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Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 9 primary, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Lorraine Inouye, one of two Democratic candidates for state senator for District 4. The other is Malama Solomon. One Libertarian, Alain Schiller, is also running.
District 4 covers the northern portion of the Big Island .
Name: Lorraine Rodero Inouye
Office: Hawaii State Senate District 4
Education: Certificate, Management and Supervision — Hawaii Employers Counci; certificate, Dale Carnegie Course; Hilo High School
Community organizations: Member, Rotary Club of Hilo; Paul Harris fellow, member, Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii— East Hawaii; member, United Nations Hawaii Island Chapter; member, Big Island Filipino Council; member, Pepeekeo Filipino Community Association; member, Waimea Outdoor Circle; member, Hawaii County Democratic Party; lifetime member, Girl Scouts of America
1. Why are you running for the Hawaii Legislature?
I have served in the Senate, representing District 1, from 1998-2008. I also served as chair of the following committees for two years each: Economic Development; Water-Land, Energy and Environment; Water-Land and Agriculture; Transportation and Government Operations; Intergovernmental and Military Affairs;
I have been encouraged by the constituents to consider running in the new District 4. I believe I can better serve the community as a whole with my experiences in government as a former mayor and County Council member. This is one that I represented in the first two years of my term before the reapportionment of 2000.
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 the public workers?
I’m happy that some payments are being made and my hope is to see that it continues with annual contributions to the fund.
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?
I believe it is a county and state responsibility. I would suggest a public/private partnership to build temporary housing as shelters and mandate enrollment into programs offered by non-profit agencies for health benefits, some educational assistance and job training programs to help them return to society, etc.
4. Where do you stand on labeling genetically engineered food and pesticide regulation? Are these public safety issues, or are the dangers exaggerated?
I can support labeling as the consumers have the right to choose their purchases. There already exists regulation on the federal and state level for farmers. On the state level inspections and assistance to the farming community has eased due to the cutback of funding four years ago according to the DOA director. The department lost about 40 percent of its funding. I’d work to examine the situation and increase the loss. It is unacceptable as the health and welfare of our citizens is a concern. I am open to study this issue and work with everyone to address deep concerns raised by the public.
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?
This question is not new. It comes up all the time. It is one of my goals to revisit the issue of taxes. The excise tax presently in place is a regressive one as we are all aware. How will it compare with a sales tax system used in many states? And we should round table these discussions with information of its impacts, by appointing professionals to submit a report to the legislature and open discussions with the public. Its time has come. In addition, the next step is to look at all the fees that are presently charged in any areas that affects consumers. There are too many. The permitting system by the counties and state is structured such that it hampers development of housing and businesses in general. Years ago doing away with the Land Use Commission and the system were discussed. Perhaps its another area for future discussions.
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 believe were heading in the wrong path using LNG. First, we don’t have the infrastructure to hold and distribute it if its mandated for the neighbor islands as well. Second, we the state, by actions of the Legislature in the early years of Legislature, created the Energy Plan and Portfolio for the future by creating the Renewable Energy Portfolio and the Net Energy Metering Standards. Extension of the tax credit must continue to encourage investments of the renewables for all developments and renovations.
7. Hawaii’s public records lay 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. Wold you support the eliminating search and redaction charges and making records free to the public except for basic copy costs?
Absolutely. We’ve done it in the past.
8. Are you satisfied with the way Hawaii’s public school system is run? How can it be run better?
To a certain point. More monies/funding should go to school level. It think we are too top heavy in the administration level which is a lot of money. As I travel and visit campuses in the district, it’s so sad to see school’s maintenance programs delayed because of the lack of funding. Bad toilet facilities, leaking roofs continue on for years, athletic items like bad scoreboards left unrepaired — it goes on and on. I’d like part of the system to go back to how it was. Schools manage the programs, address maintenance needs, etc. Too much money is going to administration when it should be distributed to the schools. That is also true to HSSC but that’s another issue.
9. There is a desire to grow the economy through new development yet also a need to protect our limited environmental resources. How wold you balance these competing interests?
In my capacity as a former planning commissioner and commission chair back in the ’70s and a member of Gov. George Ariyoshi’s Hawaii State Plan Council in the ’80s, i was attuned to many complex issues such as how we look at developments and impacts. Development will continue throughout our state and many were mandated by the counties and the state to be partners in protecting the environment within the confines of a development or nearby by financial assistance or managed the system. But each county has its own development plans that direct the growth and protect the finite resources. But I believe not many of the counties are current in their plans. And as a former chair of the Environmental Committee, I would like to revisit our present laws for their effectiveness at this period in time.
10. What other important issues would you like to discuss here?
As a former mayor, I am delighted that the Ethics Commission is more active in implementing actions of oversight in the Legislature and should do so at the county level as well. Even though each county has similar commissions, they seem lacking in power. In a Hawaii’s case recently, it was interesting to hear the ethics commission’s answer to a particular case was just that, “we don’t have the power and it’s not our jurisdiction.” At this point I say perhaps the Legislature should address the review the law and take some action.