Luke Evslin for Kaua'i County Council

Issues & Opportunities

On Kauaʻi, we face a number of deep and interwoven problems: home prices are too high, good jobs are too hard to find, carbon emissions are changing our climate and threatening our coast, and traffic is overwhelming both our infrastructure and our patience. Some of these problems have festered so long it may feel as if we’re powerless to change them.

I have no illusions about the difficulty of addressing these challenges, and I don’t claim there are easy solutions. But I do believe that local government can do more. Too often, we see these problems framed in either/or, zero-sum equations: sending the message that we can’t address one problem without making another one worse. The end result is that nothing changes, the status quo triumphs, and ordinary people are left with the feeling that comprehensive solutions simply do not exist.

I’m running for office because I believe there are solutions. Our land and how we use it is at the heart of all these issues. And while the county council may be limited in some aspects of island governance, we do have the power to direct the density, location, and form of development. Through these tools, we can reduce home prices, reduce inequality, reduce carbon emissions, and reduce the time we spend in traffic.  


Housing

Cities, towns, and neighborhoods are not a force of nature; they are a reflection of the decisions made by our leaders. If we want to ensure that local families and our children can continue to live on Kauaʻi, then we need to confront the housing crisis head-on. Housing costs are high because the supply isn’t meeting demand. To bring the cost of housing down, we need to build more homes. But, this doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice Kauaʻi’s character and quality of life. Instead of developing our prime agricultural land, we need to strengthen our neglected town cores and revitalize existing communities.

We can increase the supply of homes while minimizing traffic and preserving the character of our island. This balance can be achieved by ensuring that everyone in a residential area targeted for growth can build ʻohana apartments, tiny houses, and other additional dwelling units for family members or long-term renters. We also need to incentivize the construction of more buildings that contain a mix of commercial and residential space within our town cores. Lastly, we need to ensure that all new housing developments are located near job centers. But, these policies can't be enacted in a vacuum. We also need to continue building government subsidized housing projects and continue with the county's current crackdown on illegal vacation rentals. 

Policies

  • Allow multi-family homes and additional dwelling units in existing neighborhoods and allow tiny homes to be built on lots with limited land.

  • Incentivize the construction of residential apartments above commercial space in our town centers and streamline the permit approval process for infill development. 

  • Encourage developers to revitalize town centers by reducing development fees in areas where infrastructure already exists.

  • Eliminate minimum parking requirements for new construction or redevelopment in our town cores. 

  • Ensure that no new development occurs in coastal areas at risk of flooding with 3' of sea level rise. 

  • Update building codes to the industry standard (IECC 2015).

Goals

  • Ensure that Kauaʻi families can afford a home on Kauaʻi.

  • Increase housing options for low and middle income families - including ʻohana houses, ADUs, duplexes, and apartments.

  • Build livable, walkable, and affordable communities by allowing more people to live in our town cores while slowing the pace of development on agricultural land.

  • Follow the goals, policies, recommendations outlined in our 2035 Kauaʻi General Plan. 



Economy

Income inequality is exploding across America, and Hawaiʻi is ground zero. Every year, the cost of living goes up and the income gap continues to widen. This growing income inequality comes at a time when all levels of government are being strained by a legacy of under-investment in infrastructure and a surge of aging baby-boom retirees who rely on earned government pensions and entitlements (such as Social Security and Medicare). The rapidly increasing expenditures for retirees and infrastructure is the defining fiscal challenge of our time for every level of government. And there is no easy path forward. 

To thrive in the 21st century, we must recognize the danger of inequality and make it possible for every child born on Kauaʻi to get a great education and find a good job that allows them to buy a home and support their family. Ensuring that every family has access to education and housing is not only a moral necessity, but it also results in a long term increase in the tax base-- which helps ensure the fiscal stability of our county and state governments. 

Kauaʻi is more dependent on tourism than any other island in Hawaiʻi. It is imperative that we expand our economy without expanding the number of visitors. The county council needs to make it easier for farmers and manufacturers to start and grow their businesses. And we must ease onerous restrictions that make it difficult for families to run businesses from their homes.


Policies

  • Use county procurement and contracting to support locally owned businesses.

  • Continually invest in infrastructure maintenance and improvements.

  • Increase the Kauaʻi Bus service to provide working families with adequate transportation options.

  • Protect high quality agricultural land from development. 

  • Continue to be a global leader in renewable energy jobs, investments, and education.

  • Encourage more small businesses by reducing the permitting requirements for commercial improvements. 

  • Increase the amount of industrial land use designations to encourage more local manufacturing.

Goals

  • Diversify and grow the economy.

  • Reduce inequality. 

  • Ensure progressive taxation so that low income families don't bear the greatest burden.

  • Ensure that all children have access to high quality education and child-care.

  • Prevent economically segregated communities by ensuring that every new development contains a mixture of housing types for all levels of income.



Climate Change

As an island in the Pacific, Kauaʻi has long contended with the costs and risks of relying on oil to power our community. In recent years, Kauaʻi has become a global leader in reducing our dependence on expensive imported oil. KIUC has proven that it is possible to affordably power our community with a mix of renewable energy sources. However, we can and must do more.

Climate change and rising sea levels are an existential threat to our island. We need to get to zero carbon emissions by the second half of this century and we need to begin rapidly reducing emissions now. The good news is that we can achieve many of our climate goals by taking measures that improve the quality of life for Kauaʻi residents. 

Research shows the four areas local governments can influence the most are moving the grid towards 100% renewables, increasing the livable density of our towns to reduce our reliance on cars, making buildings more efficient, and producing less solid waste.

For hundreds of years, Kauaʻi was home to one of the most stable and self-sustaining civilizations that has ever existed. Smart planning and modern technology can allow us to resume that tradition.


Policies

  • Implement energy efficient industry building standards (IECC 2015).

  • Update the Kauaʻi Bus fleet to fully electric vehicles.

  • Move 100% of rental car fleet towards electrification.

  • Encourage new homes and businesses in town cores to create more walkable communities.

  • Develop and implement a Climate Action Plan and support carbon offset programs.

Goals

  • 100% renewable electricity by 2045 (in alignment with current State policy).

  • 100% vehicle electrification by 2045 (in alignment with current Kauaʻi County policy).

  • 80% reduction in islandwide emissions by 2050 (in alignment with the Kauaʻi General Plan).

  • Recycle or compost 70% of our waste by 2023 (in alignment with current Kauaʻi County policy) by ensuring adequate funding for a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) at the new landfill. 



Traffic

Traffic is more than a daily source of frustration for Kauaʻi residents, it comes with huge costs: including time away from family, missed job opportunities due to long commutes, lost business revenue because people avoid driving to town, and the high cost of carbon emissions. But simply building new roads is not the solution. The State of Hawaiʻi has only a small fraction of the funds necessary for road projects just to keep up with current demand. And countless studies have shown that new roads only end up encouraging more drivers who leave things just as congested as before.

While we may not be able to solve our island's traffic problem, we can ensure that nobody should have to spend an hour driving to work because they can't afford to live in Lihuʻe. The best way to reduce the amount of time we spend driving is to increase housing options so that people can choose to live in a place where they don't have to spend their lives in traffic. But, housing isn't the entire answer. Reducing traffic depends on pedestrian transportation options; yet we can't walk, ride our bikes, or even take the bus without connectivity in our land-use patterns; and that connectivity depends on higher-density and mixed-use developments. The county council has a powerful role to play in creating livable, walkable communities that allow more people to go about their day without having to sit in traffic. 
 


Policies

  • Ensure that new housing developments are located in existing job centers. Require that new resorts meet workforce housing mandates on site.

  • Increase the Kauaʻi Bus to every half hour during weekdays. 

  • Support through the State either a cap on rental cars or increased fees while incentivizing alternate forms of transportation for tourists.

  • Encourage developments that incorporate commercial and residential buildings, higher densities, pedestrian connectivity, and strong transit systems.

  • Ensure county affordable housing projects are located within job centers. 

Goals

  • Rebuild and maintain roadway infrastructure to the highest standard, with a goal of zero annual traffic fatalities.

  • Reduce the amount of time people spend in traffic.

  • Provide convenient, safe multi-modal transport options including walking, cycling, and public transit.

  • Prepare for a future of shared ownership of driverless cars. 

 



More To Come

This is by no means a comprehensive list of issues or opportunities that Kauaʻi faces. From the epidemic of crystal meth to the continued disenfranchisement of native Hawaiians to the explosion in homelessness-- we face deep and systemic challenges that we need to solve as a community. I believe that the issues outlined in detail above are some of the root causes of our various island crises and they are issues which the Kauaʻi County Council has control over. But, the list above is incomplete-- and that's why I want to hear from you. I'd be honored if you could take the time to share with me the problems that you are facing and any ideas that you have for solving them. Thank you,