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

The following came from John Mizuno, Democratic candidate for state House of Representatives District 19. Republican Carole Kaapu is also running.

District 28 covers Kalihi Valley, Kamehameha Heights and a portion of lower Kalihi

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

Name: John M. Mizuno

Office: House District 28

Party: Democrat

Profession: Full-time legislator

Education: Doctorate in Law, Willamette University College of Law, Salem, Oregon; Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Age: 49

Community organizations: Keiki Caucus; Kupuna Caucus; chair, the Outstanding Advocates for Children and Youth Awards Luncheon; donating time and personal money to assist homeless; worked on “Return-to-Home” program to reduce homeless, reunite families, and save the state taxpayers money


John Mizuno

John Mizuno

1. Why are you running for the Hawaii Legislature?

To make a positive impact for the people of Hawaii in the areas of education, health, human services, public safety, the economy to create more jobs and protect businesses, protect the environment and seek alternatives (renewable energy — sun, wind, geo-thermal, and wave energy) to fossil fuel and to improve our roadways and reduce traffic.  I believe we can make our state a better and safer place, where our children will have the opportunity to reach their dreams by listening to many voices and issues, through respect and relationships, cultural sensitivity and unity, working together to craft a rock solid foundation of state policy, where our people can achieve prosperity and security.

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?

No. To reduce the state employee retirement benefits, a substantial part of the unfunded liabilities, we need to increase contributions for new and future government employees. Lowering benefits and increasing the retirement age for new employees will reduce the unfunded liabilities.

The unfunded liabilities issues affects everything from education, health care, the Legislature’s budget, capital improvement projects to even our state’s bond rating, therefore it is of such concern that I am requesting a bill draft for the 2015 Legislature, to mandate the establishment of the task force of members from businesses, the university, non-profits, economist, and experts who have worked on this issue to formulate possible options to best address this issue, which has been kicked down the road from prior legislatures for decades. We need to address this issue now, not later.

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?

State policy to address homelessness is constantly evolving in order to create a more efficient system to reduce homelessness, eliminate duplication of services, seek better coordinated efforts between local, state, federal, and private homeless agencies, which will also reduce taxpayer costs. The concepts I’ve supported which will substantially reduce homelessness, are secured safe zones, more affordable rental units, the Housing First Program — a law I co-authored which passed to immediately house the chronically homeless, and the “Return-to-Home” program (Hawaii is the first state in the nation to pass this law), which has already saved millions of taxpayer dollars for New York city and San Francisco. We only have a finite amount of government funding for the homeless, therefore it is essential for the Legislature to be progressive and steadfast in addressing this issue.

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

GMOs and pesticides — I’ve always supported the consumer, therefore, I’m fine with truth in labeling. The consumer and public has a right to know what they are purchasing. The difficulty is how to do this without hurting our businesses who provide consumer products at fair prices; which may lead substantially higher costs to the consumer.

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?

We passed a bill this year to restore the percentage of the conveyance tax paid into the State Rental Housing Trust Fund from 30 percent back to 50 percent, without increasing taxes, which will add an additional $10.8 million per year for a total of $30 million per year for affordable housing. As of December 2013, 4,567 affordable rental units have been produced or are in development in 58 projects statewide.

For food we need to continue to seek self-sustainability with more tax credits for agricultural businesses and farms.

For transportation, we need to reply on more efficient modes of transportation, which rely on renewable clean energy.

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?

No. This would move our focus away from clean and green renewable energy. In answer to improving the electrical distribution system so more renewable energy can be utilized to bring down costs, it’s simply, the Public Utilities Commission and service providers of electricity must work to establish a smart grid to allow for more reliance on renewable energy, without hurting consumers with higher costs.

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?

No. So long as the costs for the government agencies is reasonable, I would be against this policy. My thoughts are that this may trigger substantial costs to the state, regarding employees time and material used for such a service.

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

No. The teachers are doing their best and we value education in Hawaii. However, we can run the Department of Education more efficiently. How? Simple, an audit of the Department of Education, which will probably cost several million dollars and take over a year to complete. However, I believe an audit will provide an objective and extreme insight into the educational system as a whole in Hawaii; review the practices of the teachers, the Board of Education, the Department of Education, the Legislature and governor and provide recommendations on being more efficient and following best practices.

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?

Simply. Enforce protection for certain areas of land, like the bill we just passed, HB2434 for the permanent conservation easement of 665 acres of pristine beaches and shoreline on the north shore to “Keep the Country Country.”

For new development, we can simply review Hawaiian Home Lands, federal, state and county property which is no longer in use or abandoned, and seek to negotiate a redeveloped plan with the owner to stimulate the economy in such an area.

10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?

We need to aggressively protect our military and seek to ensure its essential role in security and peace in the Pacific. Hawaii’s military is the second-largest economic driver in the state, just behind tourism. The late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye knew this and had always defended and grew our military bases and housing in Hawaii.