The Garden Island

Updated: Jul 22

TGI candidate profile: Felicia Cowden


Felicia Cowden

• Age: 59

• Occupation: Kaua‘i County Councilmember

• Town of residence: Kilauea

• Prior experience in government/leadership: Two terms Kaua‘i County Council, numerous boards over decades in education, business, agriculture, youth-at-risk and current talk show programmer on KKCR, East Kaua‘i Lions Club member


"It has been an honor serving the people of Kauaʻi for these last two terms. Moving into my third term, I feel more prepared and capable of effectively working to protect our people’s ability to stay on the island with a livable income. Being your council person is my full-time focus without any competing obligations of another job, or business, with my sons, now grown, who are helping me rather than needing my care. My diverse experiences in business, engineering, education, neighborhood food production, community development, even childhood hardship, have given me a broad foundation of interest and understanding to work with people in our community to help address whatever challenges they are facing."

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?

I will continue my support of the budgeting for our Kaua‘i housing department’s rapid-building efforts underway and work to pass ordinances that support the state-level removal of barriers to building transitional and affordable housing for our people on the county lists of existing Kaua‘i residents.

This year, the county is receiving a new state allocation of $15 million for helping move our unsheltered people into safety, which continues as a passionate priority for me.

The statewide funding of $600 million for Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is long overdue and deserves efficient implementation

I will be supporting our council’s proposed ballot amendment to create a 2% real-property-tax revenue diversion to our Housing Revolving Fund to seed building more county housing projects.


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

Kaua‘i needs economic diversity.

A strong area of economic diversification that has rapidly and recently grown is residents who remote work or have other avenues of external income. There is little environmental impact, infrastructure burden or public investment required. A benefit is an infusion of fresh capital to Kaua‘i through their spending. Training our existing residents and youth to also remote work has value such that they may also experience a healthy middle -income. Kaua‘i Community College could be a valuable partner in this effort. A continuous goal is to keep more of our youth on island if they so desire.

With (future) possible permitted worker housing on farms, the likelihood of economic productivity and community resilience is strengthened. Farm and cultural eco-tourism can grow.


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?

I am not willing to raise any tax rates in this next term as the national economy faces turbulence and uncertainty. Inflationary pressure has raised all taxes without valuation caps, at present, and that is likely to occur again next year. Our people have just weathered two difficult economic years, already experiencing tax increases. There is a bill underway designed to create a tiered structure for expensive second homes and vacation rentals more heavily based on the value of the home, that I will support, though this is not a direct tax increase. Forcing sales on long-held second homes accelerates, rather than softens, our trend-line of replacing our population. These highest paying tax classes heavily subsidize the costs of running the county for the rest of the residential population. I will be supporting the ballot initiative to direct 2% of Real Property Tax revenue into a Housing Revolving Fund to help create capacity for building Affordable Housing.


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?

Addressing the lack of capacity at Kauaʻi’s Landfill is an urgent need. Evolving environmental regulations have eliminated any new location to be an appropriate site for our next landfill. Somehow, somewhere one or some of these regulations is going to have to relax. Our State and Federal partners need to recognize that the Hawaiian islands have unique characteristics different than a continent. Point-Source reduction at both the business and household levels is an important step to require. Reducing the creation of waste is a better strategy than recycling, though a Materials Recovery Facility has value especially for product that can be reused on Kauaʻi. We need to consider all options including private partnerships that are under consideration for small waste-to-energy strategies. Construction and Demolition is a large contributor to our landfill. Allowing the rapid development of new visitor and investment luxury housing currently underway is in direct conflict with our priorities.We need policies that limit these large developments until there is a solution planned for our landfill. As an individual council member, I have been regularly and actively raising this issue with the County Administration. This problem reveals the policy conflicts between our infrastructure needs and allowing zoning approvals to lie dormant for decades.


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

It has been an honor serving the people of Kauaʻi for these last two terms. Moving into my third term, I feel more prepared and capable of effectively working to protect our people’s ability to stay on the island with a livable income. Being your council person is my full-time focus without any competing obligations of another job, or business, with my sons, now grown, who are helping me rather than needing my care. My diverse experiences in business, engineering, education, neighborhood food production, community development, even childhood hardship, have given me a broad foundation of interest and understanding to work with people in our community to help address whatever challenges they are facing. I have the time to attend the range of meetings, go to anywhere on the island, answer your emails or calls and show up to help if I am needed. Mahalo to all the people who help to educate me, as your policy maker, to do a better job. 808-652-4363; I am available.



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