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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 Peter Hoffman, a candidate for Hawaii County mayor. There are 12 other candidates.
Name: Peter Hoffman
Office seeking: Hawaii County mayor
Occupation: Retired U.S. Army colonel
Community organizations/prior offices held: Four-term County Council member, 2004-2012; Council chair, 2006-2008; Board of Directors, West Hawaii Community Health Center, seven years; formerly member of Board of Directors, Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra, four years; University of Hawaii regent, 2014-2015; organized Waikoloa Senior Center, served nine years as president; substitute teacher, Waikoloa Middle School; appeared in the last three musicals at Aloha Performing Arts Center
Age as of Aug. 13: 75
Place of residence: Waikoloa, Hawaii County
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 don’t see any change necessary in how our County Council operates. I believe the Council operates fairly efficiently. The change I would bring is in approach to how the mayor and Council work together. Too often in the past that relationship has been antagonistic. I see the Council not as an antagonist, but as a partner in effective government, and I would ensure that I would take the first steps to forge a new relationship with the Council immediately after my inauguration.
2. Should your county implement a 0.5% GET surcharge? If so, for what purpose?
I am opposed to any increase in the GET in Hawaii County. I think it is a most regressive form of taxation which adversely impacts the very people we are trying to assist with any program. I will not advocate increasing 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 balance these competing interests?
New development is of vital importance to our economy and quality of life here in Hawaii County. We must not throw roadblocks in the path of every development without suffering a disaster in our economy. Protecting our environment is an equally critical part of our economy, our way of life and the success or failure of any new development. These are not mutually exclusive. I believe in recent years we’ve learned that both complement each other and all parties involved are better educated and capable of making good decisions that maintain the balance required. Our county’s aggressive efforts to purchase properties for open space and access speaks directly to this issue, as well as the good efforts of a variety of organizations and the county to insure that common sense regulations are implemented to promote environmental awareness without sacrificing development objectives.
4. What would you do to strengthen police accountability?
As new technology matures, this new equipment/capabilities should be implemented by the police. Body cameras, for example, and video feedback to a centralized location are advances for which I would advocate. I believe more and frequent individual training, personnel reviews performed by higher echelon staff, and consistent input from a more knowledgeable public would assist all and keep the concept of police accountability viable.
5. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I believe there is a perception on the part of too many of our residents that county officials are prone to corruption. Whether that is true or not, as mayor I must change that perception. For example, expanding our Ethics Commission to nine members is part of that effort. As mayor I will establish an open government in which questions are answered and information is provided to the public quickly and as efficiently as possible. Frankly, I think we have most of the necessary regulations and rules required, but I will advocate (along with my fellow mayors) to the tate Legislature to make whatever changes in the future we need. This is a leadership issue and it must start with the mayor and his/her own conduct and behavior.
6. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
I do not see that retaining these fees causes significant hardship or delay for those accessing public records. I can see the possibility of making exceptions on a case-by-case basis, but I think the difficulty would remain in how you define “public interest.”
7. Voters complain that their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I would continue the regular Town Meeting sessions the current administration began some time ago and even increase the frequency of them as time permits. I will establish a regular series of media interviews and respond to all questions and requests for information. My administration will change the current attitude that the Community Development Plans are wasting time. Indeed I will insure that the thousands of hours of community effort and input generated in support of the CDP process is publicly acknowledged and that specific aspects are included in county legislation where possible. I have a reputation of listening to all sides of an issue before making a decision. That will continue.
8. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about?
In my opinion, the fact that all too many county residents live at or below federal poverty guidelines is our most pressing issue. Until we begin to address poverty, all the other efforts we accomplish, no matter how well intentioned, will have little value. I have no one “silver bullet” to eliminate poverty, but we must be better able to feed and house ourselves if any progress is to be made.
As mayor I want to see a greatly expanded investment in the county’s agricultural sector. There is no reason why we can’t feed ourselves on our island in the short term, and over a longer period of time, become the breadbasket for the state. Reducing our dependence on imported food and increasing the acreage we have in production, can go a long way to maintain jobs and improve our standard of living for all.
In the same vein, we must significantly increase the number of affordable housing units available to our county residents, especially rental units. Food and housing are basic human necessities. We must do better than we have done previously in both areas.