Posts tagged ‘Big Island’

November 5, 2012

Campaigning at Maku‘u Farmer’s Market

Maku‘u Farmer’s Market doesn’t always have a big wheel with prizes for each person who gives it a spin, as there was on Sunday, Nov. 3. It was a part of Greggor Ilagan’s final few days of campaigning and his final Sunday at Maku‘u Farmer’s Market before Election Day.

The prizes were plate lunches and drinks from the various food vendors around the market.

Free poke bowl from vendor Pooki’s Cookies, a prize from the wheel.

The Sunday before that, the candidate and a few volunteers passed out over 300 Bradda Pops, says Ilagan.

Ilagan has been at market consistently throughout the campaigning period, taking the time to chat with patrons and community members he could be representing if elected.

Ilagan is running against incumbent Fred Blas for the County Council District 4 seat on the Big Island. For more information on the candidate, check out my previous posts here and here.

UPDATE 11/7: Congratulations to Ilagan on his election into the councilmember seat and to Blas for his effort. The final result between Ilagan and Blas was 59.2 percent and 37 percent, respectively. To view the rest of the election day results, please visit the final summary report.

October 31, 2012

Communication is key in first-time candidate’s campaign

If you’ve hit that after-work rush hour traffic on Highway 130, chances are you’ve seen the blue-T-shirt-wearing sign-wavers out there, rain or shine, driven by a commitment to support someone they believe in.

Or, perhaps you’ve been to the Maku’u Farmers Market recently and have seen the man himself, cheerfully shaking hands and “talking story” with market patrons.

Layout of the Hawaii Island districts.

Meeting Greggor Ilagan, the candidate running against incumbent Fred Blas for a seat on County Council District 4 in Puna, is pretty much inevitable at this stage in the game. Ilagan has been campaigning hard, and it has been paying off.

Ilagan’s background

After graduating from Waiakea High School in 2004, Ilagan promptly enlisted in the Air National Guard. For the years he was enlisted, Ilagan received the opportunity to travel the United States, but after six years of service, he came back to Hawaii to attend Hawaii Community College (HCC) to obtain a degree in accounting. Since moving back to the Big Island, he noticed that many of his high school friends went straight into schooling and had already received their degrees, but they were stuck on seemingly never-ending job hunts.

Ilagan was driven to run for council by a simple six word question he found himself wondering: “What was going to happen to me?”

Ilagan had been involved with the political processes of HCC, including the student government, student life council, and fee board, and he felt that representing District 4 could be a very real possibility.

“The county level was not representing very well… He [Fred Blas] was good at just organizing clean-ups, but not the type to think through things,” says Ilagan.

Funding his campaign

From January to early June, Ilagan and a team of supporters worked towards receiving Comprehensive Public Funding, a three-year pilot program funded by the Hawaii Election Campaign, to finance his campaign. The program requires that a minimum amount of qualifying contributions be earned for each candidate seeking funds, and qualifying contributions have to be made by check or money order, not cash.

Because Ilagan had a team pulling for him, he felt all the more motivated.

“We really took pride in it,” expresses Ilagan.

It took a good five months, but eventually the team achieved its goal. Comprehensive Public Funding provided him $16,320 for the primary base, and later, he received $5,103 for the general base, bringing his election total to $21,423.

Pressing issues in Puna

Ilagan believes that the biggest issue that District 4 faces is the layout of Highway 130, the highway that connects Kea’au to Pahoa and, as of now, the only route in and out of the area.

“There is nobody pushing because of a lack of funding,” says Ilagan.

Currently, there is a two-phase project to add two lanes to Highway 130 to lessen road congestion and ultimately improve driving conditions. The creation of the Kea’au-Pahoa Road Improvements Project was created in response to the projected 2020 traffic forecast and a recommendation made by The Hawaii Long-Range Land Transportation Plan, according to the official website.

Ilagan says that is a temporary solution.

Indeed, according to the Puna Community Development Plan published in 2008, the population is predicted to increase to 75,000 residents by 2030, over double the population of 31,335 in 2000.

“A real solution is to add an alternative route. It’s a hard battle to push for, but somebody has to get the ball rolling,” says Ilagan.

Sign-waving on Highway 130. Rain is not an issue for these enthusiastic supporters! Photograph c/o Greggor Ilagan

 

 

 

Communicating, addressing concerns

Of course, Highway 130 is just one of the concerns held by community members of district 4.

“I’m open to listening, understanding their needs, putting all the pieces together. I research when I’m not understanding something,” says Ilagan.

Ilagan has been actively using his Facebook account to stay connected with the Big Island community.

In addition to a Facebook profile that people can “friend,” Ilagan has a page where you can “like” him as a politician and inquire about his views and intentions if elected. Damon Tucker, a notable Big Island Blogger, posted on the politician’s wall, asking, “If elected, what would be the first bill you would try to pass?” To which Ilagan responded that his foremost move would be to review the new building code in hopes of making home ownership more affordable.

He has a presence on Facebook, while Blas does not. This incorporation of new media into his campaign could be a reflection of the age difference between the two candidates: Ilagan is 26 years old and Blas is 61 years old.

Although he maintains his online presence, Ilagan says he prefers to get out into the community to connect with people in person, noting that “the more personal the interaction, the better it is.” He has been traveling door-to-door, attending events at clubs and churches, going to board meetings, and setting up workshops, among other social events.

Change in Puna

Although he may not know it, Ilagan himself seems to be a symbol of change. He is bringing a fresh, young outlook to the politics of County Council.

“There’s a lot of generational change. District 1 termed out, district 2 termed out… A lot of new faces, and it changes the dynamic of the council,” says Ilagan. “We need a change. Puna hasn’t been given a chance to have a really big change.”

April 24, 2012

Reaching the Polestar

Harmonious chanting envelops the room during kirtan, a time for devotional music, every Wednesday at 5:45 p.m. at Polestar Gardens. Some people simply tap their fingers to the melody, while others become completely immersed in the music and sing along.

After the kirtan is finished, a few sit in silence in the temple, letting the remnants of the songs soak into their veins, absorbing the tranquil aura of the room. A few minutes pass and everybody moves out of the temple and into the main house for a community potluck.

Lined up on a table, buffet-style, are various vegetarian foods: two types of bean soup, polenta with or without cheese, fresh greens, pickled green papaya, and other more interesting dishes, such as a green paste that looks like guacamole but is actually a sweet banana pudding of sorts. Guests are encouraged to contribute a dish to the community potluck on Wednesdays.

It is not by chance that these people began a weekly kirtan. The teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda inspired Michael Gornik to launch the 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation Polestar Gardens in 2000.

read more »

July 18, 2011

Pahoa digs series: Exploring the unexplored, or adventures in my hometown

School has ended and I find myself escaping the hubbub of Honolulu living and into the quiet throws of tiny Pahoa town. I happen to be one of the thousands of college students heading home for summer vacation, back to all of the old places I loved to hang out at during my high school days.

Most people have never even heard of Pahoa. Hawaii’s income relies heavily on the tourist industry, yet Hilo and Kona are so much more visited than other areas of the island.

Drive forty minutes out of the popular tourist destination Hilo and enter a whole new realm. Pahoa town, population size a meager 962 according to the 2000 government census, is a quirky little place filled with bizarre characters and home to beautiful, tropical hot spots.

As with all small towns, most places of interest are obvious to locals, but totally unheard of to others, like the good surf at Pohoiki or relaxing at the volcanically-heated Ahalanui hot pond.

Travelers going further past Pahoa may find themselves in tiny rural neighborhoods, like Kalapana, which has been attracting more visitors since the opening of the Lava Viewing Site in 2009.

While many families have lived in Pahoa for generations, handfuls of newcomers also come to Pahoa to live untouched by big corporations and business men in business suits stuffed in big high-rise buildings.

Then, with the old-timers and newbies, there lies an eccentric crowd in Pahoa: those who don earthy-colored bohemian wear, perhaps with a bit of Rastafarian red, green, and yellow here and there, and full heads of dreadlocks. Some smell like incense, particularly patchouli.

This crowd, lovingly referred to as “hippies” by the local high-schoolers, are also interested in getting back to a more natural way of life.
Interestingly enough, Wikipedia notes that “there is a significantly large vegetarian or vegan community” in the district of Puna. True, the validity of Wikipedia can be debated (as our professors always caution), but that had to have been written by somebody. And, indeed, it is not hard to find vegetarian options, and even vegetarians, in Pahoa.

Living at home again this summer makes me think: sure, I know Pahoa and what it has to offer, but visitors are sorely missing out on some great digs.

Pahoa has it’s own distinctive charm, marked by a relatively unstirred way of life. Whether you’re an adventurous island explorer or a vacationer trying to kick back, Pahoa has a little bit of something for everyone.

I’ve decided to delve deeper into my roots this summer and uncover what hidden treasures lie in the place I call my hometown. Check up on my blog weekly to stay updated on my future expeditions: wading in the hot pond, slurping down local curry, and trying not to fall and scrape myself on the rough a’a lava rock as I trek across my little hometown Pahoa.

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