Let's work together to uplift Puna, Hawai‘i Island, and its people.
Ashley leading Puna with vision and vitality.
Our team build the collective WE. Government policies should work FOR the people, and be crafted in partnership with business, nonprofits, and community. Ashley worked with the Disaster Recovery Team to secure a USDA RPIC (Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge) grant to support Revitalize Puna, quarterly community activations that brings government to the people and provides resources to demonstrate collaborative action.
The safety and wellbeing of our community is paramount. Along with helping to secure more police officers for the district, Ashley is an active participant in Puna Neighborhood Watch meetings. She is leading work to address vacant, abandoned, and deteriorating properties throughout Puna. Ashley stays in close touch with Puna police officers; she is endorsed by SHOPO – State of Hawai‘i Organization of Police Officers.
Our community is growing. Ashley's strong and effective leadership has resulted in Puna getting its fair share of resources, services, and attention. She helped secure $60MM from the State to support eruption recovery for infrastructure, and secured money to start an EA for the County District Park in HPP.
As Chair of the Vibrant Hawai‘i Economy Stream, Ashley co-led development of the VH Economic Development Strategy (EDS) and design of a $2,500 micro-investment program that provides local businesses with capital to take action on projects identified in the EDS. This project is geared towards building community capacity to implement ideas and secure more complex funding that helps projects scale.
We all want to spend more time with our loved ones, pursuing our passions and enjoying this beautiful place we call home. We need more jobs, attainable housing, support services, and recreation spaces close to home. Ashley led the charge to establish a housing production program, which allocates at least $5MM in the annual County budget to increase housing inventory on Hawai‘i Island.
Improving public transportation is key to connecting more people to services and opportunities. Ashley has advocated for acquisition of more buses and expanded service throughout the district, as well as a consistent ride schedule and on-time arrivals. She is supporting efforts to identify sites and design a site in Puna that co-locates a bus hub and public library, two critical services that connect residents with resources.
Ashley has been a vocal champion for more infrastructure in Puna. She pushed for firm plans and commitments to restore and invest in roads, water, and parks facilities following the 2018 eruption, and has directed the Administration to pursue ARPA and Build Back Better monies to fix antiquated infrastructure and invest in resilient systems that meet the needs our growing population. Having infrastructure means we can reshape the development of our district into village and town centers - as laid out in the Puna Community Development Plan - to provide residents with programs, services, and opportunities in Puna.
Hawai‘i Island has enough land to grow food to sustain our population. However, we need critical infrastructure and to merge agriculture with renewable energy and technology to make growing our own food cost effective and efficient. Ashley worked to secure technical assistance from the Council on Development Finance Agencies (CDFA) to create a roadmap that identifies strategies and funding opportunities to support local farmers and enhances Puna's food systems. For FY22-23, Ashley secured $250,000 to establish a County micro-grant program that would grant funds to farmers to install fencing in order to protect their produce from invasive species such as wild pigs and sheep.
Ashley secured the competitive Our Town grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to divert plastics from the landfill and transform them into a material that will be fashioned into functional art and playground equipment for County parks. While the goal of this project is to turn a liability into an asset, the larger message being conveyed is to avoid consuming plastics in the first place and to encourage lifestyle changes that protect our environment for future generations.
During the pandemic, Ashley led #FeedThePeopleHI-Puna, a six-month weekly meal bag project that helped food insecure kupuna and families have access to fresh produce, proteins, and recipes. Through Vibrant Hawai‘i, Ashley supported a digital literacy project that provided kupuna with laptops and training on how to navigate digital spaces. She is actively seeking funding to support continuation of the digital literacy program for Puna kupuna.
Let's be real: lots of folks who live in Puna commute to the west side or Hilo town for work (I'm one of them). As a rapidly growing district, our roadways are becoming even more congested. State DOT's contraflow on Highway 130 is helpful and helps alleviate congestion; but more is needed. We need thoughtful, creative solutions to address traffic in the long-term including widening of Highway 130 and additional routes mauka and makai of the highway. Ashley supported a bond float to increase connectivity between upper and lower Puna.
It's impossible to arrest our way out of problems. We need to ramp up our multi-pronged approach of education, treatment and prevention. Ashley is working in partnership with the Prosecutor's Office to design and implement a program that prevents crime among youth, diverts non-violent petty misdemeanor and misdemeanor offenses from jail and provides for personal/professional development, and helps individuals successfully reintegrate back into society.
Puerto Rico could be us. Hawai‘i Island is especially vulnerable to hurricanes because of its location. What recent lava events have shown us is that we must rely on ourselves. Preparedness must be part of our lifestyle. Government needs to empower community with timely, appropriate information, and partner with business and nonprofits to increase individual/family readiness. Ashley worked with Civil Defense to rewrite Ch. 7 of the County Code (Emergency Management), which will be introduced in August 2022. She is a co-chair for Vibrant Hawai‘i's Resilience Hub Stream, which mobilized an islandwide network of hubs during the pandemic. There are currently 33 hubs online, 12 of which are in Puna. Learn more about this work at vibranthawaii.org/hubs.
Albizia is a death sentence to our native trees. We saw the devastation albizia caused to Puna and Ka‘ū during Tropical Storm Iselle. Former Council Member Zendo Kern introduced a bill on accountability, to compel property owners to take action. Ideally, we need to deal with albizia with a machete before it grows larger and we need to handle it with a D9. Ashley is working with the Big Island Invasive Species Council to reconvene key stakeholders (County, State, utilities) to update the 2015 Albizia Management Plan to track progress made, identify new priority areas to treat, create a timeline for action, and secure funding to support plan implementation.
Ashley catalyzed action around developing a plan to restore Isaac Kepo‘okalani Hale Beach Park and create a vision and stewardship plan for the larger Pohoiki region. She pushed for collaborating with area 'ohana, and using federal disaster recovery funds restore the County park and implement community visions that increases recreational and cultural opportunities while protecting natural resources.
In response to vicious dog attacks that led to the passing of a kupuna and life altering injuries to a young child, Ashley introduced a County ordinance to increase justice and accountability by directing active removal of the animal and prescribing criminal penalties in the event of a dog attack resulting in injury or death. Ashley is working with key stakeholders to review and strengthen leash law language in the County code.
Education is a great equalizer. Ashley is working with Hawai‘i Community College to increase their presence in the district. By removing barriers and making it easier for folks to access the knowledge and skills, residents can achieve and take their lives to the next level.