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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 Deidre Tegarden, a Democratic candidate for the state House, District 11, which includes Kihei, Wailea and Makena in Maui County. There are two other candidates, including her Democratic primary opponent, Kaniela Ing, and Republican Daniel Peku.
Name: Deidre Tegarden
Office seeking: State House, District 11
Occupation: Public servant
Community organizations/prior offices held: Chief of protocol for Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Gov. David Ige; Maui representative for Gov. Abercrombie; director, Maui County Office of Economic Development; executive director, Big Brothers Big Sisters Maui; associate director Hula Bowl Maui; past president, Rotary Club of Kahului; current member, Rotary Club of Kihei-Wailea; member, Kihei Community Association; volunteer, Kihei Fourth Friday; board member, Maui OnStage and Maui Chamber Orchestra; volunteer, South Maui Learning Ohana
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 47
Place of residence: Kihei, Maui
Campaign website: www.VoteTegarden.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 Legislature is run?
I believe you’re referring to this year’s national campaigns in which passions often have obscured the serious, pragmatic and difficult business of government. Your question assumes I want to change how the Legislature runs and that’s not an altogether accurate statement.
What I hope to be able to do as a legislator is to consistently insist on transparency in every level and area of government and in every step of legislation so voters have the information they need and deserve in order to make the choices they have the right and privilege to make.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizen’s initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I support a participatory government. A statewide initiative process should be discussed thoroughly before a Constitutional amendment is considered. I would like to see Hawaii’s voter turnout greatly increased before this is considered.
3. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
The change rests with the people. A two or more party system serves as one way to balance our government. It is up to the different parties to get involved and become active. Regardless of party, I believe that every citizen should have a voice. Perhaps it is time to look at non-partisan elections.
4. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I am willing to take a serious look at those laws and find ways to strengthen them. I fully support transparency in government and these laws should ensure that public officials conduct themselves ethically for the people’s business.
5. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes, public records should be available to the public at a reasonable fee. Providing them should not be a business but rather a public service … at a reasonable fee. More public records should be available online for easier access.
6. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I have a 48-hour return-call policy now and when I’m elected that policy will continue. I will also have an office in South Maui that will have a staff-person on hand to field all questions and concerns.
7. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Because South Maui is the fastest-growing community in all of Hawaii, it’s not possible to single out just one issue as being the most pressing. We are facing an affordable housing and affordable rentals crisis; a need for innovative job creation; a need to focus on our under-utilized Maui Research and Technology Park; a need for infrastructure that protects our beaches, reefs and marine life; and need to make certain that the four schools in our district are providing a clean and safe place for our keiki to learn and grow.
Prioritizing these crucial issues will take collaboration and hard work and as a legislator my job will be to invite all parties to the table so that strategies can be formulated.
8. 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?
Managing growth is essential to South Maui’s future and it will take hard work and collaboration between government, developers and the public to make sure our community is a place where everyone can live safe, healthy and prosperous lives.
I applaud and encourage citizen input and involvement in all development plans. South Maui is our home and we all share a responsibility in its future and how it evolves. The Maui County’s community plans should be followed with deviations carefully and thoughtfully scrutinized before changes are made to community plans and zoning.
9. What should the Legislature do to improve police accountability?
Our police are deserving of our respect and support and we in turn have every right to expect transparency, accountability and respect from them. As police services are the County’s responsibility, the efforts should be focused there.
10. Hawaii is the fastest-aging state. What would you do to ensure we’re taking care of our kupuna?
In Maui County alone, 134 people are turning 60 every month. We have a very vibrant 70-plus community which is a very positive thing. As your legislator I want to make sure our kupuna have full access to the many programs already in place that provide opportunities and help to them. Thanks to programs offered by Maui Economic Opportunity Inc., Hale Mahaolu, Kaunoa Senior Center and the Maui County Office on Aging, to name a few, our seniors are in good hands at this time. But our Legislature must increase the state’s level of commitment.
I take representing our seniors very seriously and I will always be open to them and their needs. A strong community recognizes and supports all populations. Creating a positive aging-society requires strong partnerships within a community and at all levels of government.
11. What would you do to improve Hawaii’s public education system?
In reviewing the Department of Education budget, it worries me greatly to see that it has been cut significantly.
The first thing we must do is stop funding cuts to public education and begin exploring all sources of revenue streams. If we’re serious about supporting our teachers and keiki then our actions have to match our words.
Legislators should be helping our hard-working teachers and one of my top priorities will be to look outside the box for more ways to fund our public schools.
I believe that in order to be successful we must have open, honest and timely communication between the state and the Hawaii State Teachers Association. The Legislature cannot make decisions that affect the education of our keiki and the community at large without having everyone at the table.
Education is the foundation of a safe, healthy and prosperous society and we must do everything we can to support our public school system, especially by rewarding the hard work and dedication of our teachers in order that they can continue successfully educating Hawaii’s future generations. Strong community leaders are “grown” in strong schools.