Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 Primary Election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities will be if elected.
The following came from Jason Schwartz, candidate for Maui County Council Kahului District. The other candidates are Cara Flores, Tasha Kama, Carol Kamekona, Buddy Nobriga, Tina Pedro and Keoni Watanabe.
Candidate for Maui County Council Kahului District
Retired, Energy Exchange, real estate, mortgage, media host
Community organizations/prior offices held
1. What is the biggest issue facing Maui County, and what would you do about it?
Biggest is housing issue, short-term. The lack of affordable rentals is so much more critical than the purchasing of homes, though both are important. I would declare an emergency and build more temporary housing coupled with work/trade programs for chronically homeless, trying to offer and instill self pride and reintegration into conventional social living.
I would take master architectural plans for multifamily housing and designate leasehold lands as a base for future equity sharing purchases over time.
Meanwhile, longer range problems which are suddenly acute, like environmental changes to save resources and create our local self sustainability, are crucial and are priorities.
2. In the last two years alone, the median sales price of a Maui home has shot up almost $400,000, driven by a surge of out-of-state buyers during the pandemic. What can the county do to ensure that families aren’t priced out?
Create additional taxes on out of state buyers and penalties to sellers who sell to out of state buyers. Second and third homes also to face stiffer fees and regulation.
Offer positive tax credits for those who do comply to our local housing inventory. Create special loan programs for inner city redevelopment that create greater density on a property, with proscribed limits.
3. In recent years, there has been a significant push to reform law enforcement and beef up oversight of police. What would you do specifically to increase oversight of local law enforcement? Are you satisfied with the Maui Police Department and the Maui Police Commission?
I think wearing cameras is a major step toward accountability. I believe social response to overly aggressive and physical law enforcement issues needs to be viewed and evaluated, which is why I recommend cameras.
Also, education of the public to be reducing situations where the police need to be concerned for their own welfare because the public is better supporting them to help. This is a matter of people better understanding their roles in supporting legal efforts that give less reason for the police to fear situations they arrive at.
4. The Maui County Council recently passed a temporary moratorium on the construction of new hotels and other visitor accommodations and will over the next several months decide whether to make it permanent. Do you support capping the number of hotels and visitor lodgings on Maui? Why or why not?
I think capping hotel numbers is a good idea for now. I cannot imagine increasing available rooms when the shortage for livable local housing is so unbalanced.
Because the future may bring newer technologies that could change things, I wouldn’t make it permanent. But the criteria for more building is still an unknown to me. Local needs are such a priority.
5. Do you feel the governor and Legislature appreciate the issues of Maui County, or are they too focused on Honolulu and Oahu? How would you change that?
I feel the Legislature naturally focuses on where the population is greatest. Strong representative presence in Oahu from Maui needs to continue to fight for parity, and also continue to lobby for TAT revenues to come back to Maui County as well.
6. Do you think the county of Maui should do more to manage water resources that were long controlled by plantations? Why or why not?
Yes, managing resources for the people is most important, but/and we can’t deny the critical need on plantations for water. I know of technologies to create useable water from the air and other techniques involving costly but maybe necessary other techniques to create enough water.
This is yet another issue that clearly shows us our desire to limit the number of people, visitors and locals alike. We are an island, and numbers of people will create more and more strain on present systems and a horrific burden as things are getting worse and worse globally and the effects of climate change will most definitely affect an isolated island chain in the middle of the Pacific.
7. Climate change is real and will force us to make tough decisions. What is the first thing Maui County should do to get in front of climate change rather than just reacting to it?
First thing the county should do is to stop any more encroaching shoreline development, not allow any new building without it creating their own sources of power and water or heartily being made to contribute to creation of additional water and power supply.
We face a tidal wave of challenges. We must be warriors to majorly take on the creation of alternative ways to address utility needs.
Again, we are not the mainland. We can’t afford to avoid this. It only would echo the problem that grew in the housing sector from not addressing the need before giving a green light to building more housing, hotel rooms and everything else!
8. It’s estimated that up to a thousand people might be homeless on Maui on any given day. What do you think needs to be changed to help people get into housing, and stay housed?
There has to be housing. There can be no change without housing. If there is temporary (housing), even, with possibilities of something stable and offering work/education with that package.
Also, create separate housing choices so problems can be isolated from the group. One-size solution does not fit all.
9. Traffic is getting worse on the island of Maui, and different regions face different challenges. What would be your approach to improve Maui’s transportation problems?
Joe Souki said it a long time ago, the need to create costs that are so high that alternative methods are sought after, and now costs are there without being manipulated. We all should aggressively use and consider using mass transportation to alleviate the problem.
This of course means building residences near work. Tough once you’re already built out! Which is why I recommend all of us beginning to use mass transportation, or we’ll never catch up!
Build relief upper highway if ever to build above the Piilani Highway. Any increased infrastructure will burden an already overtaxed island.
10. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, from outdated technology to economic disparity. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, to build on what we’ve learned and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share One Big Idea you have for Maui County. Be innovative, but be specific.
DreamMakers Foundation: There are flaws in the structure on what and who will make a better life for you and me. What if we shared who and what we are and what we are doing to lead the world by example, generate funding from resulting infusion of activity in arts and music, have the world buy these things and support these things, with the resulting fund to supplement important breakthrough development that we live in, thrive in. Jobs, satisfaction of a community well-lived!
With Love. We are not enemies. We are one. Unless we lock arms together, we will all sink!
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