Chelsea Yagong has been around the political scene most of her life, and she thinks it’s time to step up and fill the shoes of her father, County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong, who is vacating the District 1 County Council seat in a bid for mayor.
Yagong, 26, believes in self-sustainability, which drives her interest in finding more alternative sources for energy, to move Hawaii Electric Light Co. away from its dependence on fossil fuel.
“Right now we’re scrambling. The county has made that mistake in the past,” she said. “We shouldn’t put all our eggs in one basket, we need to expand our renewable portfolio.”
She sees solar as a good energy source, and she lauds an attempt by the County Council to get HELCO to raise its saturation threshold to allow more individuals to hook their photovoltaic panels up to the grid. She said raising the threshold will bring additional money to the island to upgrade the grid to allow more alternative energy sources.
Wind, biofuel and geothermal are also good candidates for expansion, she said.
“I support the potential of geothermal because it’s a firm source of energy,” Yagong said. “However, I do not support any kind of technology that compromises the safety and health of our community.”
Yagong advocates expanding the Hilo landfill to give it at least enough of a lifespan to pursue alternatives, such as a waste-to-energy incinerator. In the past, she said, the county thought the landfill would fill up faster, pressuring officials to make a decision for an incinerator that was too big, too expensive and not in the county’s best interest.
“Our backs were pushed up against the corner,” she said, adding that an interim expansion of the Hilo landfill would give the county time to study incineration, plasma arc and thermal gasification technologies.
“I do not support hauling trash from Hilo to Kona,” she said. “All it does is cut the life of that landfill in half. West Hawaii is growing, and it’s going to need every inch of that landfill.”
She advocates taking a good look at the effect furloughs have had on county services with an eye toward assessing whether the county is providing the level of service it should be. In general, county employees do a good job, she said.
Yagong said she would represent her district first on issues directly affecting it, while talking a countywide perspective on other issues. It’s very important to take a countywide perspective on big issues and not allow the nine-member council to break down into majority and minority factions, she said.
“This is one island and we are only going to get things done together,” she said. “Part of the problem is public officials who forget they are public servants and not elected king.”