Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Kathryn Henski, a Republican candidate for state House District 22, which includes Waikiki and Ala Moana. There is one other candidate, Democrat Tom Brower.
Name: Kathryn Henski
Office seeking: State Representative, District 22
Occupation: Former restaurant owner, art gallery owner and medical systems inventor. Now retired.
Community organizations/prior offices held: Waikiki Rotary; Waikiki Senior Center; Hawaii Historical Foundation; Grassroot Institute of Hawaii; Hawaii Bicycling League; Outdoor Circle; Oahu League of Republican Women; board member, Taylor Symphony; president, O.P.A.E International; Outer Island Campaign chairwoman, 1980 Ronald Reagan presidential campaign; Oahu executive vice chair, Hawaii Republican Party.
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 66
Place of residence: Waikiki
Campaign website: www.electkathrynhenski.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?
Ultimately, I believe that the people of Hawaii and this nation want results. As a legislator, I will actively seek solutions that will lower the cost of living, improve our education system, and reduce homelessness while remaining accountable and available to my constituents. I will be a legislator that will serve my community, not myself or any corporate interests.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizen’s initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Yes. While I am wary that citizen’s initiatives can often be overrun by well-funded, highly organized interest groups, I believe that a citizen’s initiative will allow the people to participate more directly in their government when legislators fail on their promises.
3. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
I believe that much of the frustration Hawaii voters have with their government is from a perceived lack of results; this occurs when one party has an overarching rule over government for an elongated period. I believe that Hawaii voters must break from the status quo and elect new leaders that will deliver on their promises.
4. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
The current state of our lobbying laws is unacceptable. Here are the steps I will take, when elected, to keep our government transparent and accountable:
Require the disclosure of all lobbying activities related to the executive branch.
Require lobbyists to report if they are on any special interest boards or non-profit organizations which will influence their efforts.
Require monthly disclosure statements by lobbyists during the legislative session.
Require lobbyists to disclose campaign contributions of any amount.
Require calendars of legislators to be public.
Increase funding to Ethics Commission to improve its oversight efforts.
The above proposals will hold all public officials accountable and allow for citizens to know what activities their representatives are involved in.
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?
When elected, my office’s priority will be to have an easily accessible and responsive means of communication with my constituents. I have been attending the Waikiki and Ala Moana neighborhood board meetings for the past four years. I will continue to do so to update those who have elected me to the Legislature.
7. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
While homelessness is clearly an issue that has been the subject of most of the news regarding my district, I also believe that the deterioration of coral reefs, our marine life and a loss of much of our cultural emphasis are the most pressing, long-term issues facing District 22.
I will introduce legislation that will keep invasive species out of our waters and restore our ocean and marine life. I will also strengthen our beach preservation efforts to ensure that the beaches in Waikiki and Ala Moana are sustained for generations.
Regarding homelessness, I am in favor of the Housing First initiatives, in which nonprofits partner with the government to provide the homeless with housing and other needs to ensure that they can provide for themselves, their families and their 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?
Hawaii has the second-highest individual income tax in the United States and is consistently ranked among the worst states in the nation to do business. If we simplify our tax code, lower rates and decrease regulations, we can create a prosperous economic environment that will create better-paying jobs and mitigate the amount of people living paycheck to paycheck.
Waikiki should also maintain its height exemption rules and not allow our community to be overdeveloped to a point of unrecognizability.
By endorsing pro-growth policies and preventing overdevelopment, we can create a flourishing economic environment and maintain the beauty that is so special to Hawaii.
9. What should the Legislature do to improve police accountability?
I strongly support having police body cameras in order to ensure accountability and mitigate questions during police brutality cases. I also support minimum standards and training for officers. If they do not meet these standards or violate any laws, Hawaii must have a process to revoke their officership. If elected, I will support and introduce legislation that will keep our police officers accountable.
We must eliminate the disclosure exemption for violations of the law. Our police officers must be held to the highest standard of ethics in order to serve the people they swear to protect.
10. Hawaii is the fastest-aging state. What would you do to ensure we’re taking care of our kupuna?
I had the pleasure of working with AARP to have the CARE Act passed this legislative session. Through it, hospitals are required to teach family caregivers the medical tasks their kupuna need when returning from the hospital.
I believe that a per diem allowance must also be provided for caregivers in order to mitigate the economic burden of caregiving and to incentivize more families to care for their kupuna directly rather than putting them into nursing homes.
11. What would you do to improve Hawaii’s public education system?
I support giving more autonomy to each community by having individual districts and school boards to give a more tailored educational experience. I will introduce legislation that will promote the relationship between parents and educators to ensure that our keiki are receiving the highest quality education possible.
I believe that funds should be allocated to increase teachers’ salary and to ensure that quality hires are retained. More counselors must also be hired to address behavioral issues for kids and families in need.
I am an advocate for free school lunches so that students who are members of struggling families do not have to compromise their education due to their hunger.