A four-term Hilo councilman is hoping to take the lessons he’s learned in the county’s legislative chambers to the state Senate.
Donald Ikeda, 70, said state legislators seem to forget to maintain their connections to the constituents once they get elected. As a council member, he said he has spent much of his time listening to constituents, a practice he would continue if elected to the state’s 1st Senate district.
He is seeking the Democratic nomination.
People Ikeda has spoken with “feel there’s a disconnect between the state Legislature and the constituents,” Ikeda said. “They feel (legislators) forget the local issues.”
Council members are “closer to the people. They want us to listen,” he added.
Jobs — and the lack thereof — is the No. 1 issue facing the state, Ikeda said.
“Everything is kind of hinging on the economy,” he said. “If we didn’t have this problem, we’d have money for infrastructure.”
He likened Hawaii’s situation now to what he saw in California when he attended university there.
At the time, he said, agriculture was “dying,” so the state took action, in the form of exempting businesses from property taxes and income taxes for a set time period.
During that time period, those companies hired high-wage employees, who did pay property and other taxes, Ikeda said.
Those kinds of actions could attract jobs to Hawaii.
“Today, in the computer age, you don’t have to be in the continental U.S.” to do work for people there, he said, adding that Hawaii’s time zone could be an advantage for workers. Ikeda was surprised when the Department of Education announced its difficulties with funding school buses.
“We should have funneled the money to the county,” Ikeda said, recounting a conversation he had with a state official. “We were doing it free anyway. A lot of students are riding the county buses.”
There is no charge for students to ride the county’s buses.
He’s concerned, in general, about the state’s schools.
He learned, because he has a grandson in school, that students cannot bring home textbooks, because the schools don’t have enough money to buy books for everyone.
“The kids are not getting enough attention,” he said.
He would also like to look at a way to equalize funding for all students.
Right now, he said, money gets directed to programs for children with special needs and for gifted students. Students in the middle seem to get left out, he said.
Ikeda was critical of Hawaii Electric Light Co.’s position limiting the number of customers who can install photovoltaic units on their homes, who sell electricity back to HELCO, to 15 percent of customers in each grid area.
“I want to change that,” he said.
He also supports the state loaning money to residents to fund photovoltaic installations on homes.
He supports expanding geothermal production.
“There’s a lot of controversy,” Ikeda said. “There should be an independent study before we go any farther.”
The study should be independent, not conducted by the state, geothermal producers or people who have gone on the record in opposition to geothermal, he said.
If the study shows no adverse health effects, private industry should be allowed to proceed with more development.
Private entities should be funding the expansion, he said.
“You shouldn’t go into it if you can’t afford the risk,” he said.
Ikeda said he would like to make the state take responsibility for flooding that originates on state land. He would also like to see more food sustainability.
He also said he was a big supporter of the West Hawaii community college campus, more so even than some West Hawaii County Council members at the time the Palamanui development, on which the campus will be located, came to the council for amendments.