Meet the Candidates: Ed Justus
HANAPEPE – Business at Talk Story Bookstore has fallen by at least 70% since the lockdown began, said Ed Justus, 37, of Kalaheo, the bookstore owner and Kaua’i County candidate.
“I thought it was going to be more,” Justus remarked. “Our local business was maybe 20% of the time.”
With libraries closed for a while, more and more residents began to shut down. But Hanapepe Bookstore has had to reduce its electricity consumption, cancel and return purchases of new books, and shorten hours to survive. With the help of grants and loans, the business is still operating today, but the pandemic has been frustrating.
“It’s ridiculous that we had to go through so many obstacles,” Justus said. “We see companies without fault of their own. “
Justus wants to bring a breath of fresh air to agriculture, affordable housing, residential property taxes and revitalization, he said.
“If what we were doing worked, we wouldn’t be in the situation we find ourselves in,” Justus said. “All the answers are here. We have all the capabilities. You just have to have the will to do it. “
He first ran for the board ten years ago, focusing on diversifying the economy, especially agriculture, which, he said, “is a golden opportunity. , and it’s right there “.
“If you have agriculture as an additional economic engine, you have other supporting industries that go along with that,” he said. “Instead of depending on tourism, you can have four economies that can help us stay more stable when we have closures or when we are downsized.”
Kaua’i produces 10% of the state’s agriculture. Justus wants the county to work on farm incentives, like a 0% multi-year tax rate on farmland, and help build water-based irrigation infrastructure.
“There is no reason we can’t literally be ‘the garden island’,” Justus said, noting that there is almost 60% of the farmland with no farming activity on the island.
Due to the geography of Kaua’i’s “island in the middle of the ocean”, “it is so important to recognize agriculture as critical infrastructure”.
“We can produce enough food to feed everyone,” he said.
And that plays on vitality, said Justus.
“We have to work to maintain stability,” he said. “And something can easily turn that upside down: a pandemic, a war, political instability. “
At a forum this summer, Justus presented this quarantine model with the recommendation of a virologist friend. “I know we could have safely reopened the state and shortened the quarantine,” Justus said.
In the model he presented, he suggested a single quarantine zone. Travelers would be required to take a pretest and another test three days later.
“I think it would help reduce the quarantine and allow more visitors to enter instead of just opening the floodgates. This would put more tax revenue into the state and county. It is a fairly fair solution.
The current quarantine, he said, doesn’t stop people from breaking it.
“It takes one person to trigger a whole bloom of COVID,” he said. “If the quarantine worked, we wouldn’t have had a second stop on O’ahu. If you haven’t set up a different plan, you’ll only have a third stop.
From 2011 to 2016, Justus volunteered for the County Charter Commission. He said the county could perhaps invoke a provision in its charter that institutes a system of autonomy that allows the county more authority over its own governance.
“I could be wrong,” he said.
Justus rents both his house in Kalaheo and the bookstore.
He said the county has “a duty and responsibility to help create low-cost housing opportunities, as it is directly responsible for providing” affordable housing.
He would like to propose reduced property tax rates for residential units that are used specifically for affordable housing options, and higher rates on vacation rentals.
“As a business owner, I have been trying to find accommodation in Lihu’e for 12 years,” he said.
He loves his location in Hanapepe, he said. However, Hanapepe, he said, was left behind after Hurricane ‘Iniki. The county, Justus said, could do more to revitalize small towns. His store is surrounded by crumbling and abandoned buildings, it’s not the owners fault who don’t want to fix them. The roadblock is the cost.
Justus would like to see periods of reduced property tax rates and help bring back small towns.
“Even though I’m not elected, I can spread these ideas,” Justus said of his platform. “What do I have to lose? Nothing. At least I can start a conversation.
But it’s deeper than that, of course, he said.
Justus moved to Kaua’i in 2002. Soon after the move he started picking up items from yard sales and selling them on eBay, when someone offered him a storefront. “It naturally became a bookstore and a curio store.”
Talk Story has been in Hanapepe since 2006, and the only bookstore on the island since Borders closed in 2011.
“People have been so generous with me to start a business, even to get out of homelessness,” Justus said. “That’s why I enjoy every day. It’s a privilege to be able to have these opportunities, and I just want to be able to give back those same opportunities. The community has allowed me to have the life I have. I want to give this back.
Looking over her right shoulder at “The Boss,” Celeste, the mascot of the country’s most western bookstore, meows.
“The cat, on the other hand, nothing ever satisfies her.”
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or [email protected]