Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 primary election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Cynthia Thielen, a Republican candidate for the state House, District 50, which includes Kailua and Kaneohe Bay. There is one other candidates, her Republican primary opponent, Joan Hood.
Name: Cynthia Thielen
Office seeking: State House District 50
Occupation: State representative, District 50; environmental attorney (retired)
Community organizations/prior offices held: State representative for District 50 since 1990: former co-chair and current member, Women’s Legislative Caucus; founding member, Keiki and Kupuna caucuses; founding member, University of Hawaii Law Review; former president, the Hawaii Children’s Museum of Arts, Science and Technology
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 82
Place of residence: Kailua
Campaign website: votecynthiathielen.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 would reinstitute the appointment of bipartisan committee chairs. This worked so well in 2012-2014. It reduced the squabbling and allowed us to make significant accomplishments, which resulted in the Legislature receiving the highest grade for productivity from the media and legislative watchdogs.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizen’s initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I have introduced such legislation and supported this process in the past and continue to strongly support it as an important vehicle for the public to exercise their right to good representation. A great example of this was the 1980s Save Sandy Beach grassroots movement.
3. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
Yes. When more mainstream Republicans who are willing to participate in bipartisan collaboration run for office, voters will respond by electing them. Single-issue candidates do not accurately nor adequately represent our diverse communities.
4. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I was part of the Legislature’s Good Government Coalition led by Sen. Les Ihara which brought attention to and collaboration on this critical issue. However, we need broader legislative support to toughen up these laws and I will advocate for this support from my colleagues.
5. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
6. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I feel my most important obligation as an elected official is to listen to my constituents and keep abreast of issues that concern our district. I have many ways in which I strive to accomplish this, including:
Responding individually to all constituent calls, emails and letters and following up on their concerns.
Conducting an annual legislative survey, responding to recipients and incorporating the results into my legislative advocacy.
Producing an annual legislative report at the end of every legislative session, to keep our community informed and engaged in legislative matters.
Bringing my annual legislative roadshow to district elementary, intermediate and high schools.
These interactions, along with other opportunities to be out in the community talking with people, help me to “feel the pulse” of our district and allow me to be responsive to the needs and concerns we face.
7. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Keeping Kailua as a residential community and preserving our natural resources. I have previously testified in opposition to city plans to allow short-term rentals, which take away housing from local residents and inflate prices. I will continue to oppose such rentals and to advocate for enforcement of our current zoning regulations. Compliance with Kailua’s hard-fought zoning laws is key to retaining both our residential character and the integrity of our watershed and marine ecosystem.
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?
Cultivating industrial hemp achieves both goals. As an agricultural crop, it is drought tolerant and does not require the use of pesticides or herbicides, and functions as a phytoremediator (removing toxins from the soil through its natural growth process). This means minimal usage of our fresh water supply, zero applied chemicals, and the added benefit of cleaning up residual chemicals and heavy metals left from previous agricultural or industrial activity. Hemp is also effective as an erosion control and as animal feed, and it can be used to create building materials, nutritional products and myriad value-added products and applications. Industrial hemp will foster entrepreneurial ventures, create jobs and expand economic opportunities in agriculture, processing, manufacturing and construction industries — all on the local level.
9. What should the Legislature do to improve police accountability?
The Women’s Caucus previously introduced legislation to provide more accountability. It stumbled and needs further action and support this coming legislative session.
10. Hawaii is the fastest-aging state. What would you do to ensure we’re taking care of our kupuna?
I strongly supported the recently enacted CARE Act, which ensures that family caregivers are given instruction in how to care for their loved ones returning home from the hospital. I will push the governor’s administration to implement unannounced visits into care homes sooner than 2019. And I will be calling for the removal of the general excise tax on locally produced food to lower our cost of living and incentivize local, diversified agriculture (thereby increasing our fresh food supply and improving our food security).
11. What would you do to improve Hawaii’s public education system?
Bring funding and authority down to local schools and transition the statewide Department of Education into a resource that local districts can tap into as needed.