comscore 2022 Election: Matthias Kusch | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Election

2022 Election: Matthias Kusch

  • matthias kusch
Name on ballot:

Matthias Kusch

Running for:

Hawaii county council – District 2

Political party:

No answer submitted

Campaign website:

Votekusch.com

Current occupation:

Build, renovate and manage affordable rentals.

Age:

56

Previous job history:

Battalion Chief of Operations, Hawaii Fire Department. Ret. 2020.

Previous elected office, if any:

None

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

*Worked for Hawaii Fire Department for 25 years. Retired as Battalion Chief of Operations.
*Own a company for the last 22 years that builds, renovates and manages affordable homes and rentals.
*Steering committee member for Downtown Business Improvement District plan (2022)
*President (and other elected positions) 4 years, EB deSilva Elem. School PTA
*President 10 years for EB deSilva Elem. School Community Council
*Member and Committee head, 2 years, West Hawaii Fisheries Council
*HBFT representative for Hilo Downtown Multimodal Plan (2015-18)
*President (and other elected positions) 14 years, Hilo Bayfront Trails
*Cost of Government Commission for County of Hawai’i (2022)
*Democratic Party of Hawai’i member and precinct Delegate to the Hawai’i State Convention
*Participated and involved with many community projects: Native plant out-plantings, Native Hawaiian fishpond restorations, invasive weed removal, stream clean ups and more.

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

There are two:
Downtown Hilo and Affordable Housing.

Downtown Hilo:
I worked for roughly 10 years in Downtown Hilo at Central Fire Station. I used to know many of the homeless’ names and their plights that led up to them living on the street. Without getting too deep on policy, I would like to address their needs with dignity, continue to support some of the good programs in their infancy, and expand on others with proven track records elsewhere. Besides just addressing the homeless issue, I want to implement the Downtown Hilo Multimodal Plan. This is a fantastic plan, that builds on previous plans and is similar to other successful older downtown gentrifications. Broadly, it will slow down traffic, increase bike and pedestrian use, covered sidewalk seating, better lighting, plantings to name a few. I am also on a steering committee that is working to create legislation to build a Business Improvement District. Much like the one in Kailua-Kona, Waikiki and many other places in the US. It’s a proven model that will help Downtown business owners to more effectively guide their future. In a recap: Reduce homelessness and increase residents and visitors to downtown. Make downtown a vibrant business hub and important employer in East Hawai’i.
Affordable Housing:
I will address this in the question below on this topic.

Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope and why?

I am a supporter of technology, science and related opportunities like astronomy. I am saddened that HB 2024 is set to be signed by Governer Ige, as I am concerned it will deal our island a significant blow. The upcoming destabilization of the management of the mountain will once again play out, much like it did for 20+ years when management by UH was essentially non-existent. I am very worried that without the guardrails and significant experience of UH (including all of its mistakes), the new entity -which has virtually no other body performing oversight- will be rudderless for some time to come. As an analogy, we are taking a A or B High School Senior who has been steadily improving, and penalizing him/her for poor performance in 1st through 3rd grade. And then putting someone in their place for college…. Who’s never attended school before!
It’s a travesty that our state’s long history of misrepresenting Hawaiians, Hawaiian Culture and inequality in virtually every form, is being played out on the mountain. I do believe there was, and still is, room for everyone. But in today’s zero-sum politics and weaponized social media, the moment may have passed. We shall see.
The county council does not have much input on any substantive decisions on the mountain, other than non-binding resolutions ‘for’ or ‘against’ decisions by state entities to consider. Regardless, I will work to find common lines of communication and work with state level authorities to find a balance on the mountain.

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?

Since inflation is a manifestation of outside forces (de-globalization, Russian conflict in Ukraine, stronger dollar, wages and tariffs, to name a few), any DIRECT actions the council takes should be short term or tied to inflation metrics themselves. INDIRECTLY, the council can address local priorities like:
*Affordable Housing
*Greater use of public transit
*Adopt ‘complete streets’ ordinance and promote safe walking and biking as a transportation alternative (climate friendly, too!)
*Address Real Property Tax imbalances and the variable portion of assessments.
*Update and modernize IT infrastructure at the county for more web-based payments, information gathering etc. (reduce travel costs for CoH interactions)
*Promote (along with the state) increased broadband coverage in rural areas of the island.

These are just some of the top line ideas to address cost of living issues that our Island faces, there are other ideas and I hope the public will share those with me if I am fortunate enough to get elected.

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

Homeless:
A portion of the solution is already underway: In discussions with the CoH Housing and Community Development Dept., Catholic Charities and BISAC; the old Hilo Hospital has big plans slated with significant renovations and upgrades to transform the property into a comprehensive mental health, health, substance abuse and temporary shelter for those experiencing homelessness. In addition to these efforts, I’d like to see day lockers for houseless people, a daytime facility that allows for showers, phone use and a social worker to help guide those who are ready to move off of the street, among others.

Affordable Housing:
First, while EVERYBODY talks about Affordable Housing, I have been building, renovating and renting Affordable homes and Rentals for 22 years. My wife and I share this passion, and have not just made promises, but with our own capital, our own hard work, ACTUALLY put people in homes. No other candidate has this experience, this commitment or longevity working towards this goal.
If elected, to address this important issue, I want to look at a number of zoning and density options that are already part of the General Plan. Including ADU’s (Ohana’s), mixed use development for our Downtown Hilo and other appropriate areas, regulatory overreach in the building code and expansion of Housing Vouchers by making them more landlord friendly and incentivize their use. I would like to look at options where the County partners with other entities and with large employers to secure down payments for our entry level workers to purchase their own homes.

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

I think the county has done a good job of maintaining a balance regarding public health. While it’s always tempting by some to be Monday morning quarterbacks, it’s difficult to be a leader and make decisions on partial information. I think taking a conservative path without overstepping authority should be the guiding principle for the county going forward. We have learned a lot the last 2 years, hopefully we don’t have to use that knowledge anytime soon!

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

There are significant Federal and State programs to assist people with pandemic related hardships. The county does and should continue to make those programs accessible to their targeted audience. Transparency and outreach.

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

I would like to see a comprehensive review of our IT products. Currently, it is very difficult to look up documents or find out what steps you need to take to do something (renew driver’s license, building permit, make and submit council testimony etc). As a member of the County of Hawai’i Cost of Government Commission, this is one of our focuses to find out ways to increase transparency through better information flow out to the public.
I also would like to have a breakdown on our residents Real Property Tax (RPT) assessment notice of the various department’s budget. I think people would like to know how much of their money is going to Fire, Police, DEM, debt etc.
Better knowledge and understanding of your government creates accountability and fosters input and engagement by our citizens.

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

Clearly, we need to be nimble and ready to implement management features to public assets that tourists now overwhelm. The many ‘secret’ places on island just 10 years ago have been exploited via social media and the proliferation of online promoters. I would like to look at more state parks being transferred to the county, increasing our home rule. This could be a win-win-win: Good for the workers, good for DLNR and good for our residents and visitors via stronger management of those parks. I would also like to expand managed hiking destinations and coordinate with DLNR and the Land Board to explore more public land available (and designated) to hiking and biking. These creative, low-cost outlets could be tourist revenue streams and dilute the impact at any one natural public park or asset, enabling our residents to enjoy those features with a little elbow room. This is one area you can be sure I will be working on, if elected.

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

Continued astronomy, embracing technology, enabling small business and promoting tropical and specialty agricultural products for local use and export. In addition, I would like to see more low impact small farmers markets or stores in our neighborhoods that support our local and small farmers.

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

2 parts:

1. Climate friendly decisions:
*Expand our sewer systems, which will save homeowners who need to convert from cesspools by 2050. This also lowers the per house cost to operate the treatment plants.
*Increase public transit
*Pass Complete Streets Ordinance
*Increase density at our urban cores (which makes sewer and public transit, bike paths and walking more efficient)
*Better broadband access
*Better IT at CoH, allowing more actions to be done via computer/smart phone. Less driving

2. Sea Level Rise decisions:
*Using science, plan for areas where there might be a need for managed retreat
*Look for recreational opportunities that will emerge with sea level rise
*Look at native habitat opportunities that will emerge with sea level rise
*Look at State and CoH infrastructure that will be impacted in the future and plan for it’s replacement or removal
*Insure there are enough hardened gyms or facilities for residents to go to during storm events that may increase over time.

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

No other candidate for Hawai’i County Council, District 2 has my experience or track record of serving the community. I hope to serve a larger cause on the council, increasing my community contribution in a larger footprint. Please visit www.Votekusch.com for more on Matthias Kusch. Thank you for your support!


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