Monday, Oct. 03, 2022|
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Hamakua Councilwoman Heather Kimball will face only one challenger in the primary election on Saturday.
Council District 1 includes Hamakua, North Hilo and portions of South Hilo and Waimea. Kimball, who was elected to her first term in 2020, said the size of the district requires a lot of attention from its representatives.
“One of my top three priorities is our infrastructure,” Kimball said. “Our infrastructure needs work. We have the most bridges, we have the most wastewater facilities. And we need to maintain relationships with people in the state government to get funds for these things.”
Kimball, who has a master’s degree in environmental science and owns a consulting firm focused on land management, carbon mitigation and climate change adaption policy, said she believes her strengths as a County Council member come from her ability to craft careful legislation using feedback from community members.
As an example of one of her successes, she mentioned passage of a bill she sponsored last year that established a 3% county hotel tax, saying she prides herself on her ability to write legislation structured around complex topics like tax policy.
If reelected, Kimball said she would focus on three priorities. Related to the aforementioned infrastructure concerns, she said she wants to focus on emergency preparedness — the deteriorating state of Hamakua’s bridges, for example, has cast into sharp relief the limited options Hamakua residents have for leaving in an emergency.
Kimball also lamented the state of Waipio Valley, which currently is closed to all nonlocal traffic because of an emergency order from the mayor’s office citing dangerous conditions on the valley’s sole access road. That order is being challenged in court.
“I had really hoped we were further along with a solution for Waipio Valley,” Kimball said. “We were on the edge of getting something finished. We were working on a long-term access management plan that we were almost done with when the road got shut down, and that changed everything.”
Finally, Kimball also highlighted an omnipresent concern: “People are having a hard time with the cost of living,” she said, adding that there needs to be controls, such as a property tax cap for homeowners, that allow local families to be able to afford housing even as housing costs skyrocket.
Kimball’s opponent, lifelong Hamakua resident Troy Martinez — who could only be reached by email — noted the same concern.
“I think one of the biggest issues facing Big Island today is our people being priced out of their homes and being forced to move away,” Martinez said via email. “We too often see people purchasing homes with no intention on living long term then selling it for a profit, and we get stuck with a bigger tax bill. Now with the increased prices of food, gas and utilities, it has become tremendously difficult for our ohana to survive here.”
Martinez said he wants to develop food security policies that support local agriculture while building out public transportation options in the island’s rural areas so that farmers can better support themselves.
“Along that same subject is always the issue of access to our shorelines, our mountain and our waterways for our people,” Martinez wrote. “I would work with our communities to understand their concerns and work diligently with the resources I have to propose legislation that will limit development to only that which is important to our communities as a whole and which creates community capacity.”
Martinez also suggested that the County Council currently is not properly addressing community issues, and proposed moving council meetings to the evenings so that more people can attend.
With only two candidates on the ballot, the race will be decided during the primary election on Saturday, with the council seat going to whichever candidate receives more than 50% of the vote. All council members serve two-year terms.
Email Michael Brestovansky at email@example.com.
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