comscore 2022 Election: Robin Knox | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Election

2022 Election: Robin Knox

  • Robin S. Knox
Name on ballot:

Robin Knox

Running for:

Maui county council – South Maui

Political party:

No answer submitted

Campaign website:

robin4maui.com

Current occupation:

Environmental Scientist

Age:

65

Previous job history:

I have been the owner of a small business, Water Quality Consulting, Inc. since 1999. Prior to that I worked at Water Resource Engineering firms Weston Solutions, and Arcadis. I have been a researcher in the field of water quality at 3 Universities, most recently UH Manoa. For 5 years early in my career, I worked as a Clean Water Act permit writer.

Previous elected office, if any:

none

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

I am a proven problem solver. In my 30 years as a consultant, I have learned how to solve problems collaboratively. I listen closely to identify the needs of all parties, and seek solutions that meet everyone’s needs. I have been a single Mom, a co-parent of a large blended family with six children, and am now a grandmother of three, so I know what it means to work hard to care for my family. I worked my way through college by cleaning horse stalls and working in a paper mill, so I know what it means to work hard at a job and to be a member of a union. I am the owner of a small business that survived Hurricane Katrina and the pandemic, so I know what it means to be resilient in the face of disaster. I am educated and experienced in agriculture and environmental health, water and wastewater treatment design, wetland and coastal restoration, and protection of water quality, so I bring subject matter expertise about some of the most pressing problems we face as a county. As a former regulator, I have experience developing policy and working within legal and regulatory frameworks. My life experiences have made me familiar with challenges and finding solutions; this qualifies me to represent the votes of Maui County

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

Our most pressing need is housing. I support the solution, as outlined in the Maui County Comprehensive Affordable Housing Plan, to build 5000 affordable homes in 5 years, with half of the housing being affordable to residents below 50% of area median income. The housing can be funded by municipal bonds, with repayment funded from the affordable housing fund. I will also support higher real estate tax rates for non-owner occupied homes, with exemptions for homes that are rented long term, a minimum one year lease. In the short term, drastic measures like rent control may be needed.

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?

The County has little control over consumer prices, so efforts should be focused on supporting residents. Measures could include subsidized school lunches, eldercare, childcare and afterschool programs; allowing County employees to continue to telecommute, and encourage businesses to do the same; providing free recreational and entertainment opportunities for families. Provide community gardens and help families establish back yard gardens to help with food costs. Provide subsidies to help with utilities. Provide facilitated networking or “freeware” to share items no longer needed with other families who need them.

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

I already provided comments on affordable housing as our most pressing need. In addition to the measures to create more affordable housing, we need to invest in programs that keep people from becoming homeless. Enforce Fair Housing laws and tenant landlord code. More mental health and addiction services, domestic violence interventions, help finding landlords who will take HUD vouchers, and programs to provide mediation with landlords can help keep people from becoming homeless. We need to take emergency actions, like we would in a natural disaster, to meet basic needs (food, water, shelter) for those who are houseless. We combat homelessness by serving homeless people. We need direct action to meet them where they are, more shelters and housing programs, and lower barriers for entry into these programs. Until we have enough affordable homes we need to look at other options for sheltering people like managed encampments, safe overnight parking, or allowing tiny homes.

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

Government should be transparent in providing data about the prevalence, settings, and locations of Covid cases, and make testing widely and readily available. County government should develop ventilation standards to make indoor group settings more safe. The County should provide education to raise public awareness about Covid and other communicable diseases. The County should reinstate testing of travelers until Covid is no longer a threat to our County residents.

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

The County should expend the funds received from the federal government in ways that directly benefit residents, for instance providing food or helping with rent and utilities. Business counseling services could be offered to help impacted businesses make new business plans. Building a diverse economy by offering business start up support or retraining of workers can help us shift our economy away from being so dependent on tourism. Tourism is likely to remain volatile due to impacts of climate change including pandemics, rising fuel costs, and world wide efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

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

I would continue to hold County Council meetings via Blue Jeans. Virtual meetings make it easier for a larger number of residents to participate in the governmental process. In virtual meetings the public can see the Councilmembers faces, and the faces of testifiers, which increases transparency. I propose compliance auditing of the performance of County Departments to assure that policies are being implemented in accordance with the laws and regulations. I would limit the power of the Mayor to appoint members of boards and commissions in favor of more Council control of those appointments.

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

Yes, I think more needs to be done to control tourism. We need to implement measures, such as limiting the number of tourist accommodations, that would limit visitors to the level prescribed in the Maui Island Plan. The number of rental cars should be limited, and taxed at the County level. Tourism fees should be collected from each visitor to support programs to mitigate tourism impacts. Tourists should pay to park at County Beach Parks, and a number of parking space should be reserved for residents only. Greater staffing is needed for Ocean Safety Officers, and park rangers who can regulate visitor behaviors and keep the public and wildlife safe. Efforts need to continue to regulate short term vacation rentals, and to shut down illegal operators. Tourism oriented free shuttles should be established in Lahaina and Kihei to reduce the traffic associated with tourism.

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

Create a circular economy. Grow our own food. Grow hemp for building materials. Grow biofuel crops. Invest in natural resource restoration to ensure our food and water supply. Recruit off island companies that offer remote work opportunities and create training programs to prepare our residents to work in those remote jobs. Expand film industry and efforts to promote Hawaiian culture. Create innovative wastewater treatment technologies and export that expertise to other places. Examine past efforts to recruit technology companies, and provide new direction to those efforts.

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

Stop allowing building along the coast. Limit coastal restoration to regional projects designed to protect the land, not private properties. Stop developing wetlands and restore them. Implement planned retreat of public infrastructure. Reforest and restore watersheds to increase freshwater supply and reduce saltwater intrusion as sea level rises. Control wastewater and stormwater pollution that damages coral reefs; corals mitigate the wave energy that erodes the land, and coral accretion counters the subsidence of the land.

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

I care about you and your quality of life. I will make local priorities the TOP priority, putting Maui County residents first in my consideration. I believe the courage and creativity of the people of Maui County will enable us to develop local solutions to the global challenges that we are facing.


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