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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 Raina Whiting, a candidate for Hawaii County Council District 6, which includes a portion of North Kona, South Kona, Kau, and the greater Volcano area. There is one other candidate, Maile David.
Name: Raina Whiting
Office seeking: Hawaii County Council, District 6
Occupation: Kindergarten teacher
Community organizations/prior offices held: Democratic Party of Hawaii State Central Committee Member, National Delegate, District 5 Vice-Chair, Precinct President and Environmental Caucus At-Large Member; Teach for America Corps Member; Board Member – Hawaii Technology Academy; Office of Senator Russell Ruderman – Legislative Aide; Aikea Movement/UNITE Here Local 5 – Organizer; Legal Aid Society of Hawaii – Legal Advocate; Americorps member; Founder and Director of In The Streets, a human rights group.
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 29
Place of residence: Ocean View, Hawaii Island
Campaign website: www.voteraina.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 Council is run?
When elected you are the voice for the people that you represent. If elected, I pledge to be a transparent and ethical leader. I pledge to be available to constituents and community members island-wide, support the issues that matter most to our island home, and operate with the utmost openness and integrity.
2. Should your county implement a 0.5 percent GET surcharge? If so, for what purpose?
Instead of an increase in the General Excise Tax for Hawaii Island, a regressive tax structure, I believe we should seek a fairer share of the Transient Accommodations Tax. The recession required a cut in the county’s fair share of the TAT, and now it should be uncapped. Only after these means are exhausted should we advocate for an increase in the GET.
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?
Any new development should be sustainable development. In order to ensure that further development is in the best interest of the community being developed, new development should include investment in impact fees for local school infrastructure, local services infrastructure and funding to maintain the infrastructure being implemented.
We should grow our economy through vocational education programs in our local schools which could provide options for Hawaii’s keiki who are not on the path to a university but could contribute in many other ways to our local economy. This could include local sustainable small-farm business operation, and green job training programs in fields such as clean energy production.
New development should be thoroughly examined and vetted for needs, cost, and environmental impact. The needs of our communities and the protection of our limited resources should always guide development policy.
4. What would you do to strengthen police accountability?
There are many ideas presented to strengthen police accountability. I stand in unity with the friends and families of those that have been let down by those in power, some of those including Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Jessica Hernandez, Tamir Rice, Jonathan Ferrell, Oscar Grant, Antonio Zambrano-Montes, Samuel DuBose and Anastacio Hernandez-Rojas. It is important to recognize that not all in uniform are “bad,” and implementing new ideas to strengthen police accountability is to protect the public and the men and women in blue.
I believe we should demilitarize police forces, create systems for officers to report incidents without fear of retaliation and require the police departments and commissions to follow up on any reports. We should fund and require body cameras, require best practices in data collection and processing. We need more nonviolence and de-escalation training.
5. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I am starting by running a transparent and ethical campaign. I am only accepting small community donations of $100 or less and am seeking public funding for my campaign.
I will aggressively advocate to strengthen laws and rules for lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure of all candidates and those serving in office across our state in all capacities.
6. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
When the cost is prohibitive for copies of public records for a small organization or community member then there is, in fact, absolutely no access to public records. Yes, I would support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest. A request for public records should be free or low cost so that anyone, for any reason, may get access to public records at any time. One way to accomplish this is through technology, and investing in technology infrastructure that promotes open access to data.
7. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
We must elect leaders that will listen and represent the issues that matter to our communities. When our elected officials don’t listen to us, we need to use our voting power. It is most important to me to represent constituents’ concerns and support their causes. I will be available to make sure I stay in touch with how best to support my community. I pledge to hold talk stories throughout my district, respond to constituents via online requests, and be available to meet in person when requested. I am excited to hear more about the issues that are important to my community and encourage anyone to reach out regarding the issues that mean the most to them.
8. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
There are a number of important issues in our district and all deserve equal advocacy. I am concerned with land security issues our local coffee farmers are facing. Many of them are currently on month to month leases that have increased in price — they often do not own the land they are farming and it is often owned by an agricultural land investor. I am concerned that this will prevent our local farmers from being able to keep their small coffee farming profitable. The Kau and Kona coffee brands have grown to be internationally known and appreciated — I would like to support the name for those that created it, the small Kau and Kona coffee family farmers. Employment and local business opportunities are one of the most pressing concerns for our district. I support these local businesses and brands because they are the future of a sustainable South Kona and Kau.
Additionally, I am concerned about the lack of access to water and for the disposal of refuse and wastewater. I will work to establish a full-service transfer station and a potable water well in a suitable location in Hawaiian Ocean View Estates, and for a proper location for wastewater treatment facilities in Naalehu and Pahala.