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Lawmakers plan whirlwind Big Isle visit (Feb. 26-27)


Drawing on a perspective that Hawaii Island is a place that inspires “big thinking” and has demonstrated leadership in creating innovative public-private partnerships to address big issues, Sen. Malama Solomon is coordinating a fast paced, two-day informational site visit for seven State Senators and two State Representatives Saturday, Feb 26 and Sunday, Feb. 27.

Leadership of several key Senate and House Committees including Water, Land and Housing, Agriculture, Economic Development and Technology and Human Resources, along with several of the Governor’s newly appointed cabinet members, will look at projects that are connected to high quality, clean-green job creation, and also food and energy self sufficiency.

The group will first visit Kamuela Vacuum Cooling Plant to discuss short and long term opportunities to “grow” agricultural vitality and diversity. The group will then drive to the top of Mauna Kea for a briefing on the Hawaiian view of the revered mountain and the status of various astronomy projects including the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope.

They will then visit Puna Geothermal Venture’s power plant in Pohoiki, where they will be briefed on the Hawaii Island Geothermal Work Group’s recommendations by the group’s co-chairs, Wally Ishibashi and Richard Ha.

They will conclude the day by meeting with representatives of the Kanoelehua Industrial Area Association representing many small businesses in the Hilo area.

On Sunday, they will visit Green Point Nursery, Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center with Dennis Gonsalves, Hu Honua bioenergy power plant in Pepeekeo (formerly Hilo Coast Processing Plant), and then Hamakua Springs Farms, also in north of Hilo.

“I have such great faith in the people of Hawaii island and our products. Our island is a place of big ideas and our residents know how to get things done through sheer hard work and by collaborating together in public-private partnerships. We can no long look at stand-alone issues, like parking meters at Honokohau Harbor. No one wants parking fees at that harbor, but the answer is far beyond putting a moratorium on fees. It’s about developing a new paradigm for managing the state’s resources in more efficient and effective ways. It’s not about government having all the answers – it’s about working together with the private sector and thinking way out of the box,” Solomon said.

“I believe that by seeing what’s happening here, the Senators will be inspired to take a giant leap forward on creating opportunities to solve the really big problems our state faces. We must do this – the federal funds that we’ve depended on as a state are drying up. We’ve been spoiled by the funds Sen. Dan Inouye and our congressional team have brought home to Hawaii over the past several decades. But those times are pau; we must look at new industries and new ways of partnering to improve our state parks, our harbors, our agricultural products, our employment alternatives.

“It’s all about leadership and setting aside ‘silos’ we’ve allowed to exist, and learning to become a part of the global community,” Solomon said.

Legislators expected to participate in the site visit include Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, Chair of the Senate Committee on Water, Land and Housing and his committee Vice Chair Sen. Malama Solomon; Sen. Clarence Nishihara, Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and his committee Vice Chair Sen. Gilbert Kahele; Sen. Pohai Ryan, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs, Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, Chair of the Senate Committee on Human Services, and Sen. Glenn Wakai, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development and Technology.

Also participating will be Rep. Jerry Chang, Chair of the House Committee on Water and Land, and Rep. Clift Tsuji, Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture.

Cabinet members joining the tour will be Russell Kokubun, newly appointed Chair of the Department of Agriculture, and Guy Kaulukukui, newly appointed First Deputy of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

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