Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 primary election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Richard Abbett, a Democratic candidate for the state House, District 8, which includes Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Wailuku and Kahului. There are two other candidates, including his Democratic primary opponent, Joe Souki, and Republican Gilbert Rebolledo.
Name: Richard Abbett
Office seeking: State House, District 8
Occupation: Legislative advocate, environmental consultant
Community organizations/prior offices held: Hawaii Farmers Union United, chapter treasurer; Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Alliance, communication co-chair; Ocean View Community Center, volunteer
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 59
Place of residence: Wailuku, Maui
Facebook page: Richard Abbett on Facebook
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?
Support transparency and access concerns by allowing introduction of bills and subsequent hearings with video participation by citizens at remote sites on neighbor islands. Stop the referring of bills to multiple committees that increases the likelihood that they will not be debated on the floor. The public’s business currently requires too many sessions and too great expense to work out perceived deficiencies.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizen’s initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Currently we have the home rule initiative process by the counties that makes more sense in Hawaii. Although lower courts have ruled against implementation of some measures, a definitive decision of their validity is required before going to a state process.
3. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
Most voters pride themselves on consideration of the merits of individual candidates. There are wide differences inside the Democratic Party on many issues that provide healthy debate. The Republican Party has suffered here due to national party demagoguery on social issues conflicting with local values and concerns.
4. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
Full, timely (an early session filing date for legislators’ financial reports especially) and transparent campaign spending disclosure of candidates and super-PACs. Additional support with adequate funding of the Campaign Spending Commission.
5. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes, and provide for a reasonable response period.
6. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
Provide funding for remote video site access for all committee sessions and hearings, and allow video testimony by citizens.
7. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Quality of life. Firstly, an increase of the minimum wage toward a family level. Adults work two jobs, some parents each work and child rearing time suffers. Secondly, affordable housing for all sectors must be addressed with quantitative changes and increased taxation on out-of-state second and third home owners.
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?
There need to be new economic sectors in sustainable agriculture, clean and renewable energy, and technology developed. Build materials from recycled resources. Hemp can be manufactured on island creating jobs and keeping profits in local small busineses.
9. What should the Legislature do to improve police accountability?
The paradigm shift requires good officers of ethical personal and professional behavior being supported and protocols and standards of review panels that are transparent and provide accountable discipline.
10. Hawaii is the fastest-aging state. What would you do to ensure we’re taking care of our kupuna?
Long-term care funding improvement and caregiver support is critical. Also, affordable housing for seniors in and out of their home.
11. What would you do to improve Hawaii’s public education system?
Require state-negotiated collective bargaining obligations be funded and protecting the rights of teachers to strike. Create an education capital trust with revenues from taxation of legal cannabis sales to adults.