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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 Stacey Moniz, a candidate for the Maui County Council’s Upcountry District seat. There are three other candidates, Napua Greig-Nakasone, Eric Molina and Yuki Sugimura.
Name: Stacey Suemi Moniz
Office seeking: Maui County Council, Upcountry
Occupation: Executive director, Women Helping Women
Community organizations/prior offices held: Board member, Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence; board member, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; president, Maui Non-Profit Directors Association; vice president, Soroptimist International of Maui
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 52
Place of residence: Pukalani, Maui
Campaign website: Moniz4Maui.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 Council is run?
I’d like to see government return to representing the people of Maui, not just big business. We’ve lost the connection to community, to working together to find solutions from the grassroots up and have been operating from a top-down perspective. I’d like to bring the voice of real people to the Council, to be an advocate and a voice that can find balance between corporate and individual best interests. I’d like to help reduce the complexities of government and make it more efficient. I don’t have all the answers but I’m willing to invest my time and energy to really try.
2. Should your county implement a 0.5 percent GET surcharge? If so, for what purpose?
I say yes because we need to generate more revenue for everything from infrastructure to social services, to balance the books on benefits we owe to our retirees to hiring more staff in key positions. I believe the GET is a fair way to tax the people based on how much we’re spending: those with less will spend less, those with more spend more and pay proportionately more taxes.
3. 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?
I believe a lot of decisions are made based on building just to build, to “generate revenue and keep people working.” We can build smart, in ways that help our own people first (workforce housing, repairing and increasing infrastructure like schools and public places like parks). We can protect special places like coastlines and significant historic places. Of course we need growth and development but we can do it with care. Just because we can sell multi-million-dollar homes to off-island investors doesn’t mean we should.
4. What would you do to strengthen police accountability?
I actually work closely with the police department here and think they have worked really hard in the past few years to be accountable. Like any profession, there are good and bad individuals but I believe our current administration is working hard to be proactive in training their staff. Accountable leadership is the key, and I think Maui Police has good leadership and has worked to hold itself accountable.
5. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I think we need clearly defined rules created by independent committees that can be enforced. I don’t think our laws are clear which makes it easier for people to bend the rules and make it possible for big money and well funded groups to muscle their way past the will of the people. There are several places within government where I think enforcement is the key and this is one of them
6. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
I didn’t realize there were high fees for public records.
7. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I think I am one who would complain that some of my elected officials don’t listen and don’t care to listen to myself and to their constituents. I honestly don’t think you can change or improve their communication unless they lose their jobs because people stop voting for them. I personally feel I am a candidate of the people and would be very open to hearing from my community and advocating on their behalf. I also realize that sometimes decisions get made and not everyone is happy about them but I would still listen to both sides and explain to both sides why I make decisions the way I do. Open communication is critical to helping people feel heard.
8. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
I believe housing and homelessness are our biggest issues and I think the solutions are very similar and related. We need to build affordable housing and need to support streamlining the processes involved in building new homes or building additional homes on properties where it is appropriate. We need to allow people to build ohana units and small Additional Dwelling Units on their properties but we need to enforce the laws relating to vacation rentals because some people are wanting to build additional units not as rentals but as illegal vacation rentals. Creating an enforcement arm in the tax department will pay for itself quickly and discourage misuse of these building code streamlinings. Also the county needs to increase our support of public-private partnerships that help people build affordable housing projects and housing developments.