Editor’s note: For the August 13 primary elections in Hawaii, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer a few questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities would be if elected.
The following came from Carol Fukunaga, Democratic candidate for State Senate District 11, which includes Manoa and Makiki Heights. The other Democratic candidate is Ian Ross.
See Civil Beat’s election guide for general information and learn about the other candidates in the primary ballot.
1. What is the biggest problem facing your district and what would you do about it?
Residents of Senate District 11 today face many of the same issues that residents of other communities face – whether it’s skyrocketing property taxes, rising crime , homelessness and the frustrations of not being able to make ends meet.
At the same time, city, state and federal agencies cannot solve these multi-jurisdictional problems with the same levels of resources that have been used in the past.
We need to apply the same level of “emergency” problem solving as used during the Covid-19 shutdowns of the past two years to identify what each agency brings to the table and to let residents know where we need help. their help. The biggest pivot of Covid-19 is learning that we must ultimately solve our problems together!
2. Many people have been talking about diversifying the local economy for many years now, and yet Hawaii still relies heavily on tourism. What, if anything, should be done differently regarding tourism and the economy?
The move to a “destination management” approach makes practical sense in terms of reducing overall visitor numbers at the same time that Hawaii encourages visitors to participate in stewardship and “care for the land” and of its inhabitants.
Globally, many high-demand destinations are also looking for a different type of visitor experience for travelers who value authenticity and reverence for “malama the aina” as opposed to a marketing-only strategy.
3. An estimated 60% of Hawaii residents are struggling, a problem that goes well beyond low income and into the disappearing middle class. What ideas do you have for helping middle class and working class families struggling to continue living here?
State and county governments should accelerate the expansion of growth industries in cybersecurity, health and wellness, film and media or related industries to create hundreds of new jobs – many of which are characterized by high salaries (e.g., annual incomes over $100,000-$125,000) which can boost Hawaii’s middle class and reduce the brain drain out of Hawaii.
For example, the University of Hawaii’s West Oahu campus has been identified as a site for media production facilities that could serve to position Hawaii as an Asia-Pacific hub for content creation; and Queens Health Systems is continuing the major expansion of its Ewa/West Loch campus. Stimulating the creation of hundreds or thousands of new jobs on West Oahu and stimulating new employment hubs would be a big step forward in diversifying the Hawaiian economy.
4. Hawaii has the most lopsided legislature in the country, with only one Republican in the Senate and just four in the House. How would you ensure an open exchange of ideas, transparency and accountability of decisions? What do you think are the consequences of single-party control and how would you address them?
Unfortunately, the move to single-member districts has reduced the number of Republican members in the Legislative Assembly since the 1980s. Previously, many communities — including the new Senate District 11 — elected both Democratic and Republican members for ” balance” the approaches used to solve pressing problems.
For example, former Senator Wadsworth Yee and Senator Neil Abercrombie represented the multi-member Senate District that includes the new District 11. Similar trends occurred in East Honolulu, where Senator Pat Saiki (Republican ) was elected alongside Senator Dennis O’. Connor (Democrat). I believe Hawaii could be well served by a return to multi-member districts; or alternatively, moving towards more collaborative work on community issues with stakeholders that include Democratic and Republican stakeholders, and a broader range of nonprofit/community stakeholders.
5. Hawaii is the only western state without a statewide citizens’ initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Chapter 4 of the Honolulu City Charter establishes a county-level initiative, where it has been used successfully to address county-level zoning issues involving island-wide concerns. I believe this process has served as a reasonable tool for resolving land use issues over the past two decades.
6. Thanks to their campaign war chests and name familiarity, incumbents are almost always re-elected in legislative races in Hawaii. Should there be term limits for state legislators, like there are for the governor’s office and county councils?
I do not support term limits for state legislative offices because state legislative action sets policy rather than executive branch implementation or county council actions that involve zoning decisions .
I support multi-member legislative districts to increase competition for legislative representation on Oahu; this alternative could encourage the promotion of new ideas and problem-solving approaches within the regions and has worked well within the neighboring island delegations.
Alternatively, the provision of electoral guides, the sponsorship of thematic forums by public media and the allocation of full-time rather than part-time legislative positions could go a long way towards restoring public confidence in elective politics.
7. Hawaii has recently experienced a number of corruption scandals, prompting the state House of Representatives to appoint a commission to improve government transparency through ethics and lobbying reforms. What will you do to ensure accountability in the Legislative Assembly? Are you open to ideas such as requiring enforcement of the Sunshine Law and open documents laws in the Legislative Assembly or banning campaign contributions during the session?
I have long advocated for public access and open records laws, both in the state legislature and city council. As one of the early proponents of the Legislature’s public access room and the publication of legislative information online in the 1980s, and open data legislation at the state/county level , I think providing citizens with access to information is one of the most important ways to ensure accountability in government.
8. How would you make the legislature more transparent and accessible to the public? Opening of conference committees to the public? Stricter disclosure requirements on lobbying and lobbyists? How could the Legislature change its own internal rules to be more open?
Zoom meetings, while imperfect, and other videoconferencing technologies have helped the Legislature enable neighboring island/rural participation in new ways over the past two years.
City Council has also adopted more videoconferencing tools to facilitate public participation, which should be combined with providing the same level of information to public reviewers as is available to committee members (e.g., all written testimonies and other documents of the service before the votes in committee, bills and measures, etc.). The same availability of information should apply to the state legislature.
9. Hawaii has seen growing division on politics, development, health mandates and other issues. What would you do to bridge these gaps and bring people together despite their differences?
Increased civic engagement and the use of trusted community service partners to develop community outreach models has provided a valuable lesson during the Covid-19 pandemic.
For example, the best way to provide key health care information and awareness to specific communities (Pacific Island, Southeast Asian, Filipino and Hawaiian communities) was to use trusted partners in health care and social services to share information and encourage vaccination or testing when traditional practices through information channels (e.g., public health agency or hospital medical providers) were less effective.
10. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed many flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, ranging from outdated technology to economic disparity. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, to build on what we’ve learned and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share a great idea you have for Hawaii. Be innovative, but be specific.
One of the big lessons from our Covid-19 experience is that state and county governments need to respond more quickly to big issues — for example, state unemployment insurance, essential services, and labor complaints. driver’s license and vehicle registration at the county level.
My staff and I worked closely with the SBA and our congressional offices when the small business loans and grants were first announced. We’ve seen that state and county governments could learn a lot from how quickly local banks and Hawaii credit unions have worked to provide fast turnaround times for Hawaii’s small businesses, owned businesses to immigrants/veterans/women and individual homeowners in the early months of the pandemic. .
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