Onishi seeks to diversify isle’s economy


Generating more local economic development is at the forefront of Hilo resident Richard H.K. Onishi’s mind as he vies for the House District 3 seat.

“We need to look at ways the state can generate more economic development and revenue because we cannot be just dependent on tourism and the military as the main sources of income,” Onishi said. “What are others doing? Agriculture? Promoting products? Development? Manufacturing? — We need to find ideas that would work for us.”

If elected to represent constituents spanning parts of Hilo, Puna and Ka‘u, Onishi said his main goal would be getting the state to gather information on how to generate more economic development on the island. By identifying new areas for growth, Onishi said the state could benefit.

“The impact would be tremendous because the state would be able to have more money,” he said. “It would help address many issues such as the cost of living, care of elders, medical care and environmental protection.”

Onishi will face Brittany Smart in the Aug. 11 primary election for the House District 3 Democrat ticket.

More local economic development will also help the state Legislature continue to provide funding to the Department of Education for its public school buses, he said. But, if that is not the case, he said he would fight for school bus funding.

“In today’s economic climate, in many families, both the father and mother work and can’t provide transportation to go to school,” he explained. “I believe in a school bus system, but the cost and how it’s run also need to be looked at.”

As for how the state Legislature can assist in improving Hawaii’s public education system, Onishi said he’d first have to go out into the various communities in his district, which include both urban and rural areas, to determine where the needs are. He also said a school in rural Ka‘u needs to offer the same educational experience as a school in an urban area like Hilo and alternative education systems, such as private, home and charter schools, also need to be part of the equation.

“Everyone supports a strong educational system that really develops the future for our children,” he said. “But there are just so many ways that people want to address that issue.”

Reducing Hawaii’s reliance on fossil fuels is simple: Pursue the variety of alternative energy resources available on Hawaii Island, Onishi said. He did not point to a specific resource, but said he fully supports “alternative energy programs and development of alternative energy resources.”

On geothermal, Onishi said the technology needs to be explored further before any increase to production is made. In addition, if a production increase is sought, developers need to pay all related costs.

“I’m more in favor of private enterprise because it provides for economic development,” Onishi explained. “But the private enterprise should try to partner with the government because obviously there are some responsibilities in terms of construction, safety and environmental issues the state needs to be part of.”

Onishi said he could not answer whether, if in the Legislature, he would vote to increase taxes but he would try to reduce them. He said he would support increasing user fees, as long as the money collected goes directly toward supporting the service rendered.