Tokuda Pledges Air Assistance
By Jack Kiyonaga, Reporter
Congressman Jill Tokuda, the U.S. Representative for Hawaii’s Second District, is in the process of writing a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding Molokai’s airline crisis.
“I’d like to create a thoughtful letter that really lays out the transportation crisis and vulnerability that exists,” said Tokuda. “Right now, the only constant is that it is inconsistent,” she added.
Tokuda explained to Molokai residents gathered at her town hall meeting held at Mitchell Pauole Center last Thursday that the FAA needs data on flight delays and cancelations along with personal testimony to make a difference.
Molokai community members related horror stories of family members passing away without loved ones and surgeries cancelled – all due to flight expense and unreliability.
Tokuda herself said she had multiple changes to her flight that day.
While Tokuda said that she is looking into qualifying Molokai as an Essential Air Service airport, a designation which would allow for more federal subsidies, she explained that there might be more ways to approach a solution.
“I don’t think subsidies alone are going to solve that issue,” said Tokuda.
Tokuda explained she is looking at “what are the most immediate, tangible courses of action that must take place.”
These immediate actions could look like increasing the length of the runway so that bigger planes could land or acquiring a ferry, according to Tokuda.
“Right now, the status quo is unacceptable. That’s the main message you have to get across,” Tokuda told Molokai residents.
Beyond flight concerns, Tokuda also highlighted funding for sustainable food programs.
With a new national Farm Bill in the works, Tokuda explained that she wants “to make sure there is representation for small to medium sized farmers.”
“We are pushing heavily for doubling the amount going towards microgrants, increasing the amount from $5,000 to $10,000,” said Tokuda.
Tokuda explained that she likewise is looking into the distribution of these microgrants and making sure they are awarded in rural communities as well.
Part of this push for food security also included a $1.3 million grant for Sust’ainable Molokai.
“We were able to prioritize just a handful of community funded projects…I wanted to make sure there was broad representation throughout the district,” said Tokuda.
“I visited with [Sust’ainable Molokai]. I talked with them. I think their mission of communities lifting each other up, supporting farmers and local producers…that just rang true to me. It was something I could see as so important for Molokai,” Tokuda explained. “I’m very proud and happy that we were able to help support them.”