Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 primary election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Patrick Shea, a Democratic candidate for state House of Representatives District 49, which serves Kaneohe, Maunawili and Olomana. There is one other candidate, Democrat Ken Ito.
Name: Patrick Kamakanianu Shea
Office seeking: State House District 49
Community organizations/prior offices held: Past director, Lanikai Canoe; past director and past president, Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation; current director, Native Hawaiian Bar Association
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 43
Place of residence: Maunawili
Campaign website: friendsofpatrickshea.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?
I support public financing of campaigns in order to prevent the influence of corporate money, which the Citizens United decision has amplified. This would also loosen the clutch of incumbents on their respective offices, leveling the playing field for a more diverse group of candidates, and ensuring a flow of new ideas and perspectives in government.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizen’s initiative process. Do you support such a process?
3. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
The Democratic Party has achieved tremendous benefits to Hawaii’s citizens by championing a progressive agenda aimed at environmental protection, racial and marital equality, worker protections and health insurance coverage. The Republican presumptive nominee for president candidate does not appear to be a champion of these traditionally democratic values, is self-interested, is a racist, and is a xenophobe. Therefore the current election is not the appropriate time to support any amplification of the Republican political message.
4. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
We need to closely monitor lobbyists’ financial disclosures. We can enlist the assistance of the public and journalists by making such disclosures available for inspection and downloading online.
5. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes. In talking with constituents, it is clear that transparency of state finances is of critical importance. We need to foster a system in which citizens feel they have access to details of government that are important to them. Our democracy depends on elected officials demonstrating their trustworthiness through disclosure.
6. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I would like to institute an e-mail list for District 49 that interested folks can subscribe to, which would (during the legislative session) provide twice per-month updates on issues being debated in the Legislature. The e-mail list would solicit responses and opinions from subscribers, and publicize the important timelines and requirements for submitting public testimony.
7. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
In District 49 we must address kupuna care issues by creating a fund that will allow support to family caregivers who work hard to care for aging parents and grandparents in their homes. Culturally, we value aging in place, but this requires a tremendous amount of resources, attention and time from those who provide care for their relatives. Access to support, adult day care opportunities and respite care, which can be provided at low or no cost, will provide some relief and will enhance the lives of the caregivers as well as the kupuna.
Additionally, we need to preserve and conserve our natural resources by making sure that development does not damage our environment and making sure that open spaces are protected.
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?
There is no doubt that housing demand significantly exceeds supply. For the period 2015 to 2025, about 65,000 new housing units will be needed to keep pace with population growth. We need to be sure that housing is developed to meet that requirement, in a way that is thoughtful and conscious. Transit-oriented development will ease the strain of the additional units on our transportation infrastructure, which will protect environmental resources. Additionally, urban areas should be redeveloped in a way that promotes a less impactful lifestyle. Urban areas should be walkable and should be well served by public transportation.
Great care must also be taken to ensure that new development projects will not affect or diminish habitats of protected or endangered species. This can be achieved by continuing stringent environmental impact reporting to the public.
9. What should the Legislature do to improve police accountability?
The Honolulu Police Commission serves an invaluable purpose, but the breadth of its duties (from budgeting to providing input on rules and regulations) means that its ability to investigate police misconduct may be limited. A statewide civilian review board whose sole task is analyzing individual officer performance in the context of mistakes and incompetence would assist the various commissions in the execution of their role in investigating charges against police raised by the public.
10. Hawaii is the fastest-aging state. What would you do to ensure we’re taking care of our kupuna?
We need legislation to financially assist families with elder-care needs and provide professional assistance and support to family caregivers. Also, our kipuna have earned their retirement, and we need to make sure their financial interests are protected from unnecessary taxes. Finally, social services that serve our kupuna need to be a top priority in our legislative budget.
11. What would you do to improve Hawaii’s public education system?
Smaller classes can make teachers more effective, which will not only allow kids to learn more, faster, but will also make personal connection possible.
Our kids should not be disadvantaged in today’s technological world. Their career options will depend on the extent of their technological literacy, and not all families can provide exposure to technology at home. That’s why we need to make sure that our classrooms are filled with cutting-edge technology.
Most immediately, we need to make sure that classroom conditions support learning. Therefore we need to provide air conditioning in the classroom.