How Can Local Government Support Families
How important are strong families to our community?
On Kaua’i, family is everything. Whenever we meet someone new, we always try to establish a familial bond, such as “I went to school with your brother,” or “I played soccer with your daughter.” We reinforce these familial connections when we address our elders, even when we’re not related, as “aunty” or “uncle.” While strong families are important for communities everywhere, Kaua’i is unique because we are constantly seeking to bring others into our own family. Because of these connections, and the constant reinforcement of them, there is a sense here that we’re all in this together. For a community to thrive and seek shared solutions, we need to continually recognize that your problems are my problems– and part of Kaua’i’s strength is these interconnected and expanding familial relationships.
What can the county do to help struggling families?
I believe that the cost of housing is the biggest threat to families on Kaua’i. We have the highest housing and rental costs in the nation which lead us to also have the highest proportion of residents who can’t afford housing. This results in a huge cost burden on families who have to spend so much of their paycheck on housing that they have less time to spend with their children (because they’re working more), have less money to spend on education, and are less able to go on vacation or spend time enjoying Kauai. I’ve seen too many of my friends forced to move off island because they can’t afford to raise their family here. While there has been major progress over the last few years, the county needs to do all it can to make the permitting process easier for families to have multigenerational households– such as legalizing ‘ohana units and second kitchens. We also need to work hard to revitalize our town cores both to allow for more housing and recreate vibrant public spaces which help reinforce community engagement.
What encouragement can you offer to families on Kaua‘i?
The growing pains that we’re going through as an island are similar to issues that are being faced around the rest of the country. We’re not alone in trying to figure out the balance between maintaining our unique character and providing enough housing to ensure that our children can afford to live here. So, we can both learn from and be inspired by other local governments that are solving these exact same issues. While we might have a cash strapped government and limited availability of land and natural resources– we have the benefit of a strong community that is willing to work hard for each other. I strongly believe that these issues are solvable, and that together, we will work through them.
Luke Evslin, a life-long Kaua’i resident and is running for a seat on the Kauai County Council. He is a world renown outrigger canoe paddling coach and competitor. While in college he co-founded a composites manufacturing shop which has grown to become the largest producer of outrigger canoes in America. In addition to his experience in the private sector, he is currently pursuing a Masters in public administration with a focus in public policy, he has served on a number of county boards, committees, and local nonprofits, and he worked as a columnist focusing on land use, energy, and climate change. Most importantly, Luke is a husband and a father.