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Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Nadine Nakamura, a Democratic candidate for the state House, District 14, which includes the Kauai communities of Hanalei, Princeville, Kilauea, Anahola, Kapaa and Wailua. There is one other candidate, Republican Sandra Combs.
Name: Nadine K. Nakamura
Office seeking: State House, District 14
Occupation: Former Kauai County managing director
Community organizations/prior offices held: Kauai County Council, vice chair; Hawaii Tourism Authority, board member; State Housing Finance Development Corp., board member; Hawaii Community Reinvestment Corp., board member; Kapaa Elementary School PTSA and School Community Council, chair; Kapaa Middle School School Community Council, chair
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 54
Place of residence: Kapaa, Kauai
Campaign website: NadineNakamura.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?
If I’m fortunate to be elected to state office for a first term, I will not propose any big changes with respect to how the Legislature is run. I will learn and observe, form strong working relationships with other legislators and staff and assess whether changes in how the Legislature operates are needed.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizen’s initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I would be open to having the discussion about a statewide citizen’s initiative process. My understanding is that 36 states allow the public to vote on initiatives. It would be good to learn from the experience of these states and to design a process that allows direct grassroots democracy on the most important statewide issues in a way that avoids large organizations with off-island wealth and resources controlling the process.
3. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
If voters are not happy with the Democratic Party’s vision, values and legislative initiatives, they should not vote for party members or, alternatively, they should help to change or reform it. Electing visionary leaders, amending the party platform to address the needs of the working class and helping to clarify key party priorities are ways change can come about. I believe that there’s room for more meaningful dialogue at the precinct level about the direction of the Democratic Party in Hawaii.
4. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I would like to learn about the shortcomings of existing lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws before commenting.
5. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
I would like to learn how much other states charge for public records and how public interest is defined before commenting. Access to public records in a timely manner, that accurately reflects the cost of printing, is key to an open and transparent state government.
6. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I will continue to have an open door policy. I have always encouraged constituents to call, write, email or meet with me. I will also make the effort to attend or send staff to attend key community meetings to understand concerns. I would like to use email, newsletters and social media to help keep residents in the district apprised of my work and key legislative initiatives.
7. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Traffic congestion in East Kauai is the most pressing issue. The state Department of Transportation plans to add a southbound lane fronting Coco Palms (between Wailua Bridge and the southern terminus of the Kapaa Bypass Road) and add a northern lane along the Kapaa Bypass Road between the roundabout and Kuhio Highway. The state must also partner with the County of Kauai to create shuttles that serve the north shore and east side.
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?
The counties play an important role in planning for new development through their zoning power. The state Land Use Commission also plays a role if lands are designated agricultural and are over 15 acres in size. On Kauai, the zoning code and accompanying maps, developed in the early 1970s, created many opportunities for future development that have yet to be built 40 years later. The lack of infrastructure and the cost to build infrastructure, whether it’s roads, water, sewer or drainage, is a major constraint on new development.
The county and state have a major role to play in determining whether to partner with private developers to provide this costly infrastructure. This is an opportunity to guide development in areas that minimize environmental impacts, and are consistent with current land use policies that provide for compact development, access to transit, access to public facilities and services, and are livable, walkable and bikeable.
9. What should the Legislature do to improve police accountability?
I believe it’s important for the police commissions on each county to be trained and educated to improve police accountability. The mayors and councils on each island should take their appointment and confirmation powers to the police commission seriously. They should appoint highly qualified individuals who understand community needs, enforcement needs, budgetary needs and constraints and annually evaluate their chief executive, with input from all stakeholders.
10. Hawaii is the fastest-aging state. What would you do to ensure we’re taking care of our kupuna?
Support existing Aging and Disability Resource Centers on each island; encourage Medicare reimbursements for services that the state and counties provide; support elderly programs at neighborhood centers, support enhance fitness programs for the elderly through each parks and recreation program; and provide for community-based living alternatives.
11. What would you do to improve Hawaii’s public education system?
I attended public schools for my elementary through high school education and after getting my undergraduate degree at USC, I received a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Hawaii Manoa. My children attended Kapaa elementary, middle and high schools. Before becoming an elected official, I was active in school community councils and PTSAs.
I believe that all students deserve a quality education to prepare them to succeed in college, careers, and citizenship. How do we improve our educational system? Here are some key principles I support: a) provide the best training and mentoring possible for our school principals so they can best lead and manage their school community; b) provide the tools — funding, facilities, and training — for teachers to do their work as the professionals that they are. Hold teachers accountable, but do not micromanage them; c) support pre-school education for all youth; d) keep Kauai Community College and University of Hawaii tuition affordable for local residents; e) support scholarships, outreach and training for local students to enter the teaching profession so they can teach in the communities in which they live.