Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 4 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.

The following came from Max Fowler, Republican candidate  for state representative for District 27. Democrat Takashi Ohno, who did not respond to the questionnaire, is also running.

District 27 includes NuuanuLilihaPauoa and Alewa Heights.

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

Name: Max Fowler

Office: State representative, District 27

Party: Republican

Profession: Pastor

Education: Kaiser High School; B.A., Political Science, UH Manoa; Certificate in Pastoral Studies, Ridley Hall, Cambridge University, England; M.A., Religion, Hawaii Theological Seminary

Age: 37

Community organizations: Neighborhood Board; Kunawai Neighborhood Watch; part-time teacher, Lanakila Elementary; parent representative, School Community Council, Lanakila Elementary; mentor, Save America’s Youth At-Risk Youth Mentoring Program; founder, Victory Sports Camp; coordinator, Survive 2 Serve Community Disaster Preparedness Training; facilitator, Athletic Leadership Group, McKinley High School

Max Fowler, Candidate for Hawaii House District 27

Max Fowler

1. Why are you running for the Hawaii Legislature? 

As a fourth-generation resident of Hawaii, I have a deep love for our local culture and values. My wife and I, along with our three children, have lived in Liliha for the past decade. During this time, I have dedicated myself to serving the needs of my community and its residents. I have worked in my community’s schools, served on the neighborhood board, organized neighborhood watch patrols to make the community a safer, more family friendly place, and worked toward the revitalization of our community’s business district. I know the needs of my community and will be a voice for my constituents.

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?

As a state, we must keep the promises that have been made to our public workers. I take very seriously the billions of dollars of unfunded liabilities that we are facing. Act 268 is a good start, but we need to continue to find ways to effectively fund the retirement and health obligations in a sustainable and sensible manner.

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? 

Homelessness is a complex and multi-faceted challenge. There is no “one size fits all” solution. Thus, we need to consider various ways to address this serious issue that ultimately affects us all. I favor solutions that address the root issues, rather than simply trying to deal with homelessness at a symptomatic level. Thus, we should not only focus on affordable housing, but also increase access to mental health and substance abuse programs.

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

This is an important issue deserving of our attention. We are still learning more about the implications, particularly as they relate to GMOs. There definitely is a public safety component, though we also need to be careful not to unreasonably interfere with the ability of our local farmers to cultivate food for our island state.

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 people of Hawaii, especially our families and seniors, work hard to make ends meet. We have a duty to help them and to identify ways to make living in Hawaii more affordable. As an example, we should look for ways to lower the tax burden. By eliminating the GE tax on groceries and medical services, a family of four would save, on average, over $450 per year. I would work to pass legislation that would help keep money in the wallets of working families and seniors. Thirty-six states currently do not tax groceries, and 7 of the remaining states have lower taxes on groceries than Hawaii. We need to reduce the overall cost of living in Hawaii by reducing the ever-increasing taxes and fees on food, fuel and utilities that are burdening our citizens and making Hawaii a far too expensive place to live.

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? 

As an island state, we face energy challenges that are unique and different from those elsewhere. We should consider energy sources, such as liquefied natural gas, that are sustainable and cost-effective. Through technological advances and collaboration with our utilities, Hawaii should proactively and aggressively pursue integrating more renewable energy sources into our grid.

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 transparent government is a more trustworthy government. We must restore the integrity of our government. Moreover, our Founding Fathers understood that a democracy cannot be sustained without a well-informed populace. Thus, I support lowering or eliminating charges so that all people have access to public records.

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

My three children (fifth, third, and first grades) attend Lanakila Elementary. I attended public schools and graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I also served as a part-time teacher at Lanakila Elementary and am currently a parent representative on our School Community Council. My wife and I are strong believers in Hawaii’s public school system.

There are ways, however, that our public schools could be improved. Through my experience, I have heard from numerous principals and teachers that they are not pleased with the current  Educator Effectiveness System (EES) for teachers. We need an evaluation that is less costly, treats teachers fairly, and – most importantly – is effective. Schools also need more autonomy and the ability to make decisions that are best for their school’s students, parents, and faculty. There are too many top-down decisions, too many state and nationally mandated programs being pushed upon our community’s schools, and as a result, teacher motivation and staff morale is suffering. In addition, teachers are increasingly being burdened by numerous reports and forms that take hours to complete. We need to free up our teachers to allow them to focus on what they do best and what truly matters: teaching our keiki.

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? 

We live in a very special place. We need to carefully balance the need for affordable housing on the one hand with the importance of protecting our ‘aina that we have been blessed with on the other. As a legislator, I would listen attentively to all voices and then determine what is in the best interest of the community, our state, and our future.

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

Hawaii has the lowest voter registration and participation rates in the country. Dead last. We have to ask ourselves why this is the case. I believe it is because the people of Hawaii do not believe their vote makes a difference. Sadly, many have stopped believing that the democratic process and their elected officials work for them. A lack of oversight and accountability has led to “politics as usual” at the state capitol and the same politicians get elected year after year. I would like to see renewed efforts to educate the public about how the legislative process works ,what bills are being introduced, and the importance of their voice and vote, so our communities are fully educated and engaged in the democratic process.

John F. Kennedy said, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” With the right leadership in place, I believe Hawaii’s best days are ahead of us!