Herkes: Economy No. 1 issue this election season


Robert Herkes is asking voters to move him from the state House to the state Senate.

Herkes, 81, has spent the better part of the last two decades in the House.

He’s seeking the Democratic nomination to run for the state’s 2nd Senate District, which includes eastern Ka‘u and Lower Puna.

The economy is the No. 1 issue facing the island and the state this election, Herkes said.

One measure that might help move the economy along, he said, is a complete re-do of the state’s building code. Herkes’ bill to do that passed the state House, but stalled in the Senate. If elected to the Senate, perhaps he can “unstick” that bill and others that have failed to progress, he said.

“We go too far in what we demand of homes,” he said. “We need to take a good, hard look at the cost of a home.”

He’s tried to get a figure for that to no avail, he said.

Jobs and housing are also issues. Herkes said he’d like to see a return to communities like those that flourished in the island’s plantation days.

“When we had the plantation towns, you lived, worked and played in these towns,” he said. “They were stable towns.”

Compare that to now, when so many people live in Pahala, but work in South Kohala, and have to spend most of their days driving back and forth, or riding the county bus.

Teachers wonder why parents aren’t involved in schools, Herkes said, but many of those parents aren’t able to be, because they have such a long commute.

He proposes the state take vacant land in North Kona or South Kohala and build a full community, with medical care access, schools, “everything. That would solve a whole lot of problems,” he said.

The cuts to school bus routes is a problem, he said, particularly for Hawaii Island, which doesn’t have the municipal bus system Oahu does.

The Department of Education can do a better job of evaluating teachers, he said.

A long-time supporter of geothermal energy, Herkes said a Public Utilities Commissioner asked him to serve on an energy advisory committee. He said other environmental factors play a role in health issues people attribute to geothermal energy production.

“Lower Puna is full of forest, rain and mildew, and it’s a contributing factor to everyone’s health,” Herkes said.

He’s said for years the state should “price oil out of business.” But he is open to whichever alternative energy source can do that, he added.

“I don’t think the Legislature has the expertise to decide who they should favor,” he said. “Those with the best deal are going to win.”

Herkes said he isn’t inclined to raise taxes or state user fees.

Some of his accomplishments over the years included getting rid of party telephone lines; the mobile medical van program; and getting funding for the Hawaiian Ocean View Estates well.

“In my district, I’m particularly pleased with the preservation of a lot of Hawaiian land,” he said.