.

Delivering Core Services Efficiently – Prioritizing the efficient delivery of Public Safety (Police, Fire & Rescue) and Public Works (Roads, Parks, Sewage Treatment, Solid Waste & Water) services. My careful scrutiny of our Budget helps ensure we adequately fund these core services and maintain our Public Works infrastructure.

Protecting Our `Aina & Sustenance Lifestyles – Protecting our Natural Resources, Agriculture (farming & ranching) & Local Sustenance Lifestyles (gardening, gathering, hunting & fishing). My upbringing in a local family of fishermen, gardeners, gatherers, & hunters taught me the value of our `aina for our survival; for food sustainability & security.

Collaborating for Community Solutions – Working with both Public & Private Partners to develop and implement forward-thinking solutions to longstanding challenges like Climate Change, Drug Abuse, Food Insecurity, Homelessness, Teen Suicide, Traffic Congestion and more. My lifelong experiences as a community organizer for economic and social justice has taught me how to work effectively with many different organizations and people.


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