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Lowen seeks to preserve agricultural lands

Lowen clarifies remarks

House District 6 candidate Nicole Lowen clarified remarks attributed to her in Sunday’s special election section. Lowen said she is not a supporter of oil and her remarks about the use of fossil fuels to create power referred to the status quo of power generation.

It is the policy of West Hawaii Today to correct promptly any incorrect or misleading information when it is brought to the attention of the newspaper.

Identifying and preserving important agricultural lands on Hawaii Island is at the forefront of priorities for Nicole Lowen, a Democrat vying to represent residents in House District 6.

Hawaii County needs to move forward in identifying the island’s Important Agricultural Lands in accordance with Act 233, said Lowen.

The law, which went into effect in July 2008, requires each county to identify and map potential important lands within its jurisdiction.

The designation, which can’t be reclassified for other uses without a two-thirds vote by the state Land Use Commission, and subsequently, the Legislature, also provides eight incentives to land owners, including agricultural tax credits and loan guarantees, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

“We need to look at and focus on sustainable agriculture,” said Lowen, whose background is in teaching and urban planning. “Anyone who has lived here for a while has seen where planning hasn’t been (done properly) in the past and how it can be done better.”

Lowen will face Democrats Kalei Akaka, Fred Housel, and Bucky Leslie to represent residents from about Lako Street to Kona Village.

The district features no incumbent because of recent state reapportionment.

Helping the Department of Education improve the state’s public education system will require the Legislature to assess educational priorities carefully, she said.

“It’s about picking the priorities and working backwards from there,” she said, “then making the decisions while putting our children first.”

The department also needs to find a better way to evaluate classroom success for teachers and students.

Standardized testing just is not providing the right picture to make decisions.

“Understanding the problem is the first step to finding a good solution,” she said.

As for getting students to school, it is a two-way street requiring legislators to not only provide funding but also ensure the state gets the best deal for the dollar, Lowen said.

She also said the Legislature could look at establishing more safe routes to schools to reduce the number of riders on buses.

“The funding needs to be provided, but at the same time, the agencies need to be looking for the most efficient way to provide the service,” she explained.

Reducing Hawaii’s reliance on fossil fuels is best dealt with by looking at how much fuel is used for transportation on our island, Lowen said.

Beyond that, she said the state would have to look toward an array of sources for energy production including solar, wind and even oil.

Currently, Lowen said she is neither for nor against increasing geothermal energy production on Hawaii Island.

Concerns over health, toxic chemicals and gases, noise and other issues need to be dealt with first.

While still undecided on an increase in production, Lowen said she does not support exemptions to the environmental review process for geothermal producers. Funding should also come from private developers.

“The key thing here is to work with the community to consider and mitigate health and environmental issues,” she said. “You’ve got to do it right. Don’t try to skirt the process or ram it through.”

Increasing taxes is also not preferable to Lowen, who said any tax increase would have to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

On user fees, Lowen did not have a clear answer.

“Right now, everyone is so strained that I would not want to consider increasing taxes,” she said. “I wouldn’t prefer to support an increase, but I think it’s something that you have to consider case-by-case.”