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TGI candidate profile: Ross Kagawa

Ross Kagawa

• Age: 56 yrs

• Occupation: Special Education Teacher

• Town of residence: Lihu‘e

• Prior experience in government/leadership: Kaua‘i County Council 2012 – 2020; volunteer coaching and refereeing youth soccer, youth baseball, and youth basketball coach; Gather Federal Credit Union supervisory committee

Q: The median price of a single-family home on Kaua‘i is over $1 million, and the County’s 2018 General Plan reported 44% of all households are cost-burdened. How will you address the affordable housing crisis in Kaua‘i County?

The No. 1 issue facing the local community of Kaua‘i is the high cost of living for middle and poor class families and the high cost of housing (rent or purchase) and thus lack of affordable housing inventory. We could create unique tax breaks or initiatives that pays sellers of homes to sell to local residents at discounts that may be subsidized as part of a new affordable housing policy. We also simultaneously need to look outside of the box collectively from our Congressional Delegation to our state Legislature and the County of Kaua‘i to work tirelessly to find solutions that can put more locals into homes and home ownership rather than mainland or foreign owners wanting to move here.

Q: The coronavirus pandemic decimated the tourism industry Kaua‘i – and the state – is so reliant upon. Should Kaua‘i County make economic diversity a priority, and if so, how?

First, it must be said that Mayor Derek Kawakami and his team, along with our Kaua‘i District Health Office team are doing a tremendous job in dealing with COVID-19, and I will continue to work with him or whomever is elected Mayor to excel in this area. Regarding diversifying our economy, we need to continue to explore all areas whether it be expanding agriculture or new business that can produce locally grown food and other needed products and services for our island and thus create jobs that can employ our residents with well paying jobs. Financial assistance or guidance to getting that assistance can be performed by this County. We can also support financial relief by providing tax relief to “true farmers or start up businesses that show promise and expertise.”

Q: The County Council sets real property tax rates as part of the County budget process. What changes, if any, would you make to the way that property is taxed on-island?

The County Council can support this by continuing to monitor spending. Checks and balances between the Council and the Mayor are integral to government working for the people of Kauaʻi. With proper monitoring of our County Budget, I believe we can re-install the 2% cap for homestead residents that did not sell their properties since that time and continue to live in their homes or have rented it at an affordable rate the entire time as outlined in our Housing guidelines for Homestead exemption. This is something that was removed some nine years ago and has penalized our local residents by setting their tax based on market sales of homes in their area. I am not in favor of raising any taxes at this time due to the inflation problems that are happening nationwide.

Q: Kaua‘i continues to look for a new landfill site, years after its search began.The clock is ticking: The Kekaha landfill is currently projected to reach capacity in January 2027. What is your preferred solution?

We need to find and site a new landfill as soon as possible. Kekaha has had enough vertical and horizontal expansions, enough is enough. I believe it was a poor choice from the beginning due to the proximity to the ocean and the distance from where the majority of our waste comes from. We also need to improve our waste diversion and recycling methods to the fullest extent, whether it be straight up recycling or waste to energy or waste to other useful product such as pellets that can be used to underlay construction projects. Collectively a decision must and can be made with Teamwork and Community input.

Q: What is driving you to seek election and why should voters give you their vote?

I am humbly asking the voters of Kauaʻi to consider allowing me to serve again. I will give you my 100% to work with our County workers and leadership to help bring solutions to improve the lives of our Kauaʻi residents, especially those who are struggling to survive the trials and tribulations of everyday life living paycheck to paycheck.
Source: The Garden Island

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