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

The following came from Dennis Kim, a Republican candidate for state senator for District18. Democrat Michelle Kidani and Libertarian Raymond Banda are also running. 

District 18 covers Mililani Town, Waipio Gentry, Waikele, Village Park and Royal Kunia.

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

Name: Dennis C.H. Kim

Office seeking: State Senate, 18th District

Party: Republican

Profession: Chartered financial consultant

Education: Wahiawa Elementary, Wahiawa; Kamehameha School, Honolulu; B.S. Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois; MBA, University of Hawaii, Honolulu; Certificate, East West Center; Honolulu; U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania

Age: 67

Community organizations: Hawaii Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors; American Legion, Post 56; Society of Financial Services Professionals; Advisory Board, LDS Social Services; JustServe, state administrator; Military Officers Association of America; Mililani 2nd Ward,Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling

Dennis Kim

Dennis Kim

1. Why are you running for the Hawaii Legislature? 

A:  I am running because I want to bring common sense back into our government.  Many legislators appear to no longer believe that they were elected to represent their constituents. Instead, they feel that they can do whatever they want once they are elected and force their personal will upon those they are supposed to be representing, regardless of the economic and social costs to the community.  I would like to ensure that government represents the people rather than run roughshod over them.

We need a real two-party system to have the proper checks and balances in the Legislature. The people are being hit with new or hidden regressive taxes in order to fund pet projects of particular legislators or the special interest groups behind them. The Constitution of both our state and federal governments and the individual liberties they protect are being deliberately ignored or violated by legislators with hidden agendas. Small businesses are being saddled with regulations which add to their expense burdens. The government and its bureaucracy are intruding into the personal lives of individuals and families on an unprecedented scale.

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? 

A:  Our state is suffering the same problems as other cities and states across the nation. Unfunded liabilities are one of the biggest burdens, which in some cases, could lead to bankruptcy. Fiscal responsibility and accountability is necessary to tackle this problem.

I haven’t had an opportunity to thoroughly examine the state’s plan to address this issue, but I believe that fiscal accountability such as tight budget constraints, elimination of wasteful spending, particularly at the lowest level possible, using realistic projections, and solid financial leadership in the legislature can solve part of this problem.  

Then we should look at our investments and see if we are getting the returns that were projected in the trust fund. There has to be a balance between risk and returns, so the investment committee has to anticipate market trends in the various investment vehicles being used. 

Finally, we have to grow our economy, and not just in the service industries associated with the tourism industry. Solid growth leads to more spending and therefore, more taxes. This will give more funds to put into the trust fund. Giving support to small businesses by reducing regulations and taxes allows them to expand their businesses, hire more workers, and stimulate more growth (and taxes) in our economy. I am not talking about more new taxes, but increase in taxes which come from a greater volume of spending by individuals and the private sector. It does no one any good to continue with a system that makes unrealistic promises that will unfairly burden future generations with having to pay for those that benefitted before them. In financial contexts, this would be similar to a Ponzi scheme.

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? 

Too often we stereotype our homeless citizens. We need to get away from the typical stereotype and classify homeless citizens into various realistic categories and treat them accordingly with solutions designed to address their particular concerns. I believe that we need to treat everyone with respect and dignity no matter what their state in life.

Unfortunately, Hawaii’s moderate climate and generous entitlements programs make the problem especially intractable. Much of the solution necessarily is a county by county and community by community issue that can only be assisted in part through statewide legislation. Still, successful solutions have been implemented between government and non-governmental agencies in other jurisdictions. This problem has to be worked out by our whole community and can include:

• Temporary housing and permanent low-rental housing that are safe and sanitary.

• Job training and basic skill development.

• Economic incentives that make it less attractive to remain homeless.

• Mental health counseling.

• PTSD counseling through the VA or military channels.

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

I am in favor of scientific advances that can increase crop yields and decrease the reliance on chemical pesticides if they can be implemented in a manner that can be demonstrated to be safe to consumers.  While I understand that there is much controversy surrounding the use of genetically engineered food and pesticides, I believe that there is much empirical data at this point that need to be examined from other areas of the country and the world. Of course, I am deeply concerned with the health and safety of everyone, but I am also concerned about the affordability of basic commodities for the average household 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? 

To lower the impact of our high cost of living, we could do several things:

• Attract businesses in sectors with pay scales that are significantly higher than the service jobs that are associated with the tourism industry that we currently rely on.

• Get a Jones Act exemption so there will be more transportation competition.

• Close down the State Health Connector and return to the original Pre-paid Health Care Act. Put in tort reform.

• Build smaller living units and require true low-income costs. (TODs would be a good way to start, except they all seem to be high priced.)

• Encourage more agricultural research and development.

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? 

Yes I support the use of LNG in Hawaii if it will be cheaper and equally reliable in generating the needed power of Hawaii’s residents.

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? 

A:  This is a little premature. The PIO is still working on the final rules. However, there is an old law which states that requests for information should be given “at no cost.” So whichever way local agencies want to move, the issue should be taken up with the Legislature.

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

A:  I am not satisfied with the way the DOE is running Hawaii’s public school system. It is top-heavy and drains funds that could go toward helping our children learn. It takes the best teachers out of the classrooms where they are needed the most. The highest-paid DOE employees should be the teachers in the classroom rather than the administrators who are constantly developing new programs and initiatives that stifle the ability of the teachers to teach and the students to learn. While recent initiatives have placed greater accountability on the teachers and principals, it seems that what was really lacking was accountability on those with the greatest interest in the learning taking place in the classrooms, i.e., the students and their families. I recognize that there needs to be a way to weed out ineffective and bad teachers, but the teachers seem to need more support in dealing with disruptive classroom behaviors.

Having the governor appoint the BOE was also a mistake and seems to have led to more top-down governance in the schools with less responsiveness to the principals, teachers, students, and parents.  I believe that there needs to be more autonomy given to the schools at the local level, with increased representation by parents of students at the school. The educational needs of a small school in the country are not the same as a large school in the middle of Honolulu or in the suburbs.

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? 

The balance to these competing needs lies in the ability of all parties to have the best interests of our community at heart. There has to be give and take. Hard decisions have to be made. I think the key would be to keep the development footprint as small as possible so as to give the green space more breathing room.

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

A:  The course of government at all levels has historically been to grow larger and larger. This is true of the state government here in Hawaii, much to the detriment of the average worker and family. There are certain functions that by necessity need to be taken care of by the government, such as ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens. However the government should not be in competition with the private sector nor should it be encroaching on the liberties and freedoms of individuals, as protected by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

For example, I am concerned with the erosion of religious liberties recently because of government action. Many people talk about the separation of church and state as if anything religious cannot be mentioned in a government building, program, organization, or even our currency. That is not correct. It was to prevent one church or denomination from becoming the “National Church.” Many sects and denominations were persecuted because they did not belong to the “National Church” in the various countries of Europe. Those people found a safe haven in the Americas which later became our United States of America.