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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 Marilyn Lee, a Democratic candidate for the state House, District 36, which includes Mililani Mauka and Mililani. There is one other candidate, Republican Beth Fukumoto Chang.
Name: Marilyn B. Lee
Office Seeking: State representative, District 36
Occupation: Registered nurse, community volunteer
Community organizations/prior offices held: State representative, District 36, 1996-2012; vice chair, Mililani Neighborhood Board 25; Oahu commissioner for the Commission on the Status of Women; School Community Council at Mililani High School; board member, Friends of the Mililani Public Library; president, Soroptimist International of Central Oahu; Mililani Lions Club; Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee 2016
Campaign web site: www.marilynblee.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?
Young people were heard loud and clear this year, and I agree with many of their concerns. I will not be able to change the Legislature alone, but pledge to be a voice for change and set a good example. I will comply with the office of information practices to make public my official schedule. I will not vote for any “empty” bill, will not vote for measures that have not been vetted publicly, and have an open door policy in my office.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizen’s initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Initiative is a good idea in theory, but in practice is not a good way to make public policy. Unless we can find a way to educate the public on complicated questions, many folks do not really understand the measures. In addition, initiative is ripe for takeover by special interests.
3. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
I am a lifelong Democrat who is open to change and proud of the many good things that have been done by the Democratic Party. Hawaii’s history is entwined with the history of the party. Those who want change or disagree need to run for office. Note how many seats in the Legislature are already decided because no one is challenging the incumbents.
4. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
There are many loopholes in all of these laws. I am not familiar with all of them, but would support measures to change and be willing to introduce appropriate changes in the laws.
5. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes. Fees should be reasonable and affordable. A sliding scale could be established for those who request very large numbers of copies and/or large numbers of documents.
6. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I would do what I have always done: be there at community functions, have excellent Neighborhood Board attendance, sponsor question and answer sessions in the community and meet with constituents whenever requested. I would have an open-door policy in my office and in the community.
7. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
There are a number of pressing issues in my community. Traffic is always on top of the list. I want to see transit become a reality as it will save Central Oahu from total gridlock. The recent incursion of the homeless into our district calls for the establishment of a shelter between the North Shore and Waipahu. None exists now. The imminent closure of our local hospital is another urgent call for action. Although we look like a middle class community, many are struggling economically, due to the high cost of housing, and the high cost of higher education.
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?
Finding a complete balance will be difficult, however, we need to build enough affordable housing to accommodate the needs of our people in a way that preserves the land. Building up and building smart is critical as well as working on traffic solutions that are effective. Renewables should be made affordable for all, not just those who can afford to buy solar solutions.
9. What should the Legislature do to improve police accountability?
Many communities outside of Hawaii have dealt with this in creative ways; one community requires police to be self insured, and if their actions exceed the ability of the insurers to pay, they are excused from the force. This is extreme, but there does need to be self accountability. Many of our police officers are fine examples of this and do a great job, but a minority need intervention.
Next is supervisory accountability. This requires a great deal more training than our present force receives. Training needs to be ongoing and adapted to the rapidly changing situations in the community.
Last would be administrative accountability, which includes the chief of police and the Police Commission. Nominations to the commission should require an understanding of police work and ongoing community problems. The mayor’s most recent appointment is an example of an excellent choice.
10. Hawaii is the fastest-aging state. What would you do to ensure we’re taking care of our kupuna?
Hawaii is not the “fastest-aging state,” it is the state with the longest life span. The health of our kupuna is good compared with many others because of our almost universal access to health care and an environment that is conducive to ongoing exercise.
I have worked on kupuna issues for years and was president of a caregiver support group in Central Oahu for 20 years. The cost of long-term care and home care is beyond the reach of many. We need to pass a long-term care financing bill with teeth, and provide facilities for aging in place and home care in our communities.
11. What would you do to improve Hawaii’s public education system?
I have been active in Mililani schools for many years, and my four children attended public schools. At present I sit on the School Community Council at Mililani High School. Over the years, I believe the schools have improved and we need to recognized the good work of our teachers and administrators in that regard.
However, repair and maintenance is still a problem, and schools in areas of growth are still overcrowded. In many districts, retention of teachers is difficult because of bad working conditions.
Recently a task force was convened by the governor to look for solutions. Bringing decision making down to the schools, supporting and rewarding teachers who do well and making sure capital improvement projects are awarded fairly would be some suggestions. Most important, legislators should know their district schools, participate in school functions, listen to concerns and be advocates for education.