Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 9 primary, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Ikaika Anderson, one of seven Democratic candidates for U.S. representative for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District.
The district is essentially urban Honolulu, but it stretches from Hawaii Kai in East Honolulu to Waipahu in west Oahu and Mililani in central Oahu. The district includes Pearl City, Waimalu, Aiea and the downtown area.
Name: Ikaika Anderson
Office: Congressional District 1
Profession: Vice chair, Honolulu City Council; vice president, Hali‘ipua Flowers; Realtor Asssociate, PY Inc.
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, University of Hawaii at Manoa; The Kamehameha Schools
Community Organizations: Kamehameha Schools alumni association; University of Hawaii alumni association; Waimanalo Health Center Board of Directors; Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs
1. Why are you running for the U.S. House of Representatives?
I offer my service to the people of Hawaii because we deserve a representative of the working class who can fight hard for the 99 percent. As a husband and father of four children, I know how hard it is to provide for the basics of a family budget such as rent/mortgage, food, gas, and still try to scrape enough to do a bit extra for your children so that they can be happy. As the vice chair of the Honolulu City Council, I have a record of making tough decisions and the experience of serving a diverse constituency. You can count on me to appropriate your tax dollars wisely, hold government accountable, and to keep in constant touch with you as to what’s going on in our nation’s capital. Finally, I have a willingness to work with others to find common ground, take action and get results. As part of Hawaii’s team in Washington, D.C, I will make it a priority to ensure that all of our delegates are working closely together so that we can be the most effective team for people at home who we represent.
2. Do you believe climate change is real? If so, what can the United States do to control carbon emissions?
There is no question that climate change is real, is happening now, and will continue to affect our lives both in the near term and long term. While the United States has and will likely continue to undertake efforts to reduce regional carbon emissions, if we do not work with all other nations towards a common objective then regional efforts are likely to be undercut by emission outputs in less-restrictive regions.
I believe that the United States, along with the other nations, must work to accelerate efforts to establish common emission reduction targets and implement legal solutions to encourage compliance with established targets and appropriate sanctions to penalize violators.
However, I also believe that climate change is a multi-faceted issue and simply focusing on carbon emissions is not enough. One thing that the United States can and should be doing is targeting more funding for research to help identify other contributors to climate change as well as advancing renewable energy technology so that we can use cleaner sources to power our nation.
3. Where do you draw the line between the government’s national security needs and the privacy of its citizens?
I believe that all citizens of the United States have a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy. I do not believe that these rights should be reduced or trumped because the vehicles that we use to communicate and exchange ideas have changed. It is unfortunate that Congress has failed to act in a timely manner regarding this issue, the law has not evolved as fast as the technology.
If someone is sending a private message over their computer they are expecting that the message will be private, just as one would expect a private letter sent via the postal service.
4. Under what circumstances should America go to war?
America should only consider war when our country faces a direct threat from a clear and identifiable adversary or to prevent human suffering, genocide and violations of human rights. A decision to go to war should have the support of Congress as they represent the American people directly. Deciding whether or not to go to war is often a balancing act between the reasons for avoiding war and the reasons for going to war.
5. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — how should the government continue to support these entitlements? Are reforms necessary?
I support re-examining the benefits formula to see if changing it would allow for an increase in benefits. The Social Security wage cap should also be removed, or at least raised from the current $113,000, so that the highest income-earning Americans pay their fair share into the system while helping to maintain its solvency. Under no circumstance should we make cuts to Social Security or Medicare.
6. Congress has struggled in recent years to reach agreement on budget deficits, the national debt and spending in general. What would be your approach to fiscal matters?
When we talk about the federal budget we often hear the concern with our nation’s debt. Deficit spending is a scary term but mostly because it is misunderstood. You often hear people drawing parallels between a household budget and the federal budget; arguing that we should have “balanced budget.” But these analogies neglect the fact that in order to grow an economy you need to borrow. How many businesses start out debt-free? Very few. We should remain cognizant of our future obligations and liabilities and do our best to minimize these, but it is unreasonable to believe that our economy can grow without some level of borrowing.
Where we spend these borrowed dollars should really be the issue. I believe that we should have a balanced budget in the sense that our spending priorities should be balanced. Borrowing money to spend on foreign conflicts are not necessarily a positive investment. Borrowing money to spend on education, infrastructure repair and improvement or scientific research are positive investments that help the economy to grow.
We need to prioritize our spending to focus on programs and efforts that will directly help our people and our economy.
7. It has been difficult to bridge the partisan divide in Washington lately. How would you make a difference?
I am able to work with anyone and everyone, as I have demonstrated as the vice chair of the Honolulu City Council, to move the ball forward by taking action and getting results to tackle tough issues. I am not so aloof as to believe that politics in D.C. does not require a degree of artful negotiation, but I would certainly take every opportunity to ensure that the interests of our people are served to the extent possible.
8. What is your policy on immigration?
What we really must focus on is immigration reform; after all we are a country of immigrants and no one knows the benefit of a melting pot better than we do in Hawaii.
I support a clear path to citizenship for undocumented residents by providing them with a legal way to earn citizenship so they can come out of the shadows. That said, I think it is reasonable to require them to pass background checks, pay taxes like everyone else and make every effort to learn English.
As part of reform, immigrants who come here legally to get educated should be fast-tracked for citizenship so that America can keep the talent we have educated and trained here, and not export that talent to other countries.
9. What is your view of the role of the U.S. military in the islands?
Military presence in Hawaii is vital to both national interests and local interests.
We also have to recognize the tremendous economic value that the military, and the 11 military bases in our state, brings to Hawaii. Both in terms of direct economic investment and legacy value. Take, for example, the H-3 project. Had it not been for the presence of the Kaneohe Marine Base and Pearl Harbor, the H-3 would likely never have been built. When Hurricane Iniki devastated Kauai it was through cooperation with the military that many services were able to be so quickly restored. These are things that we need to consider when thinking about the military.
I do believe that there is a lot of room for improvement, between the military interests and the interests of our citizenry. I would like to see greater cooperation and consideration from the military when it comes to their use of our state’s resources. I do not believe that the interests and needs of the military and our state, as a whole, are mutually exclusive. In recent years it has been my experience that the military has recognized this and thus has been working more as a partner with the state and its people, and I would work to encourage a greater shared use of resources instead of drawing divisive lines in the sand for exclusive use.
10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
As the only Native Hawaiian in the race I must address my position on the latest exchange between the community and the U.S. Department of the Interior. I watched much of the testimony across the state and also attended the first meeting on Oahu. There is much hurt and a lot of emotion, which I understand, but shouting and telling folks to “go home” is not our way. We need and deserve a member of Congress who can bridge the relationship between Native Hawaiians and the federal government. I don’t subscribe to the belief that the federal government of the United States is an enemy; rather, I see it as a partner who has finally come to the table to talk story, even if it did take more than 100 years to acknowledge that the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown illegally. What Hawaii needs is someone who can bring together a community that has been fragmented, while at the same time help the federal government to understand that Native Hawaiians have a unique history that requires a unique solution. We must keep the feds engaged in this discussion because it is critical to the protections of Hawaiian programs of health, education, housing and others. I am willing to be that servant leader, as Sen. Dan Akaka was, who brings people together so that we can continue to have productive discussions with the federal government and move toward a resolve of which our children and their children can be proud.