Jo Kim, a Paauilo attorney running for the open County Council District 1 seat, sees too much dependence on tourism as one of the reasons the county is in an economic bind.
“We need more self-sufficiency and less dependence on tourism,” Kim said. “If the bad economy continues, people will have less money for travel, and we need to be prepared for that eventuality.”
Kim advocates a strong agricultural base as a path toward self-sufficiency, as well as a serious commitment to renewable energy. She sees Hawaii Electric Light Co.’s role as providing the transmission lines, while alternative energy can be produced by a number of small and large public and private concerns. The Big Island could harness solar, wave energy, geothermal and ocean thermal sources, she said.
She’d put pressure on HELCO to increase alternative energy feeds into the grid, but she wouldn’t pressure the company to lower electric rates.
“I don’t necessarily think high electricity rates are bad. I think that can be a continuing incentive to seriously explore alternative energy,” she said. “High energy rates give everyone an incentive to think of alternative energy solutions.”
Kim doesn’t think the Hilo landfill should be expanded because of its environmental impact.
Even though two-thirds of the county’s revenues come from three West Hawaii council districts, the revenue should be shared across the entire island.
“This is an entire county,” she said. “We have to look at what these issues are and how to equitably administer them.”
Kim believes it’s up to each council member to be thoroughly informed on the issues in his or her district and then effectively communicate those issues to the council. That way, council members are representing their districts while looking out for the county as a whole, she said.
“I really think we have to look at our common goals,” she said. “We may disagree about how to get to that common goal, but those are mechanics. There are differences in how people work toward those goals.”
Staying focused on goals will keep the personal differences out of the equation and avoid council members breaking up into factions as has happened in the past.
“When you make a decision it has to be an informed decision,” she said. “How does this decision affect the district, the county, the state. It’s not made in a vacuum.”
Kim hasn’t made up her mind on whether the employee furloughs are the best approach to cutting the budget. she recognizes the need for workers in county programs and facilities but questions whether the county administration is too top-heavy, and says she’d look to see if jobs could be trimmed there.