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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 Jeffrey Coakley, a Republican candidate for state House District 7, which includes North Kona, North Kohala and South Kohala. There is one other candidate, Democrat Cindy Evans.
Name: Jeffrey Coakley
Office seeking: State representative, District 7
Occupation: Senior pool lifeguard, real estate broker
Community organizations/prior offices held: President, Kohala Hawaiian Civic Club; president, North Kohala Jaycees; interim president, Kohala Community Association; board chairman Maikai Kamakani O Kohala Inc.; president, Hui Mamalahoa
Residence: Kohala, Hawaii
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?
As a candidate for the Big Island the people are at a distinct disadvantage logistically in being able to participate in the political process to voice their concerns at committee hearings. The expense of buying an airline ticket and renting a car is beyond the capacity of many concerned citizens. Petitions, personal letters and emails are ineffective as it requires a huge amount of time and energy to mobilize people to take part in that effort. Big corporations, lobbyists and Oahu-centric lawmakers will continue to make the laws at the expense of outer-island people not being able to personally voice their opinions. What’s needed is to have hearings for those critical issue that have a direct impact on the neighbor islands to be held on the neighbor islands.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizen’s initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Citizen’s initiative would definitely give the grassroots a “voice” in the political process, however, that can be a double-edged sword for those with money could overwhelm and outspend the opposition and defeat the purpose of the initiative process. It would require much thought and planning in how we could safeguard the rights of the “grassroots” so their voices may be heard above the din of money.
3. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
It’s the people’s thinking that needs to change as they are the ones who vote for their elected officials. The people have to realize that they have to power to bring the changes needed to have a government that is responsive to their needs and not a political party. When we the people realize that and put our faith and trust in those who have that same belief then we’ll have a government that is … of the people … by the people … and for the people. Along the years we’ve forgotten that and this election year the people should test it out and vote for those who are not political insiders and order takers, but those who will truly represent the people as their public servant.
4. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
Electronic filing that would allow public access to information and data.
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?
I totally agree that the people’s voices are not being listened to and totally ignored and that’s one of the main reasons I am running for the 7th District House seat. I am not a politician but a community organizer/activist. I intend to do what I have been doing for decades and that is bringing people together to address their concerns. The 7th District consists of the unique communities of Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa and North Kona.
My plan is to have monthly community meetings in each district and begin forming coalitions where, as communities, we communicate and address common concerns and issues together. The next step would be to form alliances our County of Hawaii representatives and would work as a team so that the people’s voices can be heard and acted upon. In every community we have proven leaders in all aspects of life and it’s a resource that should be utilized and tapped into that will benefit the community as a whole.
In Kohala we were able to do just that by organizing ex-plantation workers into a cohesive force that battled for gathering rights to mauka and makai areas of our community.
7. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
A representative represents the people. Yet our voices are ignored. Why do our representative take it upon themselves to make critical decisions without consulting us their constituents? We need to find those common issues that impacts each community within the district and organized ourselves around those issues to form coalitions and alliances.
I believe in home rule, where the people make the decisions and not Oahu-centric politicians. I will fight to protect home rule for Hawaii Island to preserve our unique qualities and protect our country communities.
From that starting point we can more effectively deal with a variety of issues that beset our communities as a united and cohesive force.
For example, 50 percent of Hawaii’s wage earners are living paycheck to paycheck and our senior citizens are living on fixed incomes and Hawaii is ranked No. 2 as having the worst tax burden in the nation. And yet our legislators wanted to raise the GET tax and double vehicle registration fees.
I’m in favor or eliminating taxes on food and medical and no new taxes so that the people can keep more of their hard-earned monies in their pockets.
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?
Keep Kohala, Kohala. Meaning keep our agricultural rural district lands in the raising of food and supporting agricultural efforts. There’s ample space in our urban centers for growth.
9. What should the Legislature do to improve police accountability?
Being a police officer is a tough job and I believe most do a good job. But then again there are those, small in number, that do not. I don’t know the answer to this question and would have to reach out to the community to get their input.
1o. Hawaii is the fastest-aging state. What would you do to ensure we’re taking care of our kupuna?
The rising costs for care is a great concern for our kupuna and their children. Many children are returning home to take care of their aged parents with the help of part-time help from CNA certified assistants. We must find ways to help offset those costs. We also need to continue our efforts in building and providing senior housing units for our long-time residents of our various communities.
11. What would you do to improve Hawaii’s public education system?
In 2004 former Gov. Linda Lingle pushed for a voter referendum to eliminate the Department of Education. That would have opened the way for each school district to take charge and be responsible in meeting the educational needs of their students, which would include budget.
Maybe it’s time to revisit that again.