Oliver “Sonny” Shimaoka sees himself as an “island guy” offering a positive alternative to what he calls gridlock in county government.
Shimaoka, pastor at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Waimea, is a candidate for the open District 9 County Council seat representing North and South Kohala. He said he’d look out for his district first, but he believes in “paying it forward,” by helping out other council members with their districts, too.
“I have no agenda, no political jockeying for position. I don’t want to be mayor, I don’t want to be chairman,” he said. “I just want to serve our island.”
He sees great opportunity in the new council that will be seated. He said because it will have at least five new members it has a chance to rise above past bickering. There’s no need for majority and minority factions, he said.
“I’d like to see a majority of nine, where there’s not East and West Hawaii and not factions,” he said. “When we want to pool our resources, we will all represent all nine districts together.”
West Hawaii pays the largest portion of the county’s property taxes, accounting for more than two-thirds of the revenue, but Shimaoka has been around long enough to remember when that wasn’t the case. He said in the past, the Hilo area accounted for the bulk of the taxes, and the revenue was shared around the island. That should remain the case, he said.
“Why can’t we have some aloha and share,” he asked.
Shimaoka is a proponent of geothermal energy as a stable energy source for the island and he envisions geothermal not only supplying all of the Big Island’s needs, but also becoming a source of revenue or at least reduced electric rates.
“I believe the Big Island can be the energy resource for the state,” he said. “I think our bonanza ticket is geothermal.”
Before piping it to the rest of the state, Shimaoka advocates making it work for the entire Big Island while working out the bugs. He said geothermal could not only reduce electric rates, but could result in rebates, such as Alaska residents receive from their oil reserves.
Shimaoka said the county should also see how a publicly owned utility is working for Kauai, with the possibility of working with Hawaii Electric Light Co. to see if it’s a feasible alternative for the Big Island.
The county’s solid waste has also been a long-standing problem, going back more than 30 years, he said. He sees a downsized waste-to-energy plant as a possible alternative, since the county is too small to sustain the typical facilities that have been proposed in the past, he said.
In the meantime, he advocates trucking East Hawaii garbage to the West Hawaii landfill in Puuanahulu. Expanding the Hilo landfill is not feasible, he said.
“Building a new landfill would cost us an arm and a leg,” he said, “and obviously we can’t be digging pukas all over the island to dump rubbish in.”