Name: Bernard Carvalho Jr.
Current occupation: Mayor of the County of Kauai
Political experience: Mayor of the County of Kauai
The duties of the lieutenant governor include legal name changes, certifying and processing documents, managing official documentation for the public, and becoming acting governor when the governor is away from the state. What would you do outside of these duties to bring value to the office?
I believe the lt. governor’s office can and should be the people’s office. My strength as a leader is bringing people together and this office has the potential to be that bridge between the people and their government. I’m the only candidate with the executive-level administrative experience needed to take on this task.
As mayor of Kauai and Niihau for the past 10 years, I’ve enjoyed building teams and empowering them to work on practical solutions. Together as a county, we’ve set footprints to address issues that affect not just our county, but the entire state. I’m ready to bring those footprints to the next level to address homelessness, affordable housing, education and other pressing issues.
Hawaii’s public school system consistently ranks in the lower half of the country. What would you do to change this?
As a state, we need to focus on improving the access and quality of early education and post-secondary education. I am a parent of three adult children, one of which is a second-grade teacher, and I know the challenges within our education system at every level. Together, I know we can improve education in Hawaii by enriching students’ experiences through real-life learning and by supporting classroom teachers. Through emotional, social and intellectual support for all students, we can help develop good character and citizenship in our future leaders.
Let’s make pre-school free statewide. The earlier a child is exposed to the concepts of letters and numbers and shapes and has the opportunity to interact with other children, the more solid grounding they have for learning. We give our children a step up when we expose them to a group learning environment early.
Let’s provide for non-traditional learning opportunities for our high school students and high school graduates such as certificate programs and apprenticeship programs. For example, the innovation economy is fueled in part by coders. Coding represents a diversity of well-paid job opportunities and we have a number of respected coding boot camp certificate programs headquartered right here in Hawaii.
Most importantly for education, we need to concentrate on ensuring that Hawaii has top-notch teachers earning solid, competitive salaries. Currently, Hawaii’s starting teacher salaries are the lowest in the nation. This is simply unacceptable and we must work together to correct this inequity.
The cost of rail continues to rise. Do you support future state tax increases to fund rail construction or operations? Why or why not?
Although I support the completion of the rail and hope it can eventually get all the way to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, I do not support future state tax increases to do so. This project has really gone off the rails in terms of transparency and accountability. We can’t continue to bleed the people of Hawaii dry on a project that has been so severely mismanaged.
It all begins with a solid plan. We need to invite the right people to the table, which I know how to do and have done as mayor. On Kauai, we’re improving transportation through our Lihue Town Core Mobility and Revitalization Program that will improve and redesign roads for all users (cars, bikes, buses, pedestrians). The project is 90 percent federally funded because we took time to bring the right people to the table (county, state and nonprofit), create a solid plan, and meet face-to-face with U.S. Department of Transportation officials in D.C.
Every county in the state has a vested interest in seeing the rail completed without further delays and without more budget overruns, but that does not mean giving the government a blank check that burdens our hardworking families already struggling to survive. We must demand transparency and accountability from the City and County of Honolulu and Honolulu Rapid Transit Authority (HART).
As more housing developments are announced and built, it appears very few actually cater toward Hawaii’s working class. Do you think this should change, and if so, how?
It is the state and counties’ responsibility to find affordable housing solutions by securing funding for projects. As mayor, I’ve worked with the Kauai County Housing Agency, developers and community members to make affordable housing initiatives a reality. These developments are the footprints we can use on the state-level to immediately address the housing crisis.
Lima Ola in Eleele is one example of a housing footprint we’re setting on Kauai that we can expand across the state. We secured 75 acres for $2 million to build the first green, affordable housing project with 550 affordable housing units (single and multi-family) for sale or rent and received a $13 million loan from the state. Phase 1 is 149 units and breaks ground this summer.
Another type of affordable housing we’ve accomplished is Kanikoo in Lihue, where kupuna can age in place with their caregivers. Finished in March 2017, there are a total of 90 units funded by federal and state housing programs. Our kupuna have the opportunity to be cared for and live with their loved ones as they age with dignity.
Is there a pressing issue in Hawaii that has gone overlooked and requires action?
I want to improve Hawaii’s Disaster Emergency Preparedness system. As mayor of Kauai, I have hands-on leadership experience managing community response to natural disaster at all levels in our community.
I want Hawaii to be a shining example in the nation of implementing a “Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management.” This program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) focuses on members of the community as vital resources. FEMA says this approach is essential because it “…presents a foundation for increasing individual preparedness and engaging with members of the community as collaborative resources to enhance the resiliency and security of our Nation through a Whole Community approach.”
For Hawaii to excel in this leading edge endeavor, we must have a strategic framework in place that guides how everyone contributes. My greatest strength as a leader has always been to be a bridge to action. A bridge connecting people with each other. A bridge to success.