Editor’s Note: In June 2012, Civil Beat sent 10 questions to each of the candidates registered to run in the Aug. 11 primary for U.S. Representative Congressional District 2. Seven of the eight responded, including Esther Kiaaina. The questions and answers are reproduced below in full. Read responses by Tulsi Gabbard, Mufi Hannemann and Bob Marx to see how Kiaaina’s positions compare to those of her main competitors. Click on each topic listed below to read Civil Beat’s question and Kiaaina’s response.

1. President Obama has significantly increased the use of drones to assassinate terrorist targets. The policy has been criticized for denying due process rights for at least one American target, and for the collateral killing of civilians. Do you support this policy — why or why not?

I support the President’s use of drones to eliminate terrorist targets that have been leaders in the overall threat to U.S. national security at home and abroad. However, the technology should continue to be reevaluated and improved by U.S. officials to decrease the number of collateral killing of civilians. This can be done through maintaining extremely high standards in target vetting. ↩ back to top

2. Transportation and infrastructure are critical to an island state — especially the neighbor islands. How would you work to increase federal support for Hawaii’s roads, airports and harbors?

I would work with the Governor, and the Mayors of Kauai, Oahu, Hawaii, and Maui counties to identify transportation and infrastructure priority needs for the state and each county. I would then work with the appropriate Executive Branch agencies and Congressional committee authorization avenues available to secure funding for these priorities. This is even more important given the freeze on earmarked funds in the appropriations process. ↩ back to top

3. A divided U.S. Congress has not been able to come to agreement on how to lower the federal debt, in spite of bipartisan recommendations from the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission and others. What is your evaluation of those recommendations, which include hard decisions regarding entitlement programs, defense spending and taxes?

The recommendations, though bipartisan, are not binding on Congress. They cover a wide-range of critical issues: discretionary spending cuts, comprehensive tax reform, health care cost containment, mandatory savings, Social Security Reform, and Budgetary Process Reform.

All of the recommendations should be on the table. However, the 2012 Presidential and Congressional elections will determine the makeup in which the new 113th Congress will have to reevaluate the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles report. It should be a starter for discussions, but not an exhaustive list of potential solutions in which to reduce our deficit and balance our budget, particularly in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. There will be ample proposed solutions for the 113th Congress. ↩ back to top

4. The major issue for most candidates is jobs and the economy. Can you identify a concrete example of how you as representative would go about stimulating growth both nationally and in Hawaii?

At the national level, it is clear that we have to address our budget deficit, which will impact our national economy and subsequently Hawaii’s. In Hawaii, small business is the backbone of our economy and it impacts all of the major Hawaiian island economies. I would work with the Small Business Administration and other key agencies to strengthen existing small businesses and establish new businesses. I would also work with the Small Business Advocate’s office to ensure that businesses that are having problems have a federal official to work with on improving the operations of their business. More business means more jobs.

I also believe that the federal Office of Personnel Management should undertake greater outreach in Hawaii to recruit local qualified applicants for the civilian jobs available with the Defense Department, National Park Service, National Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, and other federal agencies that are located in Hawaii. The University of Hawaii system, including its community colleges, should also work hand in hand with the federal government and private sector to strengthen the pipeline between our college system and the availability of jobs. ↩ back to top

5. Regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, what would your goals be in terms of health care policy as a representative? Would you support universal health care?

I am pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. In Hawaii, we are fortunate to be ahead of other states in the nation with our Prepaid Health Care Act but we do stand to benefit from many provisions of the new law that we otherwise wouldn’t have. Through the Healthcare Transformation Initiative, a public-partnership established last year, the state is already moving toward implementation of the federal law. And the recently established Hawaii Health Connector will help individuals and businesses navigate the insurance world to secure what is best for them. Hawaii’s Medicaid program will also be in line with federal guidelines and 24,000 individuals are expected to be newly eligible for Medicaid. While I support universal health care, there is much to be done with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, before we can even contemplate that route. ↩ back to top

6. Global warming is real, and rising sea levels will certainly impact Hawaii. What steps would you take as a U.S. Representative to mitigate the effects of global warming?

All individuals, governments, and private industry have a role in mitigating the effects of global warming, including the United States. As a U.S. Representative I would support increased U.S. fuel efficiency standards, Cap-and-Trade Agreements (which would cap the amount of carbon dioxide released in the air, and allow companies to trade permits to emit in a marketplace), and support EPA’s ability to enforce the Clean Air Act. I would also work very closely with federal officials, state officials, and county officials in Hawaii to promote educational outreach on global climate change here at home and see what actions the people of Hawaii can take as a community to decrease our carbon footprint.

Because many lower lying areas in the Pacific Islands will be impacted, I would also facilitate a greater leadership role for Hawaii to work with other Pacific Island nations in their efforts. We are all interconnected.

Science shows that even if globally all greenhouse gases were stopped, the impacts to the climate system will continue for generations. So we also need to consider how we will adapt our society to respond to these changes. This can be done through supporting federal initiatives and collaboration across multiple agencies to provide science and tools for Hawaii decision makers. For example, USGS Climate Science Centers, Department of Interior Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, and NOAA Climate Information Centers.

I also support working with local planning officials to consider revisions in land use designations (e.g. protecting infrastructure from rising seas – roads, sewers, airports, etc.; managing watersheds to reduce drought impacts; revising flood hazard maps); ensuring federal emergency funds are available in response to natural disasters – floods, drought, fire, etc.; and protecting Hawaii’s unique bio- and cultural diversity as weather extremes, sea level rise and temperature changes in the ocean threaten our ecosystems and way of life; and integrating climate science into our educational system to ensure that our children understand the environmental changes that will be occurring in their lifetime. ↩ back to top

7. Longtime D.C. observers say the inability of the two major parties to work with each other has never been worse, especially in the U.S. House. Many experienced leaders are leaving office rather than continue in such a hostile climate. Is compromise necessary to governance — and if so, how would you reach out to your colleagues to craft and pass legislation?

Partisanship and gridlock has existed since the founding of our nation. It is part of our democratic system and it is cyclical. Politicians should resign from office if the fire is too hot for them. Compromise is an art form used when necessary to achieve an objective whether it requires a floor vote or is passed through voice vote in the House or Senate. A great majority of Hawaii-specific bills are passed through voice vote, which requires the knowledge and skills set to successfully navigate the Congressional system behind the scenes.

With over 20 years of experience in working in Congress on policy issues, I have a proven track record at the staff level for getting legislation enacted into law free-standing or incorporated into another bill. I also have the know-how and savvy to work with both Republicans and Democrats, the committees of jurisdiction, the leadership of both parties, and the Executive Branch, to move legislation forward effectively. ↩ back to top

8. How is the 2nd Congressional District different from the 1st Congressional District? Or are their issues largely the same?

Geographical diversity, for starters, makes the 2nd District very different from the first and that diversity requires that each island’s economic, transportation, or infrastructural needs must be uniquely addressed. The 2nd District also has four counties to deal with, as compared to one for the 1st. Therefore, collaboration with the Governor and all of the county mayors is a necessity in the prioritization of funding and policy issues when working with federal officials. ↩ back to top

9. What is the best thing the 112th Congress did, and why? What’s the worst thing, and why?

Best – Ensuring that interest rates did not double from 3.4% to 6.8% by July 1st. After much fanfare, Republicans and Democrats realized it was the wrong bill to kill for ideological reasons.

Worst – The House-passed version of the Violence Against Women’s Act does not contain provisions protecting Native Americans, the LGBT community, and immigrant women. Auwe. If the bill survives conference in its current form, it will make a mockery of the underlying reason of why we even have a Violence Against Women’s Act. ↩ back to top

10. What is an issue you think is important to address as a U.S. House candidate — one that perhaps has not been given sufficient attention during the campaign?

One of my priorities would be to work with the Interior and State Departments on the manner of how Compact Impact Agreements with Micronesia are being overseen. I would also urge the United States to work with Hawaii on alleviating the over $100 million in educational and health costs associated with migrants from the Freely Associated States of Micronesia.

My plan is three-fold: First, the U.S. has to do a better jump in administering Compact funds for educational and health costs in the Freely Associated States; Second, Hawaii should negotiate with the U.S. on alternative ways to mitigate the costs to Hawaii. Since the U.S. doesn’t have money, how about the U.S. waive matching state requirements for certain federal funding; and Third, if Hawaii has any debt owed to the U.S., the debt should be waived accordingly depending on the amount of the annual costs to Hawaii. If such a mechanism cannot be reached administratively with the Interior Department, then legislation may need to be introduced to effectuate the concept. ↩ back to top

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