Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 9 primary, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Van Tanabe, one of three Democratic candidates for governor. The others are Neil Abercrombie and David Ige. Three Republicans, one Libertarian, one Independent and four nonpartisan candidates are also running.
Name: Van K. Tanabe
Profession: Retired telecom, artist
Education: Public schools
Community Organization: Volunteer at elementary school
1. Why are you running for Governor?
My decision to run for Governor is fueled by years of frustration from a government that seems to do nothing. Also I have a growing concern for our children’s future and what kind of Hawaii will we be leaving them? Will it be a Hawaii filled with difficulties and problems, or will it be a Hawaii abundant with opportunities and promise? I am the only candidate with real solutions or at least the only one willing to talk about them. I even have a program to fund my ideas without raising taxes. Ask the politicians, what’s your solution or plan to resolve the problems facing Hawaii? The response is always the same “If elected I promise to work hard for you” or “I’ll fight for you.” Sometimes they say that they’ll “stay in session until they come up with a solution!” What they’re really saying is that they don’t have a clue! You would think that with all the millions of dollars politicians raise for their campaigns, they could use some of it to buy some solutions! The next governor of Hawaii should have a plan to address and fix the problems that have been plaguing the people of Hawaii for decades. Remember, “ Fail to plan, plan to fail.”
2. Are you satisfied with the current plans to pay for the state’s unfunded liabilities? If not, how would you propose to meet pensions and health obligations for public workers?
If the current plans to pay for these unfunded liabilities are to take from Peter to pay Paul, then no. First thing that I would do is to get rid of the people responsible for opening up this can of caca. Earlier I mentioned a program that would fund my solutions, it’s called the “Ohana Lottery.” I came up with this idea back in 2000 when the state was facing a teachers strike. Needless to say it fell on deaf ears and Hawaii had its first teachers strike. Since then I have shared this idea with every administration. Just think, we could have avoided a teachers strike, furlough Fridays, and now unfunded liabilities. The “Ohana Lottery” was developed to generate revenue for Hawaii, about $300 million annually!
3. Where do you stand on labeling of genetically engineered food and pesticide regulation?
I’m for labeling, I believe that it’s the people’s right to know what’s in their food and how it was grown. As for public safety, I don’t think that the dangers are exaggerated.
4. Local officials and advocates have worked to address homelessness for years, yet the crisis is growing. What proposals do you have for this complicated issue?
Hawaii’s homeless problem is one of its most difficult issues to address. This is because of the many factors that contribute to the homeless situation, but I have a plan to help most of them to stand on their own two feet and become productive citizens in society. As your governor I will first take a statewide census of all the homeless people in Hawaii. With the information gathered from our census we will know how many people aren’t even supposed to be here. In fact, in the first year I pledge to reduce the number of homeless in Hawaii by sending whoever doesn’t belong here back to their home state. I’ve been criticized for being cruel to our out of town guests. But is it fair to the people of Hawaii if cities like New York, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, etc., keep sending their homeless? They may even be sending us their criminals! Hawaii doesn‘t have the resources or money to take care of the nation’s homeless. This is a common practice that has been going on for years and our politicians have done nothing about it. I promise to take care of the homeless, I just want to make sure Hawaii is their home.
Getting back to helping “our” homeless. You can’t just take the homeless people and stick them in abandoned buildings like how the state suggests. In less than six months they’re going to be back on the beach. After taking our census we will now be able to help each person with their personal issues. All will need shelter. Having a roof over their heads is great, but to really help these people we must address their individual needs. Some just need assistance in finding affordable housing. We will also find out how many people have mental or physical disabilities and who will need help fighting drug addictions, also most will require education and training. This is very important if we want them to be able to stand on their own two feet and become productive citizens. A program such as this will take months, maybe years before some of the people can live independently. It will also require lots and lots of money. The “Ohana Lottery” will definitely get the ball rolling. However to keep these programs alive I will ask the religious communities for their help. Every church can sponsor a homeless person. Some of the bigger ones like New Hope can sponsor families. If there’s anything that I learned in church it’s “God wants us to help the less fortunate!” Since the religious community will play a vital roll in this solution it will be welcome to come to the temporary shelters to spread the word of our Lord and witness the miracles of their generosity.
5. Hawaii’s cost of living is the highest in the country by many indicators. What can really be done to make things like housing, food and transportation less expensive?
After I become governor the state will provide affordable housing for everyone, and I’m not talking about making land deals with real estate developers to get a handful of affordable homes. Private developers got into the business of building homes to make a killing, they’re not in it to make affordable homes. Affordable = small profits. With the “Ohana Lottery” creating $300 million a year it will be no problem to build 150-200 homes a year for Hawaii families. These homes will be of the same quality or better than those of private developers. The only difference will be the cost because the state is not trying to make a killing, they’ll be selling for hundreds of thousands less. As for food , it has always been my plan to see Hawaii have food sustainability. This is important because we live in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and we rely on overseas sources for about 85 percent of our food. We are very vulnerable should events happen that would shut down overseas ports, perhaps some contamination of livestock/poultry or produce that would stop all transport of these goods. Then what do we do?
Long ago in ancient Hawaii, King Kamehameha had over a million Hawaiians to feed and he had no outside help. As governor my plan is to help the farmers by providing them with low/no interest loans so they can acquire the equipment to assist them to increase production. This also goes for ranchers and those in the fishing industry too. The state will also encourage local businesses by giving tax incentives and tax credits to businesses that “Buy Hawaii First.” Hawaii has the best climate and the most fertile soil, so it only makes sense that we have the best of everything. With that being said we should be exporting our goods around the world. We’re not going to compete for volume but quality, only the “Best.” The only answer for transportation is to go all-in with solar! Hawaii should be the world’s leading authority on solar energy. Imagine if we all had solar-powered automobiles powered by our homes that were also powered by 100 percent solar energy. No electric bill! No gas bill! This is totally possible and should have been started in the ’80s, but that would’ve required to have foresight and thinkers! It’s not too late! Hawaii can educate the world in green energy!
6. Are you satisfied with the way Hawaii’s public school system is run? How can it be run better?
Not really. Education has always been on every politician’s top five things to do, many times it’s the No. 1 thing to do. They all say the same thing, “I’ll work hard for better education” or even “I’ll fight for better education.” Think about this, obviously they’re all on the same page when it comes to improving education. So who are they fighting? My solution for our education problem would produce higher test scores locally and nationally in all subjects. We would also see a higher percentage of graduates continuing their education by attending colleges and universities. Everyone believes that early education is key to the success of our children and I agree, even our governor agrees. But why are our public schools discontinuing their pre-school programs? Governor Tanabe will see that pre-school classes will be available at all public schools for all the children of Hawaii. My plan for improving education is quite simple, it involves two things and lots of money, lots and lots of money. First of all and most importantly we must give our educators more money! My reasoning is simple a happy worker is a productive worker and seeing more money on payday would make anyone happier! Just think, there are only two reasons why we do anything in this life, because we want to or because we have to. Someone who wants to, will feel good about their job as well as themselves and will always do a better job than the person who feels that they’re only there because they have to.
The second part of my solution for improving our public education system is to give the schools more money. Instead of sending a list of school supplies home with our children the state will simply require your child to show up on the first day of school with a check for $500. The schools will provided all the necessary learning supplies and materials for that school year including uniforms, shoes, and a backpack. Any leftover money will put in an account to be held in the school’s name and only the principle/president of the PTA/PTO can use the money in this account. How they spend the money will be decided at the PTA meetings where parents will vote for what they believe is important, such as more computers, books, whatever they feel will improve their child’s learning experience. The $500 I spoke of earlier is not tuition but a donation to your child’s school, so what that means is that you will automatically get a $500 tax deduction. If your child achieves a 3.0 average at the end of the school year the state will match your tax deduction with a $500 rebate. Should your child excel and achieve a 3.8 or higher the state will double the rebate to $1,000. I feel that with this added incentive parents will show more interest in their child’s education and play a more active roll at home. Many people tell me that they can’t afford $500 a year and I understand. So if you can show the state that you can’t afford $2.50 a day for your child’s education then we will hope that they can clap erasers or serve lunch once a week. If the child is unable to do this then I would hope that a parent can volunteer at the school once a week. The point I’m trying to make is that education is not “free,” especially a good education.
7. Would you support using liquefied natural gas as part of the state’s energy sources? And what thoughts do you have on improving the electric distribution system (the grid) so more renewables can be in the mix?
Is this liquefied natural gas the same stuff that everybody is fracking in the mainland? Then no thanks. Like I said earlier Hawaii should be setting the bar when it comes to solar energy. Governor Tanabe will convert all state buildings to 100 precent solar power within my first term in office, saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. This is very easily done with the money generated by the “Ohana Lottery.” The world is moving toward green energy and trying to reduce its dependency on fossil fuel. Just like with food sustainability we need to be energy independent. When you depend on outside sources too much you become weak. When you can provide for yourself you become strong.
8. Hawaii’s public records law mandates that public records be made available whenever possible. Yet many citizens are unable to afford the costs that state and local government agencies impose. Would you support eliminating search and redaction charges and making records free to the public except for basic copying costs?
Yes! The only reason that the state is charging these ridiculous fees is because they’re forced to make money wherever and whenever they can.
9. There is a desire to grow the economy through new development yet also a need to protect our limited environmental resources. How would you balance these competing interests?
My plan to improve Hawaii’s economy is to create over 75,000 jobs across the state. First we will transform Kakaeloa into a resort area consisting of our very own “Six Flags Hawaii” and “SeaWorld Hawaii” and at least three 5-star hotels. I only used the names “Six Flags and SeaWorld” to let you know that we’re going to build world-class theme parks and not another “Castle Park.” This will create over 35,000 careers on the west side of Ft. Weaver Road reducing more traffic going into town than HART ever dreamed of. The state will own and operate these entities, so instead of getting 4 percent of the dollar we will get the whole dollar. With this much revenue coming in we can seriously consider reducing or eliminating the tax on food and drugs. Oh! Since Kakaeloa is ceded land 5 percent of everything will go directly to OHA to perpetuate the Hawaiian culture.
Next, Governor Tanabe will build affordable long-term care facilities in every zip-code across the state, from Hilo to Hanalei. Building and maintaining these care centers is the only way we can provide top quality care at an affordable price. Just like affordable housing the private sector is not in the business to make affordable care homes. Remember, affordable = small profits. Again you’re asking yourself, “Where is this guy going to get the money to build these care centers?” and again I will tell you that the “Ohana Lottery” will provide the necessary funds needed to build these facilities. Now we’re not going to be able to build all of them at once, however we will complete five to six facilities a year. In fact many of the structures are already in our communities. Just look around and you’ll see an empty elementary school that can be transformed into a 150- to 200-bed facility. Two reasons for doing this: First there’s a enormous need for affordable long-term care and our kapuna needs to be close to family and friends. Second by building senior centers in every community we will be creating 15,000 good jobs throughout every neighborhood. Another way to reduce the need to drive into traffic. Another 15,000 jobs will be needed to build and maintain Hawaii’s solar power independence project. Plus 10,000 more jobs will be necessary for Hawaii’s food sustainability program.
10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
I would like to talk about the “Ohana Lottery” because that’s how I plan to pay for my solutions. The “Ohana Lottery” is a program developed to create revenue for the state and help hundreds of families in Hawaii. This is not another Power-Ball-type of frenzy, instead it is designed after the Hawaiian culture, simple, helpful, and friendly. There are three things that make our “Ohana Lottery” unlike any other lotto in the world. First, you must be a resident of Hawaii. This program will not depend on one single tourist dollar. Besides, if only Hawaii people can play only Hawaii people can win! Second, you must have a source of income. In other words paychecks, retirement checks, even dividend checks are all good, welfare checks are not considered sources of income. Third, each of us can only contribute $50 a month.
In every form of gambling the opposition is always concerned about the negative effects it has on society. By limiting everyone to $50 a month, this will eliminate the possibility of someone getting into financial problems. Also, by setting a maximum, this gives all of us the exact same odds of winning! The state of Hawaii has approximately 600,000 people in its workforce. Now just imagine for a minute if everyone participated and played the $50 we just made $30 million for the state. Now for every $5 million we would pull $1 million payable $100,000 a year for 10 years, a $50,000 payable on the spot, two $25,000 on the spot, and six $10,000 on the spot. But wait, we said $30 million so we’ll have six $1 million, six $50,000, 12 $25,000 and 36 $10,000 winners! That’s 60 in all! Every month! Someone in your ohana will benefit from this program, if not your blood ohana, work ohana, baseball ohana, volleyball ohana, basketball ohana, soccer ohana, bowling ohana, and even your church ohana! See how I got the name? And with the state having money we can now address the problems that have been plaguing us for years/decades. This is not gambling because everyone’s a “winner.”