Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 9 primary, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Clayton Hee, one of five Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor. There are also three Republican candidates and one Independent.
Name: Clayton Hee
Office: Lieutenant governor
Profession: State senator
Education: High school, Kamehameha Schools; BA, PD, MA, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Community organizations: Trustee, St. Andrews Priory
1. Why are you running for lieutenant governor?
I am seeking the office of lieutenant governor because I believe the office is under-utilized.
I believe that the overwhelming majority of Hawaii people are not aware of what, if anything the office of lieutenant governor does. Many people have shared with me that they believe the office of the lieutenant governor is a “do nothing” office.
I will change that perception.
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?
I believe that the legislation passed thus far is working to reduce the unfunded liability for the State Retirement System. This includes changing many of the benefit and eligibility benchmarks so that the liability can be met over time without raising taxes.
The same no-nonsense approach must be taken with the State Health Fund (EUTF), which has a larger unfunded liability. A single payer plan must be legislatively considered as one of several proposals.
The lieutenant governor can be a “working facilitator” with the ERS and the EUTF with the Legislature.
3. Where do you stand on labeling of genetically engineered food and pesticide regulation? Are these public safety issues, or are the dangers exaggerated?
GMO labeling is an important tool to provide information to understand what we eat and what we feed our keiki. During the 2014 legislative session I voted in support of legislation on GMO labeling because I believe the consumer has a right to know what is in the product that he or she is purchasing.
The question of whether there is a health risk is really one for the scientific community to answer.
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?
Homelessness as an issue requires multi-faceted solutions ever changing to address an evolving society. Job creation and affordable housing are fundamental issues, but what is also required are opportunities to address homeless individuals’ physical and mental well being as well as access to education.
The office of the lieutenant governor can be a catalyst to address homelessness in Hawaii.
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?
More emphasis should be placed on providing affordable rentals and workforce development housing. Many residents are unable to afford the high cost of living in Hawaii and affordable rentals may be the most practical way of addressing this dilemma. Creating 50- to 100-million-dollar Kakaako penthouses does not address this local need.
6. Are you satisfied with the way Hawaii’s public school system is run? How can it be run better?
All school systems can be better. Physically, some older public schools have been neglected to the point of deterioration. Many classrooms are in need of better equipment and air conditioning, particularly on the west side of Oahu and neighbor islands.
As a former public school teacher I strongly believe more public funds should be directed to the schools and classrooms as opposed to the administration.
Teachers should be provided continual learning opportunities to improve the quality of education and an evaluation system should be established that is fair and functions as a guide to improve teachers’ classroom skills and delivery.
I believe students should spend more time in the classroom.
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?
The Sierra Club has endorsed my candidacy in part because I believe Hawaii must do all it can to rid itself of fossil fuel dependency. Exploring alternative energy locally should take precedence over importing other forms of energy. For example, solar energy has proven to be a large part of the solution to fossil fuel dependency to the point that HECO’s inability to accommodate solar energy use has hampered the full development of photovoltaic development for residences.
Other sources of energy should also be developed including geothermal and — as are successfully implemented in many places throughout the world — wave energy and wind energy.
I voted in support of a new law that mandates that all new homes include solar hot water heaters as a part of the construction of the home. It just makes good sense to mandate solar development as an alternative to fossil fuels.
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?
I believe that public records should be made available to the public. I also believe that costs associated with locating and vetting the records must be accounted for. Clerks, for example, have many duties in addition to locating records and time away from those responsibilities must be taken into account. Any imposition placed on the requestor must include a reasonable and defendable justification.
I also believe that right to privacy as enshrined in the U.S. and Hawaii Constitutions must be strictly adhered to.
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?
New developments must be well thought out and not built at the expense of the loss of prime ag lands as is being done at Hoopili and Koa Ridge. Water is a precious commodity that is limited. Developers must be held accountable to ensuring that sufficient water resources are produced through means other than depleting the existing fresh water inventory otherwise, at some point, Oahu (as well as neighbor islands) will run out of fresh water.
10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
It is unfortunate that the office of lieutenant governor has become an office that does very little. If I am elected I will exercise the passion and effort that I have harnessed as a legislator with a record of accomplishments made possible by working collaboratively with my colleagues to pass laws that include increasing the minimum wage, protecting animal welfare, promoting native Hawaiian rights and insuring equal rights for all citizens. Taxpayers have a right to expect something useful for the taxes they pay to support this office.