Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from John Mizuno, a Democratic candidate for the state House, District 28, which includes Kalihi Valley, Kamehameha Heights and a portion of lower Kalihi. There is one other candidate, Republican Carole Kaapu.
Name: John M. Mizuno
Office seeking: State House, District 28
Occupation: Full-time legislator
Community organizations/prior offices held: Co-chair, Health and Human Services Committee of the National Asian Pacific American Caucus of State Legislatures; chair, Keiki Caucus; Kupuna Caucus; Kids in Sports Program for Kalihi; Kalihi Valley Annual Easter Day Celebration; Kalihi Summer Fun Annual Celebration; Kalihi Neighborhood Patrol; crime, Kalihi “Mele Kalihi Maka” Christmas Celebration
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 52
Place of residence: Honolulu
Campaign website: www.JohnMizuno28.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?
Allow for public input and informational hearings to display greater transparency and accountability to the people on major issues of concerns, such as the economy, the high costs of living in Hawaii, affordable housing, affordable health care, display what we are doing to ensure a better educational system, public safety, renewable energy and the environment.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizen’s initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Yes. I believe in government by the people for the people. Therefore, we should allow a statewide citizen’s initiative process.
3. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
No. I will always advocate for a two-party system, because it will ensure a balanced approach to policy. With that said, Hawaii happens to be a blue state, since 1954 known as the “bloodless revolution” when the plantation workers lead a powerful revolution which changed Hawaii politics forever. I believe that every state is different, some States are dominated by the Republican Party and some like Hawaii are Democrat-strong. This is based on the state’s population, its people, the views and principles of a state will determine which party will dominate. Some States are split with both parties. I believe that each state should have the right to evolve itself to which party will best display the people’s background and principles. For the foregoing reasons, I support government by the people, for the people.
4. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
Simple. Pass legislation to ensure transparency and accountability for all people making donations to lawmakers.
5. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes. So long as the costs for the government agencies is reasonable. I would be concerned if this new policy would trigger substantial costs to the state, regarding employees time and material used for such a service. Therefore, I support open records, however this new policy must be efficient and should not be of substantial costs to our taxpayers.
6. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I would recommend that during every legislative session, during our mandatory five-day recess in March; all legislators must be available for the entire week to specifically listen to their constituents. This “Constituent Week” would be only for constituents and not for meeting with lobbyists. As lawmakers we are public servants and must listen to our employers — the people of our district and state of Hawaii. Because the people of our district actually own the offices we occupy. We are simply public servants and employees of the people. We have a duty and obligation to listen to our employers.
7. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
At one time it was roads. However, to date 90 percent of the roads in Kalihi since I was elected into office have been repaved. The top concern for Kalihi residents is public safety. We have several public housing projects in our district and we have been working with the organization Adult Friends for Youth and the Police Department to address youth gang violence, theft, illegal parking, illegal drug use and criminal property damage. I worked to secure $200,000 grant-in-aid for Adult Friends for Youth because they have worked well with Farrington High School and the middle and elementary schools in our district to address youth gang violence and theft. If re-elected I would continue to support and advocate for mentoring programs like AFY, because they actually save taxpayers money, because if we commit a youth to the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility, even for a minor violation like staying out past 10 p.m., it costs our taxpayers $200,000 a year to house that youth. We need to be smart on crime and allow for mentoring programs for non-violent youth to ensure a safer community.
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?
Let me start this most significant question with a bold statement: The environment is our future. Our future is the environment.
Simply stated we must enforce protection for certain areas of land, like the bill we just passed in 2014, which I co-authored, HB 2434, for the permanent conservation easement of 665 acres of pristine beaches and shoreline on the north shore to “Keep the Country Country.” We should also continue to support policy to ensure farm and agriculture land, like HB 1982, the bill I co-authored, which passed into law in 2016 to provide for a $10 million dollar special revenue bond for the Big Island Dairy, to ensure locally produced milk in Hawaii.
For new development, we can simply review Hawaiian Home Lands, federal, state and county property which is no longer in use or abandoned, and seek to negotiate a redevelopment plan with the owner (federal, state, county, or private) to stimulate the economy in such an area.
9. What should the Legislature do to improve police accountability?
Simple. We need to meet with SHOPO and discuss the best means to ensure police accountability. The Legislature should not be a dictator and force policy which may be significantly adverse to our police force, when we can simply coordinate with HPD on policy which will ensure police accountability. We need to support our men and women in uniform who serve to protect us, while working with them for proper safeguards.
10. Hawaii is the fastest-aging state. What would you do to ensure we’re taking care of our kupuna?
By 2020 one of four Hawaii residents will be age 60 or older. Hawaii is graying faster than any state in the nation. I would continue to champion and support Hawaii’s community caregiver and care home industry, because this industry provides excellent long-term health care to our elderly and disabled and this sector continues to save our state millions of dollars every year. We cannot afford to build long-term care hospitals; therefore our state’s future investment must be in the community care home industry. This will benefit both our Kupuna and end up saving our state millions of dollars.
11. What would you do to improve Hawaii’s public education system?
Audit the Department of Education. The teachers are doing their best and we value education in Hawaii. However, we can run the Department of Education more efficiently. How? Simple. An audit of the Department of Education, which will costs at least $2 million and take about a year and six months to complete. However, I believe an audit will provide an objective and extreme insight of the educational system as a whole in Hawaii; review the practices of the teachers, the Board of Education, the Department of Education, the Legislature and governor and provide recommendations on being more efficient and following best practices which will enable us to have a first-class educational system and save taxpayers millions of dollars as we identify waste, by eliminating programs that do not work and focusing on program that are effective and provide for best educational results.