Cermelj favors education, questions geothermal


Using state school facilities after hours to provide educational opportunities to residents young and old is one thing Pahoa resident Hope Cermelj hopes to accomplish if elected to represent state House District 4.

Cermelj said she would like to work with other legislators and the Department of Education to introduce legislation to allow the use of Pahoa High School for continuing education purposes.

She sees the idea as a way of not only addressing critical shortages, such as the need for nurses in East Hawaii, but also as a means for creating jobs because people will be needed to teach the classes.

“It would be something for people in our district to consider because there are no jobs here,” Cermelj said. “It would be for all ages. Anyone who wanted to better their life or learn some other kind of trade can go to the school.”

As a resident of Puna, Cermelj said the most important issue facing her district, and the island, is geothermal energy production.

She said she is concerned that not enough is known about the technology’s impact on health, noting instances of death, cancer and infertility she said people in the area believe are tied to geothermal energy production.

She does not support increasing geothermal energy production on the island unless studies on health and other potential risks are completed and buffer zones are established.

Any funding for geothermal production should come from private developers, not taxpayers.

“Until we know exactly what health risks we have, what we have is sufficient, it’s running, and it’s up,” she said.

A better way to get the state weaned off fossil fuels is to harness the sun’s energy, she added. Sunshine, she said, can be used for most of the day, and stored for use at night.

Improving public education for the island’s keiki is also important to Cermelj, who said she would like to see teachers graded on their performance — just like students. She noted specifically that teachers should be graded on merit and skills rather than tenure.

“If the kids aren’t getting it then there’s something wrong with the teachers and the way they’re teaching,” she said. “It’s state taxes paying for these teachers, and, if we’re in a bad situation, education-wise, then drastic measures are needed.

“If teachers aren’t doing their jobs, then maybe somebody should be gone.”

While improving education is important, it cannot be effective if students cannot get to the school in the first place, Cermelj said. That is why she fully supports finding funding to provide school bus service for students.

“Education is everything, especially for the young children to be able to continue on through life,” she said. “(Students) have to get to the place of education no matter the cost — I truly support finding whatever means necessary to fund buses — even if it means cutting something else with the DOE.”

Cermelj said she would also like to review the state’s medical cannabis legislation.

The way the law is currently written, a medical marijuana patient, unless he or she grows cannabis, has to purchase marijuana illegally.

She would like to see medical marijuana made available to patients, so long as it is controlled. She also noted it could be a taxable commodity “that would create more funding for the state.”

“It’s the only right thing to do for the people on the Big Island,” she explained about the need to review the legislation.