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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 Stanley Chang, a Democratic candidate for the state Senate 9th District, which includes Hawaii Kai, Aina Haina, Waialae-Kahala and Diamond Head. There is one other candidate, Republican Sam Slom.
Name: Stanley Chang
Office seeking: State Senate, 9th District
Community organizations/prior offices held: Honolulu City Council member, 2011-2015; National Association of Counties, national director, 2011-2014; Hawaii State Association of Counties, secretary, 2011-201414; Hawaii Future Caucus, co-chair, 2013-2014; Northeast Asia Economic Forum, Young Leader, 2015; Young Democrats of America Pacific Region and Young Democrats of Hawaii Conference, vice chair, 2015; Young Elected Officials Network, Hawaii state director; Waikiki Business Improvement District Association, director, 2011-2015; Family Promise, director, 2009-2011; Organization of Chinese Americans (Hawaii), director, 2009-2011
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 33
Place of residence: Waialae-Kahala
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ChangforSenate/
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 former member of the City Council, I feel strongly that many of the best practices of the Council and other legislative bodies should apply to the Legislature. Most importantly, I support a year-round legislative session and six-day notice requirements for posting of agendas. The legislative session’s limited nature means that bills can be killed at many points, especially at the very end, with no accountability or recourse but to reintroduce the measure the following year. With a year-round Legislature, killing a bill under cover of night at a critical deadline would be pointless, as the bill could be reintroduced the following month. Also, the limited session and its limited period for bill introduction means legislators have an incentive to introduce thousands of bills, just so that a few may advance.
The legislative process today consists of winnowing out the vast majority of bills. With year-round bill introduction, the City Council considered no more than 80 bills per year, a pace that makes it realistic for elected officials to read and understand all of them. I support a six-day notice requirement, which gives testifiers more time to prepare to give written or oral testimony.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizen’s initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Citizen’s initiative processes are an exceptional opportunity for our community to enact fundamental change. However, citizen votes can sometimes pose risks, as the recent Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom illustrates. James Madison deeply understood the risks of tyranny of the majority, and he supported enactment of the checks and balances of the three branches of government to counteract the tyranny of the majority. Before adopting an initiative process, I would support an incremental step like the City and County of Honolulu Charter Commission process to permit a greater citizen voice in the amendment of the state constitution.
3. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
I am a lifelong Democrat because I believe deeply in the values of the Democratic Party: hard work, respect for differences between individuals, responsibility for the good of our community and a faith that our best days are yet to come. While sharing many of these values, Hawaii’s Democrats are a diverse group that includes individuals on both sides of virtually every policy issue. I believe that just about every voter’s policy stands are represented by at least some Democrats in the Legislature and that therefore virtually no one’s views are unrepresented within our Democratic big tent.
I am proud of my work with Republicans, including the founding of the Hawaii Future Caucus, a bipartisan group of young legislators co-chaired by Republican state Rep. Beth Fukumoto Chang. While we did not agree on all issues, as young people, we were committed to getting things done for our communities. We worked hard to advance policy agendas like making college more affordable and expanding voter participation.
4. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I am proud of my ethical best practices during my tenure as a City Council member. I will continue to adopt the highest possible standards in our office’s conduct, and to advocate their adoption as law to apply to all elected officials. On the City Council, I filed ethics disclosures for matters relating to campaign contributors, even when I was not required to because they did not constitute a “conflict of interest” under the law.
I will fight for greater transparency, greater disclosure, and greater accountability at the state level. Today, those compensated to persuade legislators are required to register as lobbyists, but those compensated to persuade the governor are not. I support legislation to close that loophole. I also support granting full resources for ethics training and enforcement.
5. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Access to public records is essential to government transparency and accountability. Fees for reproducing materials should reflect only the actual costs incurred. I support expanding digital access to state records and whatever other means available to reduce the cost of access to public records.
6. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
Since beginning my first campaign, I have knocked on tens of thousands of doors to ask voters about their concerns. I do not expect most voters to be able to take off work during business hours to testify before elected officials, or even submit written testimony. That’s why my highest priority is to listen to the residents of East Honolulu one on one at their homes.
Our City Council office received the most phone calls, emails, questions and complaints of any Council district, and our policy was to reply to all communications within 48 hours.
I have also championed the latest technology in making government more responsive, including the Honolulu 311 app that enables people to snap a photo of any community issue (including potholes, broken streetlights, or anything else) and submit that information to the city with the GPS coordinates of the location. I support expanding the use of smartphone and other new technology to make government more accessible to the public.
7. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
My desire to serve the public stems from my parents. They’re both immigrants from China who arrived in Hawaii with nothing. My dad started out as a beach boy in Waikiki. They were able to work hard, save, buy a home and put me through school. But today, 90 percent of my high school class at Iolani went to college on the mainland, and most haven’t come back. The biggest reason is the cost of housing.
I want to serve the people of Hawaii to address this fundamental issue: ensuring that each future generation is able to have a good quality of life and the ability raise a family here at home. Too many local residents cannot — and will never be able to — afford to buy a home. The cost of housing is the most important reason why the cost of living in Hawaii is higher than any other state. That is why Hawaii has the highest percentage of both parents working, the highest percentage of persons working two or more jobs, and the earliest wake up time in the nation. To make it possible for Hawaii’s young people and future generations to have a good life, we must expand the housing supply.
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?
Development and environmental protection are not competing interests. Expanding the supply of homes for future generations can — and must — take place simultaneously with measures to enhance our environmental sustainability for future generations. Smart growth focuses on high density, walkable development along a transit corridor. Smart growth removes the pressure to build on agricultural or conservation land and reduces each family’s environmental impact. At the same time, we must continue to adopt measures protecting wild places, reducing carbon emissions, and reducing our negative impact on our environment.
9. What should the Legislature do to improve police accountability?
Hawaii consistently ranks amongst the safest states in the United States in no small part due to the hard work and vigilance of our police force, in conjunction with a relationship of trust and transparency with the community. I support measures to enhance police transparency and accountability and will work with all stakeholders to ensure that all measures under consideration are fair, equitable, and respect each stakeholder’s role in this critical issue.
10. Hawaii is the fastest-aging state. What would you do to ensure we’re taking care of our kupuna?
My father is 87 years old, and my mother is his primary caregiver. Every day, I see how his needs are being met — or not being met — and how few resources are available in the caregiving process. No issue is more important to me. It is estimated that by 2030, individuals over the age of 65 will make up 20 percent of Hawaii’s population. Already, three-quarters of voters are over the age of 55, and there are more voters over the age of 90 than under the age of 30. Our obligation to care for our kupuna is a sacred trust. We must ensure that caregivers are given the support they need, including long term care.
Measures to address the cost of living will help kupuna disproportionately. We must address issues like the high cost of housing, health care and other basic needs. We need more affordable housing communities and rentals for elderly. Additionally, our kupuna need access to healthcare options that allow them to age in place.
11. What would you do to improve Hawaii’s public education system?
Education was the calling for both my parents, who dedicated their lives to teaching. My father taught for 40 years at the University of Hawaii, and my mother has taught in public and private schools and tutored privately. They worked hard to give me incredible educational opportunities.
Every child of Hawaii deserves a world-class education, yet our educators are always tasked with doing more with less. We cannot expect a world class education system without the resources that other world class education systems receive. Any conversation on improving public education, therefore, must begin with more resources. Hawaii’s new teachers today receive the lowest salary, adjusted for the cost of living, of any state in the country. We need resources to improve teacher recruitment and retention, and to make classroom conditions as favorable to learning as possible by air conditioning our schools and reducing the repair backlog to our school facilities.
Schools must serve all students by offering a well-rounded education including art, music, drama and Hawaiian studies, as well as special support for special education and bilingual students. Schools must prepare students for both college and for vocational education, so that they are ready for whatever career paths they choose.