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Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 4 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Anthony Higa, Libertarian candidate for state House of Representatives District 19. Democrat Bert Kobayashi, who did not respond to the questionnaire, and Republican Victoria Mathieu are also running.
District 19 includes Waiʻalae-Kāhala, Diamond Head, Kaimuki and Kapahulu.
Name: Anthony Higa
Office: State House of Representatives District 19
Profession: Registered nurse at Hawaii State Hospital
Education: Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Hawaii Pacific University.
1. Why are you running for the Hawaii Legislature?
Since a young age I’ve always followed politics and believe in being active. Over time I’ve seen problems and wanted to be part of the solution. America went to war on false pretenses in Iraq, the cost of living in Hawaii increases while the value of our dollar goes down, civil rights are eroded through metadata in a surveillance society that ignores the rule of law in a Constitutional Republic, the news headlines people committing violent acts only to blame their diagnosis, and voter turnout in Hawaii continues to be low.
When Bush appeared on TV stating he will send troops to Iraq, I believe it was 2003, I was attending KCC at that time and saw the speech in the library. Everyone was quieter than usual, the mood felt very sullen and gloomy. I was of draft age. That left a profound impact on me and I realized there are life events out of my control but I still wanted to make an impact towards principles I believe in. So when Ehren Watada protested his deployment due to propaganda of WMDs they didn’t find and the lack of connection between Iraq and 9/11, I was glad to see someone to stand up against the military industrial complex. The fact he is from Hawaii made me more inspired to be active.
The phrase, “Price of Paradise” is thrown around in Hawaii reflecting how the cost of many products and housing are more expensive than the mainland, but it doesn’t need to be that way. The Jones Act makes shipping goods to Hawaii more expensive than it needs to be. Housing is incredibly expensive as well, I think the median sale price for a single-family home is about $700,000, and the problem is not a shortage of land but a shortage of zoned land for residential use. It is very difficult or next to impossible to live in Hawaii and work only one full-time job on minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage is only symptom management and always fails to catch up the actual cost of living. The solution is a debt-free government backed currency with a controlled quantity to thwart excessive inflation and deflation. Our current monetary policy is to borrow dollars from the Federal Reserve, a private bank, at interest, causing a national debt that can never be paid off in our current system. Debt is the biggest risk to our nation and sound money is the solution.
Privacy is one of our unalienable rights and fundamental for us to develop as individuals and protects us from oppression. That is why NSA spying on American citizens without a warrant, without probable cause, is so dangerous because it inhibits freedom while moving towards a tyrannical government. If the objective is to look for a needle in a haystack, you shouldn’t add more hay to the haystack, but that’s what bulk collection of metadata is doing. It’s counterproductive.
Whistle-blower Edward Snowden, and I will defend that title he deserves and will say it’s inaccurate to demonize him as a traitor, saw a system of abuse that was less about fighting terrorism and more about spying on innocent people, an administration using the Espionage Act more than all previous administrations combined attack whistle-blowers, and gave up a comfortable life to expose all the wrongdoing. Because of Snowden’s sacrifice we are now having a great discussion advocating privacy of individuals and standing up against abuse. We need to foster an environment of speaking up against wrongdoing, especially in Hawaii with a culture of not wanting to make waves, and I hope to inspire that as a legislator.
Locally and nationally we hear about violent crimes committed by people diagnosed with mental illness. The mass killing by Elliot Roger in California and the stabbing murder by a 16-year-old boy in Hawaii. Currently I work as a registered nurse at Hawaii State Hospital which is a psych/forensic facility and I feel my background and experience gives me better insight into these tragic events. Mental illness is meant to explain behavior, not excuse it. Individuals are responsible for their actions. We need to change laws allowing us to better treat people with mental illness who pose a danger to themselves or others as there is almost always signs of that risk.
Low voter turnout has been consistent in Hawaii, even now as I run for office people discourage me to run. However, the above mentioned problems will not get better by ignoring it, that is why I want to change the culture so people take action. By giving people a third party option, it lets them know it is possible to make a positive impact against impossible odds, Watada and Snowden are examples of that.
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, we don’t have a plan to pay for $27 billion dollars of unfunded liabilities. First, do a FOIA request on all pension and overtime worked in the state. Second, create a tier system for new employees with a private plan, like a 401K. Third we can cut taxes by cutting unnecessary spending by the government so people can keep more of their paycheck to invest in their pension.
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?
Legalizing mobile homes is a reliable and affordable solution, especially for the working homeless. For the mentally ill homeless they need treatment and housing but that does cost money. Treatment Advocacy Center released a report titled, “No Room at the Inn: Trends and Consequences of Closing Public Psychiatric Hospitals.” It talked about the negative effects of “deinstitutionalization,” one of them being an increase in homeless population with mental illness including an increase in violence.
4. Where do you stand on labeling genetically engineered food and pesticide regulation? Are these public safety issues, or are the dangers exaggerated?
I do not believe in mandatory labeling of GMOs but people do have a right to know what is in their food. However, GMOs seem impossible to completely control since seeds can cross pollinate in the wild. I’ve not seen as much controversy over pesticides as GMOs so for now, I have no opinion on labeling of pesticides until I see a more specific question. The dangers of GMOs appear to be exaggerated but to put things in perspective, we cannot live life without risks.
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?
The above answers for question No. 1 can address for the high cost of housing and food. Also, lowering taxes is a plus for reducing the cost of living, even transportation. In order to cut taxes we must cut spending and my previous answer to No. 2 and unfunded liabilities can help lower government spending. Deregulation and lower taxes attracts more businesses to thrive by offering lower prices to consumers. This can apply to the airline industry, the shipping industry, bus routes, etc.
6. Would you support using liquefied 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?
Liquid natural gas, solar, wind…the main idea to lower energy costs is letting consumers have a choice because the free market will gravitate towards the most cost effective energy source.
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?
Nothing is free, the money must come from somewhere. But to answer the question, there must be a way to make public records available to everyone at the lowest cost to the public. With computers and the internet, I don’t know why it’s so expensive but it doesn’t have to be this way.
8. Are you satisfied with the way Hawaii’s public school system is run? How can it be run better?
No. We need to promote more public charter schools and have a voucher system so parents have more options on where to send there school instead of being restricted to a certain neighborhood. In addition, private school tuition should be a tax write off.
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?
Private property rights are the best way for protecting land and economic development. It can be for nature conservancy, residential zoning, or business development. People are more likely to better care for and protect land when they have ownership.
10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
Ending the war on drugs will decrease our already overcrowded prison population. Creating an environment that defends whistle blowers will create better transparency in government.