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

The following came from Fred Fogel, Libertarian candidate for state representative for District 3. Democrat Richard Onishi is also running.

District 3 covers HiloKeaauKurtistown and Puna on the Big Island.

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

Name: Fred Fogel

Office: State House, District 3

Party: Libertarian

Profession: Engineer, retired. Last job: Advisor to the head, State Department of Defense in the areas of strategic planning, process improvement and quality.

Age: 64

Community Organizations: HOIE Community Association, board member; O Ka`u Kakou, volunteer; Volcano Coquistadores, volunteer; Volcano Community Association;

 

 Fred Fogel

Fred Fogel

1. Why are you running for the Hawaii Legislature?

Incumbent politicians need challengers. Voters need a choice at the polls — someone without political career ambition. Someone  who is willing to make the necessary, systemic governmental changes to better serve the people. Government is like a pyramid with the small federal oversight at the top, larger state government below, county governments beneath that, and the people as the broad foundation. Today that pyramid is upside down, with an overreaching federal government at the top and correspondingly less power until you reach the people at the tip. We must right this pyramid before it collapses. To continue the analogy, the trees of freedom planted by our forefathers are losing their leaves. The fruit from these trees must be replanted in the still fertile ground before the trees whither and die. Hopefully through careful attention and nurturing over the decades to come, the fruit from these trees will once again feed the hopes and dreams of all who desire to improve their lives.

2. Are you satisfied with the current plans to pay for the sate’s unfunded liabilities? If no, how would you propose to meet pension and health obligations for public workers?

For those unfamiliar, Act 268 mandates payments to the Hawaii Employer Union Health Benefits Trust Fund are spread out over 30 years until the fund is fully solvent. At the state level, annual contributions will reach $500 million, in effect taking away money from other programs. Of course this all depends on the politicians not reneging and taking from Peter to fund Paul, as they are so fond of doing. The Hawaii Employees’ Retirement System is not as underfunded, but both systems will collapse under their own weight if significant fiscal support s not provided.

The good news is something is being done to correct unfunded public liabilities of health care and pensions. The bad news is politicians will probably divert these funds for pet projects sometime in the future. Bottom lone, action should be taken to reduce unfunded liabilities. In addition systemic changes should be made to future public employee health and pension systems to put more responsibility on the public employee. I might also add that if government was half the size it presently is, the resulting liabilities would also be half as much.

3. Local officials and advocates have worked to address homelessness for years, yet the crisis is working. What proposals do you have this complicated issues?

  • Provide adequate temporary shelters in areas desired by the homeless.
  • Provide mental health assistance to the homeless when needed.
  • Make it easier for a homeless person to “buy into” a place and thereby have a vested interest in the upkeep and maintenance of their housing and the ability to eventually own it outright.
  • If Hawaii is not their home, provide transportation to their home of record or destination of their choice.

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

An easy and effective start would be labeling all produce to give people an informed choice at the point of purchase. Growers know if their produce is GMO. However, requiring the manufacturers of processed foods to label GMO foods should happen at the federal level. (Unfortunately, given today’s political climate and the relatively long time it took years ago to standardize the present food info labels, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.) If the state requires such labeling, we might find ourselves with a reduced selection of processed foods. Of course “every cloud has a sliver lining,” and the unavailability of processed foods might steer people towards more “real food,” in turn supporting local agriculture. Eventually, all food products should be labeled for GMO, thereby giving the consumer a complete choice at the point of purchase.

As far as the “public safety issue,” present laws regarding GMO and the use of pesticides are adequate. However, I believe the counties should have more say than the state or the federal government on all issues, not just pesticides and GMO. The present philosophy of federal law “trumping” state law and state law trumping county law is exactly opposite of what our founding fathers envisioned. If the people (and associated government) in a specific county want to regulate, ban or legalize something, they should be able to trump higher-level governments. Of course this philosophy would apply to everything and include things like education, health care, transportation, alternative energy, gambling, prostitution and cannabis. If people have “home rules” in the areas of pesticides and GMO, they should have home rule for everything!

 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?

In a free enterprise system it’s not the responsibility of government to make things like housing, food and transportation less expensive (usually through subsidies which penalize and reward others). Rather it is the responsibility of government to enact legislation that will facilitate the purchase of housing, food and the like. Improve the business climate and you will give those people with the drive and desire a better opportunity to succeed in all facets of life. Specific things the government can do are:

  • Eliminate the sales tax on food and medicine.
  • Implement a flat business tax — get the partisan politics out of it.
  • Implement a flat income tax — everything earned up to the poverty level is tax-free, a flat tax thereafter, no deductions.
  • Eliminate tax on tips and inheritance.
  • Embrace alternative energy and thereby reduce the cost of electricity to both business and their private customer.
  • Make building codes optional for private owner-occupants, who through personal choice would accept the resulting impacts relating to insurance, loans, liability and resale value.

6. Would you support using liquified natural gas as part of the state’s energy source? And how can we improve the electrical distribution system so more renewable energy can be utilized to ring costs down?

I support using anything that will lower the cost of energy to the consumer. The issue is more complex than simply improving the electrical distribution system. Basically, the electric companies that are closely regulated by the state (Oahu, Maui and the Big Island — Kauai a little different) don’t want to make the investments necessary to support alternate energy sources (which come in many forms). There is really no reason the Big Island can’t lead the world in alternative energy generation. We have ample supplies of all forms — geothermal, wind, wave, biomass and solar — the conversion to which probably shouldn’t be as expensive as it’s made out to be. Connecting the islands with an underwater electrical distribution system would not only provide energy security through redundancy, it would also enable outlying islands to be part of the state’s energy self-sufficiency solution and financially benefit from the generation of excess energy. It’s time for the politicians and government officials to stop playing politics — in effect abetting the electric companies’ inaction.

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 copy costs?

If Hawaii’s public records were really public (in other words digital and posted in a searchable database) records would be immediately available to the majority of people in our connected society. Therefore, the costs of records search and copying would be a moot point to most people. Government should ensure public records are indeed accessible by the public. However, if a person requires the support of a public worker the cost should relate to materials only, as associated personnel costs are already effectively paid by the public though taxes levied.

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

No. Despite our investment in education, the performance of students in Hawaii’s public schools remain near the bottom nationally. Some things we could do to improve the effectiveness of Hawaii’s schools are:

  • Pay the good teachers more. Help underperforming ones find a different profession.
  • Implement a “360-degree” teacher evaluation system that embraces feedback from their bosses, cohorts, parents and students.
  • Implement a common student evaluation system and publish the results.
  • Establish different educational pipelines for college, trades and special needs. Provide more trade training.
  • Issue school vouchers and allow parents to send kids to schools outside their district if space available. Hawaii spends a little over $10,000 on each student. This money should go to the student, no matter what school they choose — public, private or charter.
  • Empower principals to spend their voucher money any way they see fit. Let the principals establish priorities depending on their specific needs.
  • Dissolve the state school board (Hawaii is the only state with a state-wide school board) and create county boards compromised of principals (public and private).

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 only thing that should matter to the government about property development is compliance with existing laws and zoning codes — no political “deals” of any sort. Proposed developments on existing land actually used for agriculture should be intensely scrutinized, with continued use for agriculture purposes highly preferable. (Housing development  on conservation of land should not be allowed — period.) The need of the people of the Hawaiian ancestry should be addressed by the new Hawaiian Kingdom.

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

My primary goal in representing the people is to implement fundamental changes to they way government operates — the result being government that serves the people better at the lower cost of the taxpayer. In simple terms the people will get more bang for their buck. This can be done by creating an environment where the people have more freedom to pursue their dreams and enjoy the benefits of their efforts. The resulting growth in the economy and business environment will support generations to come through better job opportunities. This can only be achieved with a coalition of like-minded politicians working together. It will not be easy, given the pressures of special interests (internal and external) and procedural rules allowing committee chairs to table proposals without hearing, gut bills to change original intent or insert items that do not pertain to the purpose of the bill. however, persistence will prevail. Eventually lawmakers will come around to doing the right thing.