When I was asked to speak to the Natural Services Section of the Hawaii State Bar Association about the race for Hawaii governor, I figured it would be a good chance to pick the brains of attorneys who are passionate about land use and environmental issues.

They shared their thoughts on what the media should be looking at in the weeks leading up to the election.

I told about 15 attorneys about Civil Beat’s mission, though many of them were already familiar with us — especially the state employees’ whose salaries we have requested and revealed.

The governor appoints members of the Land Use Commission. And all nine members’ four-year terms will expire during the next governor’s first term. Then there’s the cabinet-level chair of both the Board and Department of Land of Natural Resources, and the selection of judges.

Our next governor signs off on Environmental Impact Statements, like the one pending for the Honolulu rail project. He also will have veto power.

Both Democratic nominee Neil Abercrombie and Republican nominee James “Duke” Aiona have published position papers on environmental stewardship (Abercrombie | Aiona), clean energy (Abercrombie | Aiona) and agriculture (Abercrombie | Aiona).

But those are all just plans — plans that won’t go anywhere without cooperation from the Hawaii Legislature.

When I was done with my spiel, the lawyers shared the questions they hoped the media will ask of the candidates:

  • Both candidates say they’re in favor of clean energy, but where are they on the controversial Big Wind project that would put 400 megawatts of windmills on Molokai and Lanai and send the electricity to Oahu via an undersea cable?

  • It’s hard to imagine them proposing new taxes while campaigning in this economic climate, but would either of the candidates consider a carbon tax as a way to promote clean energy?

  • When a candidate says they’re going to increase funding to one department — for example, Neil Abercrombie and the Department of Land and Natural Resources — where does that money come from? Which departments will see cuts?

  • Which departments do the candidates see as a priority, and which departments are less critical?

  • What steps will the candidates take to ensure that the pensions and retirement accounts are funded?

What other questions — about land use and the environment or other issues — should Civil Beat try to get answered in advance of the election?

About the Author