County Council District 9: Richards, Parish agree on needs, differ on solutions

  • Maya Parish

Incumbent Kohala Councilman Tim Richards is finishing his first term while facing a challenge for his second from Hawi resident Maya Parish.

Both Richards and Parish are focused on county budget needs and raising more revenue, but their approaches are very different.

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District 9 includes Mauna Lani Resort, Waikoloa Village, Puako, Waikii, parts of Waimea, Puukapu Farms, Puukapu Homesteads, Puukapu Village House Lots, Lualai, Puuopelu, Lalamilo, Waiaka, Kawaihae, Kohala Ranch, Mahukona, Hawi, Kapaau and Halaula.

The winner in the Aug. 11 primary takes the nonpartisan seat.

Richards, 59, of Waimea, is staff veterinarian at Veterinary Associates Inc. and a rancher. He has an advanced degree in veterinary medicine from Washington State University in Pullman, Washington.

Richards reflected on his accomplishments during his first two years, naming one of his top successes inserting language in a polystyrene foam food container ban that requires the county also comply with the ban. The original language had exempted the county, while requiring businesses to quit using the containers.

“I believe my greatest accomplishment is giving District 9 a credible and trusted voice in our county government that is collaborative, cooperative, but stands very firm on principle and accountability,” Richards said. “I have been able to do this by building bridges of communication with the directors of the county departments and other elected officials at our local, state and federal levels. I have met with, sat and listened to all constituents on any problem they might bring to me.”

He’s had his share of frustrations as well, frequently surrounding the county budget process. The budget process, Richards believes, should be more carefully thought out with all options on the table at the same time, compared to what he calls “silo legislation.”

But fellow council members balked at forming an ad hoc committee that would have taken budget negotiations behind closed doors, with the final proposed budget brought out in public for County Council vote only after the nitty-gritty details had been worked out.

Richards said the county’s economic crisis caused by the volcano emergency has changed some of his priorities, but he still wants to focus on workforce housing and affordable housing. One initiative he’s working on would bring more than 1,000 workforce housing units to market, he said.

“In order to address the needs of our community and society we must have the financial resources. Those resources come from a dynamic economy,” Richards said. Fixing our housing crisis is difficult under the best circumstances. A struggling economy makes the solutions more difficult. … I am putting this as one of my highest priorities, but we as a county also have to look to economic growth with other economic drivers.”

Parish, 40, of Hawi, is an educator and yoga instructor. She has a bachelor’s degree, Phi Beta Kappa, in psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

A thriving county budget is also Parish’s priority, although she’d take a different tack.

Parish got into politics through community organizing, and then became active in the local and state Democratic Party. She said she believes elected officials are out of alignment with the values of the party, and she feels she can better address the issues at the state, rather than the national level.

“I think we are very out of balance these days,” Parish said.

“It feels like a calling to public service,” she said of her involvement.

The first issue Parish said she’d address as a County Council member is the current system of taxation, which she’d tackle through “proactive budget planning.”

Rather than a regressive tax such as the general excise tax, Parish prefers a progressive taxation system through property taxes. Part of that, she said, is establishing a luxury tax on higher-end properties owned by out-of-state investors who don’t live here.

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Another part is revamping the agriculture exemption so that it’s used only by legitimate farmers, not gentleman farmers on small plots, she said.

“Closing some of these loopholes would bring more money into the county budget that would serve the people,” she said.