Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 9 primary, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.

The following came from Daynette Morikawa, one of two Democratic candidates for state representative for District 16 in Kauai County. The other is Thomas Kahawai. Republicans Vince Flores and Vickie Franks are also running.

District 16 includes Waimea, Koloa, Niihau and Lehua.

Go to Civil Beat’s Elections Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.

Name: Daynette “Dee” Morikawa

Office: State House of Representatives, District 16

Party: Democrat

Profession: Legislator

Education: AS, Accounting, from Kauai Community College; Kahuku High School; Kapaa High School; Sunset Beach Christian School

Age: 57

Community organizations: West Kauai Business Association; Kauai Built Environment Task Force

Daynette Morikawa

Daynette Morikawa

1. Why are you running for the Hawaii Legislature?

I have been a legislator for almost four years now and I’ve treasured every moment.  With 40 years of public service experience, I want to continue working toward a safe and healthy life for everyone.  Living in Hawaii is hard to afford, so we need to give people opportunities to thrive.  Legislators can develop good policy to make this happen, and lending my expertise to colleagues will help in this effort.

2. Are you satisfied with the current plans to pay for the state’s unfunded liabilities? If not, how would you propose to meet pension and health obligations for public workers?

Yes, but we have more work ahead.  By changing retirement benefits for the newer work force we have begun that effort with the pension fund, although we won’t see these effects for a long time. There may still be some changes needed in computing service time, but more discussion will be needed. The health fund, in my opinion, is a mess. We were doing better before formation of the EUTF. We seemed to have grown government where government is not an expert in that field. When the public unions offered medical plans to employees, the insurers, unions, state and county governments, and employees were getting more “bang for their buck.” Union plans offered more choices for less money. Whether we can fix it now is questionable and how to do that will be a challenge, but I look forward to working on creating solutions.

3. 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?

As an employee in the Kauai Parks and Recreation Department, we dealt with many homeless families and individuals camping in our parks. However, we could not allow them to camp endlessly, so limits were set and these people needed to go off somewhere else. We keep on shuffling them from place to place. I’ve thought about possible long-term campsites for those wanting to help with park maintenance and security, or containers to be modified into sleeping quarters in parks or government lands where restrooms and showers would be available. The mentally ill homeless individuals should have a safe institution to be housed in, where they can get minimal medical attention. Our prisoners have safer accommodations then the homeless, why can’t we do the same for our mentally ill?

4. Where do you stand on labeling genetically engineered food and pesticide regulation? Are these public safety issues, or are the dangers exaggerated?

Labeling is important, but I think you can only label what you know is truly GMO-free or organic.  The trend is moving to differentiating organics in markets. During the sugar and pineapple days, employment was the key to survival, so we did not question our exposure to pesticide hazards. It wasn’t only pesticides, but it was asbestos, mold, mercury, lead, etc. We are doing a better job today in pesticide regulation and are now more educated about many other hazards. Dangers are always exaggerated, because we all fear the illnesses associated with those hazards. The state will need to continue testing and monitoring any environmental dangers.

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?

The more we produce locally, will save in shipping costs and bring prices down. Utility costs are rising, so renewable energy is a necessity. Government needs to operate within their means by cutting waste and being more efficient. The income tax structure needs to be adjusted to help working people, and we need to seriously stop raising taxes and fees at both the county and state level, or perhaps get rid of some. Making safer walking and biking routes will help keep cars off the road and save in fuel expenses. We need to put more money back into people’s pockets, which would in turn spur the economy in more personal spending on other things, like recreation, restaurants and stores.

6. Would you support using liquified natural gas as part of the state’s energy sources? And how can we improve the electrical distribution system so more renewable energy can be utilized to bring costs down?

I would support this.  On Kauai the distribution system can be efficiently controlled, because our electric company is a co-op owned by the people.  On the other islands the distribution is more complicated and the population being served is huge. The company’s profits are very important too, but I hope that the goal would be to bring costs down.

7. 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?

Unless staff is specifically hired to do the search and redaction services, we need to charge labor costs associated with the service in addition to basic copying costs.

8. Are you satisfied with the way Hawaii’s public school system is run? How can it be run better?

I have major concerns about the evaluation system and the “teach to the test” concept. Our children may be losing access to social skills, arts and trades curriculum. I hope we haven’t taken the fun and motivation out of teaching, causing teachers to  leave, retire or not teach at all. I’m hoping the DOE will work closely with teachers to make sure this new evaluation system is fair. After all, our teachers need to be respected and appreciated. They have all been educated and trained to be teachers, so we should not further tell them how to teach.

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?

I’m worried that there is an effort to expand development too quickly, but my concerns are infrastructure and our ability to deal with environmental catastrophes like tsunamis, hurricanes and flooding.  Furthermore, are we sure that we have sufficient water, sewer and electrical capacities? If a disaster hit Oahu, we would be totally crippled in providing people’s basic needs. Just getting up and down high rises, would be a huge challenge unless every building had an emergency generator.  These potential problems will need to be addressed as we allow more development.