I wanted to take this time to share my thoughts and vision for what Hawaii’s next Congressman should do to protect our precious ‘aina.
I’m very proud of my work as Mayor of Honolulu in launching the city’s first sustainability plan – the 21st Century Ahupua’a. The program focused on energy conservation, use of alternative fuels, improved public transportation, recycling, solar energy and protection of Hawai‘i’s agricultural lands and environmental treasures. The 21st Century Ahupua‘a plan was honored as the best sustainability program in the country by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and its projects, policies and implementation earned Honolulu ever-higher rankings among America’s most sustainable cities.
My team at City Hall established island-wide curbside recycling, added hybrid buses to Honolulu’s fleet, and set in motion a plan to achieve an 85% diversion rate from our landfill. We also named the manu-o-ku, or white fairy tern, as Honolulu’s official bird, committing to protect this special species and its habitats on Oahu and in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
We broke ground for a third boiler at H-POWER, which was a major step toward reducing our reliance on landfills and boosting alternative energy production. With the expansion, H-Power will handle an additional 300,000 tons of ‘opala per year, and produce 8% of Oahu’s electricity needs, which is enough to power 75,000 homes. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers recently named the newly-expanded H-POWER plant as its waste-to-energy facility of the year, adding yet another honor to the plant’s long list of performance, safety, and environmental awards.
We also began work on a fixed-rail mass transit system for Oahu, which will redirect development back to the urban corridor, curb the suburban sprawl that threatens our agricultural lands, and reduce our carbon footprint.
I was also one of the first mayors to sign the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement. Under the agreement, over one thousand cities from across the country agreed to strive to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in their own communities.
In Congress, I pledge to further develop the vision for a 21st Century Ahupua’a and make Hawaii the model for sustainability and environmentally responsible living. Here are several areas I will focus on:
Boosting Renewable Energy:
One of Hawaii’s key vulnerabilities that must be addressed is energy production. Hawai‘i remains over 85% dependent on expensive imported oil for its energy supply, and both our electrical grid and transportation systems must move rapidly toward locally supplied alternatives. During my time as mayor, Honolulu earned national recognition for its efforts in energy conservation and use of alternative bio-fuels.
In Congress, I will support efforts to leverage Hawaii’s abundant renewable energy resources, including solar, wind, geothermal, ocean, and bio-fuels through tax incentives, federal investments, public-private partnerships, and other initiatives. Similarly, I believe the federal government should be a steadfast partner in promoting green energy research in the islands and fostering the development of alternative energy technologies and sustainable environmental practices.
Protecting What Makes Hawaii Unique and Enhancing our Quality of Life:
I believe it’s important to protect the open spaces and natural treasures that make Hawaii so very unique. My administration preserved key legacy areas on Oahu such as Waimea Valley, Pupukea and Sunset Ranch, Kawainui Marsh, and Hanauma Bay. In Congress, I will work to further care for our federally-protected lands and waters. I will also help our state to do a better job of protecting our treasured native species and being more vigilant against destructive invasive species.
To achieve a sensible balance between preservation and development, I will work to facilitate partnerships between the federal, state, and county governments to promote transit-oriented development projects and pedestrian- and bike-friendly lifestyles to reduce our carbon footprint and develop more sustainable communities where our families can live, work, play, and thrive. Similarly, I will support forward-thinking investments in our highways, transit systems, airports and harbors to increase efficiency in transportation.
Revitalizing Hawaii Agriculture:
Throughout my career in both the private and public sector, I have been a strong proponent of Hawaii agriculture. I began my private sector career as an executive with C. Brewer & Co., at the time one of Hawaii’s largest agribusinesses, and later, as Director of the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism during the Waihee Administration, I worked hard to promote Hawaii-grown products in overseas markets. As Mayor, I involved the City in supporting the agricultural industry by reducing property tax rates on farm land, curbing the theft of crops, collaborating with the Hawaii Farm Bureau on soil conservation, opening a farmers market in Downtown Honolulu, and saving homes for agricultural workers at Kunia Plantation Village. On the congressional level, I pledge to continue to stand tall for our local farmers and food producers.
Last month, I was the only 2nd Congressional District candidate to attend a forum dedicated to agricultural issues. At the forum, I shared several ideas on how we can do more to reinvigorate our local agriculture industry and increase Hawaii’s food security, such as removing barriers to local farmers and ranchers to put Hawaii’s agricultural lands to productive use, extending credit assistance and loan guarantee programs, expanding market access overseas for Hawaii-grown products, and public-private partnerships to support agriculture and promote Hawaii goods.
There are, of course, a number of other environmental issues that require federal attention. To continue our dialogue on the environment, or any of the other issues facing our state and nation, I encourage you to attend one of my many “talk story” sessions, coffee hours, or community events, or visit my website for more information. I look forward to meeting even more of you out on the campaign trail!