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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 Randy Gonce, a Democratic candidate for the state House, District 40, which includes Ewa, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry and Iroquois Point. There are two other candidates, including his Democratic primary opponent, Rosebella Ellazar-Martinez, and Republican Bob McDermott.
Name: Randy Gonce
Office seeking: State House, District 40
Occupation: Legislative aide, student
Community organizations/prior offices held: Student Veterans of America; Veterans of Foreign Wars; Young Democrats of Hawaii; Oahu Young Democrats; Kapolei Inline Hockey Association; Armed Services Hockey Association; Intercultural Teachers Organization; Aerobics and Fitness Association of America
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 27
Place of residence: Ewa Beach
Campaign website: www.randygonceforhawaii.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?
Combating big money in politics, looking at implementing term limits, increasing transparency and holding all legislators accountable for their votes and actions are some of the areas that I believe would benefit our state enormously. Many times bills are debated, killed or even passed behind closed doors with no legislator on record for their reasons behind their decision. These actions go against what it means to be an elected public official. We need to return the power back to the people to ensure we move forward with everyone’s best interests involved.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizen’s initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Hawaii has a process through the county that allows an initiative process but if the people of Hawaii demand it than I would support such a process. Again, Hawaii needs to focus more on giving power back to our people. I would also be interested to see if the people of Hawaii would support having ballot initiatives to put acts passed by the Legislature to referendum vote. There are some concerns to be considered here as well though. There is a potential for big money to influence this process. Again, that is not desired.
3. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
I volunteered many years of my life to fight for this country in the armed services so that everyone has the right to vote for who best represents them and their ohana’s values. In Hawaii the voters have chosen to elect Democrats because they believe they represent them the best. Voting is the foundation of a democratic society and I believe citizens should vote with their heart and their mind, not based solely on a party or ideology. There are phenomenal people from every party on this island who want to make positive changes but there are also those who are running for other reasons. The importance of researching your candidates and getting to know them cannot be overstated.
4. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
Money in politics is a large issue not only in Hawaii but also around the nation. For starters we need to repeal the Supreme Court Decision of Citizens United, which allows unlimited corporate campaign contributions and drowns out citizens’ voices. Promoting and encouraging the publicly funded elections program is another great way to appeal to candidates so they don’t feel the need to take money from large special interests. My campaign is a publicly funded campaign.
Holding public officials accountable is paramount for public confidence and upholding ethical standards. When elected officials have strong conflicts of interests they should be held to those conflicts and not brushed off by other leaders. Also, strengthening and improving ethics laws is much needed. Protecting and empowering individuals to report an ethics violation is a crucial step in tackling this issue.
Increasing the frequency of financial reporting and making financial disclosure forms accessible would greatly increase transparency among elected officials and keep them honest.
5. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Absolutely, public records are important to ensure our officials are acting in accordance with regulations and shouldn’t be difficult to access. Although I understand the costs associated with keeping these records, this is a duty of the state. With new technology it should be easier to access than ever and cheaper to maintain. No one should be left out because of their economic or financial status.
6. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
As a representative it is your job to listen to your constituents. Listening is one of the strongest attributes of a leader and if you fail to listen and learn you will not be successful. Furthermore, if an official does not uphold their duty to the public I believe the public should use the power of their vote next election cycle and elect a leader who does listen. Unfortunately, Hawaii has a history of low voter turnout and I’ve found that many have little knowledge about their elected officials. The state must do a better job of engaging in get-out-the-vote efforts, registering citizens to vote, and informing citizens about candidates in unbiased ways.
7. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
District 40, Ewa Beach, has many pressing issues. Currently our overcrowding of James Campbell High School, our need for a new high school to adequately serve our students, and the rising classroom temperatures are the community’s main concerns. We need leaders who are willing to roll up their sleeves and tackle this issue effectively. It takes working with everyone and bringing all people together to fix this problem. District 40’s chances of solving this issue have been hindered because of divisive rhetoric, profanity-laced outbursts, and lack of willingness to work together. Our community and our young students deserve much better.
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 is a state of an abundant amount of natural resources, breathtaking scenery and rich culture, but Hawaii also has a growing population of about 10,000 residents per year. We need to ensure that our cities are up to date and our citizens have adequate housing, facilities and opportunities for work. We can do this while ensuring our islands are protected and preserved. Working with all parties to support new innovative, ecological and sustainable solutions that progress us forward in a mindful and compassionate way is crucial for Hawaii’s future. Once over-developed you cannot go back to the way the land once was, which is why we need to make absolutely sure that we are acting in the best interest of our islands.
9. What should the Legislature do to improve police accountability?
Unfortunately, headlines tend to report more bad situations than good. Being a police officer is an extremely demanding job that requires constant training, oversight and strong leadership. Rewarding and reporting the majority of our officers that are always doing the right thing, serving our communities with honesty and integrity, will help bring a balance to our system.
Moreover, police officers are public servants and are not above the law they vow to uphold. If police officers break the law they should be held to the same standard as any citizen in the court of law. In addition, Hawaii law requires the police chief from each county to submit his or her own reports about officer misconduct to the Legislature every year. I believe that police misconduct records should be made public and I support measures to ensure investigations of police misconduct are done transparently and without bias.
10. Hawaii is the fastest-aging state. What would you do to ensure we’re taking care of our kupuna?
We need to be proactive in preventing issues with our kapuna care before they arise. Investing in preventative and aging-in-place services that reduce the cost of service while improving the lives of seniors is a good start. Providing health and nutrition classes help and installing safety equipment such as handrails and assisting mechanisms should be included in the services for our kapuna to delay the need for long-term care.
Also, we need to increase information and outreach to kapuna and their families about the services available. Many families and service providers are not aware of the full spectrum of services available in their communities.
11. What would you do to improve Hawaii’s public education system?
First, we make Hawaii “teacher friendly” by taking care of our educators and faculty. I have quickly learned as a graduate from Hawaii Pacific University with a degree in Teaching English, through my meetings with local teachers, and my time teaching in our schools, that Hawaii is not lacking in quality of educators but in quantity, salaries and resources made available to them. Investing in continual training opportunities for our teachers and their bosses will keep them growing and developing. To a young student or citizen looking for a career, being an educator in the current public school system is not too appealing due to the many challenges Hawaii’s educators face.
Second, we make sure our students, systems and schools are a statewide top priority. It seems that this issue has been somewhat neglected in my district and when it’s not our priority our keiki and young adults suffer as a result.
Lastly, we should have a curriculum that focuses on basic skill development (i.e. literacy) and non-cognitive skills (i.e. communication, leadership, global citizenship, emotional intelligence and entrepreneurship). Making sure our students have many opportunities to learn classes in the arts and culture is also extremely important.