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Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 primary election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Makani Christensen, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate. There are 11 other candidates, including Christensen’s Democratic primary opponents, Miles Shiratori, Brian Schatz, Tutz Honeychurch and Arturo Reyes.
Name: Makani Christensen
Office seeking: U.S. Senate
Occupation: Founder of Keawe Adventures, specializing in environmental/educational/historical tourism and stewardship.
Community organizations/prior offices held: Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association; chairman, Aha Moku Council for Oahu; founder, Hunting, Farming and Fishing Association; lead coordinator, Find Our Marines Community Search Party (recruited and organized approximately 300 local searchers in the aftermath of helicopter collision off North Shore)
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 36
Place of residence: Honolulu
Campaign website: http://www.makanichristensen.com/
1. This year has seen an outsized influence from people who want big changes in how government is run. What would you do to change how the U.S. House or Senate is run?
As senator, I would reach out to my fellow Democratic and Republican senators to establish the personal relations required to make the Senate a more civil and functional body, as well as increase the influence of Hawaii’s small delegation. Work with the Democratic leadership to require Senate confirmation hearings on the Supreme Court nominee and all the backlog of federal judicial nominees.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizen’s initiative process. Do you support such a process?
The initiative process has generally been used as a last resort when citizens believe that they’re unrepresented by their elected officials.
It is used only as a last resort because there is a risk of well-funded special interests having undue influence upon our government. It should also be noted that certain critical issues need to be decided by experts, and not be relegated to the realm of public opinion.
So, no, I do not support initiative at this time. We need only to look at the disastrous experience of Brexit and Bregret to understand the problems with initiative processes at this time.
3. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
There is something about putting your life on the line to preserve the freedom of our society, our people, our country, that makes one think about helping that society to be the best that it can be for all of us.
Roughly 60 years ago, our World War II veterans came back demanding a more inclusive society, one where all could share in rising prosperity and education. Today, the progress of the 1954 Democratic political revolution in Hawaii is slipping away from us. We must rededicate ourselves to our Democratic goals of shared prosperity, a clean and sustainable environment, access to our oceans, beaches, and wilderness areas, a good affordable education, social justice including for our Filipino veterans of World War II who are still waiting for the citizenship promised them for fighting with the U.S. forces, and the ability to produce our own food.
I believe we need to move forward together as a people, with no one left behind, and certainly not our Kupuna who increasingly find themselves in poverty in what should be their golden years. In addition, 70 percent of the voters in Hawaii voted for income equality and the free education platform. Therefore, I believe there needs to be a revisiting of values by Hawaii’s Democratic Party and Hawaii as a whole. This party can continue its leadership by adjusting to the current changing wants and celebrating the differences and diversity of Hawaii.
4. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
We should use the technology that is already at our hands. Technology already provides so many channels to directly reach voters and for voters to directly reach elected officials. What we do in D.C. needs to be communicated thoroughly with Hawaii, and what is happening in Hawaii needs to be thoroughly communicated with D.C. Maintaining relationships within these networks is the most important thing — loss of trust and value in relationships is what causes this disengagement and disappointment.
5. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing the state? What will you do about it?
The high cost of living is the cause of major problems such as homelessness and traffic (as people are having to move farther and farther away from their jobs in order to find affordable housing). The high cost of living and its complicated offspring of traffic is what lead to the rail initiation and now, the taxation increases on Hawaii are only adding to the high costs.
I believe we can help offset the high costs of living by developing more creative ways for Hawaii to make money. If we invest into the entrepreneurial outlets, we can increase job opportunities, helping more to make a living in Hawaii. We need to propose funding for increasing our business opportunities.
I also believe a crucial part in addressing these high costs of living is in educating our keiki in how to overcome these challenges. The majority of our state is raised in the public school system; by improving the circumstances of our schools, we can better prepare our future adults to manage, improve and adapt to the financial realities instead of becoming enslaved to it.
6. What should America’s role in the world be? What would you do to move us in that direction?
America’s role in the world should be to assist our allies and to create bridges with our current enemies. We do not need to be in war or engaged in other country’s civil war. However, we will and should support our allies who need it in times of war. We should be shining examples of what it means to live in a democracy where each individual has rights and a voice to speak. In order for us to be an example in the world, we need to start coming together in America first. Right now in our country there is a divide, including both parties, mine included. If we want to move in a forward direction, we would need to come together first.
7. The country is torn apart. What would you do to rebuild bridges?
I think that goes to my point from the prior question. In order to rebuild our country we need to work together. There is a divide because we’re more concerned about differences then we are similarities. Let’s start at the fact we’re human, then agree we’re American. The simple or small things combined can defeat the large publicized differences, which is the cause of our nation being torn apart. We can rebuild our country if we realize that we’re in the same boat wanting to go in different directions, therefore we’re not moving.