Vote Koohan Paik-Mander

My Priorities

  • Education

I will work for education at the K-12 through college levels. There is a UH pro-gram on Oahu that pays students to earn a degree in running a farm-to-table business. Let’s bring that program here! Educating local kids is the solution for an economy in the doldrums.

  • Economy

Let’s revitalize Hilo in a way that develops a vibrant college-town economy. More bookstores, more cafes, more theaters, more art galleries, more museums, more nightclubs. Money and investment thrives in such college-town settings, and offers plenty of fun and stimulating programs for keiki, too!

  • Environment

We must pivot away from the exploitative and polluting industrial projects currently underway, toward an economy that benefits the people who live here. I will introduce legislation to give 
incentives to sustainable, local family farmers and push for more pesticide regulation. And I will use the full weight of my office to enforce environmental compliance by all.
  • Elder Needs

Growing up, my mother was a social worker for the elderly and disabled. Watching her taught me how best to serve our kupuna, from housing to healthcare and other services. Now that she has been long-retired, I care for her at home, just as she cared for her mother before her. If elected, our kupuna will be a top priority.

 -- Koohan


Blare the trumpets! The Sierra Club has endorsed me! 

But wait -- what will I do, if elected, to continue to earn that honor? 

First, I feel that the biggest problem with our government is the crisis in imagination. As I drive through Hamakua, from Kukuihaele down to Hilo and up into the Kaumana area, I am astounded by the wealth of our island. I don’t mean the per capita income in dollars, but the sheer natural wealth. No wonder these lands have been coveted by outside entities since the days of Captain Cook. No wonder they have been the sources of great fortune for the sugar barons of the past.

Today, on Oahu, Kauai and Maui, most of the large, arable tracts of land have been subsumed by the greed of subdivisions or chemical agriculture. The only remaining large tracts of ag land are to be found in Hawaii County. And our aquifers remain amazingly pure, despite decades of pesticide spraying by sugar industry. 

These resources are our real wealth -- our “waiwai.” No value can be put on these precious life-sustaining resources. Once gone, we are gone. We must strive to maintain their integrity, so that future generations can be nurtured by the clean air, fertile farmland, and biodiverse gulches and coastal waters, teeming with oopu, opae, opihi, limu and numerous fish species. This is an integral part of Hamakua culture. That means we have to stand up to outside forces who seek to take, and then run. Decision-making for our district must happen by our residents, not mainland corporations in collusion with our elected officials, which is the case with the dairy and with Hu Honua. 

I feel like one of the government’s reasons to just go with large-scale agriculture is because it requires no thought or imagination. As a result, the State is putting our lands in the perilous position of being ravaged by the unsustainable and polluting practices that come with industrial ag. Since sugar and pineapples for export fueled a robust economy for a century, there is the tendency to gravitate toward the closest version of that model, which is actually not viable in our globalized economy. Our government’s decision to move forward with industrial ag illustrates its crisis in imagination. It also reveals how little our government cares for preserving our rich natural resources, or our fine, hard-working people in our communities, who want their families to thrive in a safe and healthy environment. Our human resources have been just as neglected as our natural ones. This disrespect is arguably an even bigger problem than the government’s lack of vision and imagination. 

We can monetize our vast natural resources in a way that does not exploit or compromise them. We can do this by building a network of sustainable, diversified family farms, that support our own local economy, and that is supported by high-quality education. 

Here is my antidote to a government suffering from a crisis of the imagination. These are the focus areas I have identified for building an equitable family-farm economy:

1) Education. We need to create a hands-on University of Hawaii curriculum for local kids to get a college degree for paid, on-the-job training, to "grow" more young, local farmers. This curriculum would be based on the incubator program designed by Albie Miles at UH West Oahu. This goal, one of education, is inextricably linked with the goal of securing land for organic, sustainable farming in perpetuity.

State officials often cite the lack of specialized knowledge in Hawaii as the reason why they are forced to import large-scale operations from the mainland. But what is actually needed is an effort to cultivate expertise locally. That has never taken place.

For example, the children who toiled on the plantations a century ago were subjected to only the scantest school attendance requirements in U.S. history -- only three days a week. That was so that they could be available the rest of the week to work in the fields. They were viewed as nothing more than a source of cheap labor, to enrich the sugar barons. To this day, Hawaii's school system ranks as one of the nation's lowest. The time has come to recognize the enormous potential of Hawaii’s local children in a niche-market agriculture economy -- beyond their capacity as field hands.

If all Hawaii's young people were given the proper skills and resources, such as what is offered at the UH West Oahu incubator training program, they would be available to build Hawaii's truly sustainable ag economy. The goal of the curriculum is to build a preferable alternative economy to the large-scale, industrial model.

2) Land access. We need to create a land trust that will reserve Hamakua and North Kohala farmlands, in perpetuity, for ecologically sound agriculture that will also keep land affordable for local farmers. This goal for securing land is inextricably linked with the goal of implementing solid agriculture education.

Working with Hawaiian Islands Land Trust and Kamehameha Schools (the largest landowner in Hawaii Island), the land-trust idea would be based on the success of California’s Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), just north of San Francisco.
The pastures of West Marin County produce the country’s finest organic, grass-fed beef and dairy for the nearby high-end market in San Francisco. The pastures of Hamakua and North Kohala are similar to those of West Marin, except that they are green year-round. More green grass means more and higher quality output of dairy and beef than even the quality goods produced in West Marin. And, just as the high-end tastes of San Francisco provide a niche market for West Marin’s products, the newly gentrified Honolulu can provide a market for an organic, sustainable agricultural economy on Hawaii Island.

The economic benefits will be huge for Hawaii Island, which suffers from the highest poverty rates and most sluggish economy of all the counties. 

3) Decision-making positions. We need to put local farmers, who practice genuinely sustainable agriculture, on the commissions and agencies that make decisions on agriculture in Hawaii. 

In short, we need more community voices at the table, less corporate lobbyists writing legislation."

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