Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 primary election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Margarita Hopkins, a candidate for Hawaii County Council District 2, which includes Downtown Hilo, Bayfront, Wailoa, portion of Waiakea Houselots, University Heights, Komohana Gardens, portion of Waiakea-Uka, Lanakila, Mohouli, Ainako, Kaumana, Piihonua, Wailuku and Waianuenue. There are two other candidates, Aaron Chung and William Halversen.
Name: Margarita “Dayday” Hopkins
Office seeking: Hawaii County Council, District 2
Occupation: Economist (retired)
Community organizations/prior offices held: Member, Hawaii Agribusiness Development Corporation Board, 2014-present; member, West Pacific Area Institutional Biosecurity Committee, 2013-present; East Hawaii liaison, Diocesan Planning and Building Commission, 2013-present; secretary, Big Island Resource Conservation and Development Council, 2000-present; member, Hawaii Office of Language Access Advisory Council, 2012-2015; member, Hawaii Forest Stewardship Advisory Committee, 2004-2012; member, Hawaii Sea Grant Advisory Committee, 1999-2004; public member, Hawaii Real Estate Appraisers Advisory Committee, 1997-2000; public member, Hawaii Board of Examiners in Optometry, 1992-1997; former president, Congress of Visayan Organizations; former president, Big Island Filipino Community Council
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 66
Place of residence: Hilo
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 Council is run?
I want to bring a voice of hope and common sense to the County Council. Further, I will demand integrity, honesty and fairness from all of our county officials. Hawaii County needs visionaries with courage, commitment and a willingness to accept responsibility to confront difficult issues. My top goal is to change the culture of the Council to one in which we proactively meet the needs of the entire community based on our resources. We cannot expect the state and federal governments to save us from ourselves. I will use all parliamentary procedures to support good initiatives and stop misguided “pet projects” regardless if this makes other Council members “happy” or not. Council members can use their own discretionary funds to “tilt at windmills,” but should not expect the entire county to support them.
2. Should your county implement a 0.5 percent GET surcharge? If so, for what purpose?
No. We already waste to much taxpayer money.
3. 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?
An economic and environmental analysis needs to be made of all viable options. These analyses must recognize that saying “no” also has costs. Further, these analyses must be made available to the public for comment. Lastly, we need to require both project proponents and opponents to provide evidence for their positions (and that does not meaning quoting activist websites ad infinitum).
4. What would you do to strengthen police accountability?
I would support efforts to make the police commission more independent, possibly by having it elected instead of appointed by the mayor.
5. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I would support requiring all campaigns and non-campaign committees to enter their receipts and expenditures into a searchable database within 10 days of receipt/expenditure. Further, I would support efforts to overturn “Citizens United.”
6. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes. But the “devil is in the details” in deciding what is in the public interest. Too often, information requests are used by lawyers, etc., just to be obstructionist. I would like a process by which a detailed request for fee reduction/waiver can be made that requires a response within a month.
7. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
All communications, unless protected by law, should be submitted via a searchable website. I would support having a staff position to evaluate timeliness of “real” responses and publication of statistics for each Council member and key county official.
8. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
I consider these issues to be most pressing: We must do something about homelessness. I am willing to try new ideas. Providing minimal, yet safe, temporary shelter is better than keeping people on the street because of the shortage of low-cost housing.
Support private efforts that create jobs with livable wages by reducing bureaucratic delays and hassles and focusing incentives where they will really do something positive (instead of protecting the powers that be).