Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 primary election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Carl Campagna, a Democratic candidate for the state Senate 14th District, which includes Moanalua, Aiea, Fort Shafter, Kalihi Valley and Halawa Valley. There is one other candidate, his Democratic primary opponent, Donna Kim.
Name: Carl Campagna
Office seeking: State Senate, District 14
Occupation: Project manager, business owner, non-profit founder
Community organizations/prior offices held: Neighborhood Board No. 14; Region 3 chair of Democratic Party of Hawaii; Moanalua Lions; Rotary of Honolulu; Prince Kuhio Hawaiian Civic Club; Filipino Chamber of Commerce; League of Women Voters, Keiki Caucus, Farm2School+, Housing and Homeless task force
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 46
Place of residence: Honolulu
Campaign website: www.votecampagna.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 intend to bring the legislation directly to the people. As I have done while door knocking, my legislative ideas will be shaped by listening and face to face interaction so that they are grounded in the community. This will include town halls, canvassing and door knocking, petitions, attendance at neighborhood boards and other community events. It is our responsibility as elected official to be accessible and responsive. I will do more than offer surveys and write letters, I will work directly with stakeholders as well as my legislative colleagues to do the work that others merely talk about.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizen’s initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Yes, I do support such a process. We should do all we can so more people can be involved and engaged in the process.
3. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
The individual voters get to decide who our elected officials are, regardless of party affiliation. We must elect people who are willing to do the work and make the real changes needed to address the issues. I don’t think party dominance is the problem as much as it is complacency and the lack of challengers along with the belief that the legislative seats “belong” to the incumbent and is theirs until they move on or retire, when they then choose replacements. There are current members of our state Legislature that have been in one office or another for over 30 years, mostly unchallenged. Democracy does not and is not supposed to work that way. The question is will the voters elect new people?
4. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I believe in transparency. I will work towards complete transparency and a recorded, open book policy for all transactions, donations and influence. I will also work towards limiting campaigns to be publicly funded. There is too much special interest money in politics leading to cynicism, skepticism and bad policy. If the policy was only about rights, public need and creating opportunity without the influence of special interest money, then the door would be open to better policy for the common good.
5. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes, I would. There should not be barriers to accessing public records. Assigning a high fee discriminates against those who cannot otherwise afford it.
6. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I will do what I have done throughout my campaign, door knock, hold town halls, petition and be accessible and responsive face to face. I will listen and incorporate the ideas into the proposed legislation. When and where there is disagreement, it is incumbent upon me to make myself even more available and actively engage the communities to discuss.
7. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
We must improve our educational system for both the children and the teachers. While some schools within Senate District 14 are doing well, thanks in large part to the affluence of their communities, there are many others that are struggling and our children do not deserve to struggle academically based on income. Assuring the opportunity to thrive is our greatest responsibility to our children. We must raise standards and provide access to high quality and affordable education, facilities and technology for all our children from pre-K through Ph.D.
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?
We need more housing. Across the Sstate we are 60,000 housing units short. The single biggest concern for residents and business owners is rent/mortgage, as it only goes up. However, we must preserve our lands as well as develop. First we need an assessment of all the available land and the proximity to infrastructure. Once we have identified the various classes of ag lands we can plan the appropriate development both outward and upward, staying away from all class A and B ag lands. As an island state we need both energy and food security, but our population is growing, including our homeless, so our housing developments must increase, but not at the cost of valuable agricultural and cultural lands nor at the cost of the reasonable carrying-capacity of some districts.
9. What should the Legislature do to improve police accountability?
Transparency is my common theme. I respect and support our police officers, but they are not above the law; they are enforcers of the law. I am in favor of body and dashboard cameras. I also believe that the police should provide the public with more details than we are often given. We must keep our officers safe, but we must also protect innocent people.
10. Hawaii is the fastest-aging state. What would you do to ensure we’re taking care of our kupuna?
I am happy that the AARP CARE Act passed this session and was signed. I believe that the success of a civilization is best measured by how we treat our keiki and our kupuna. We need affordable housing, better support for adult care homes and care home providers and we must protect social security and long term health-care benefits. We also need more awareness and understanding of Alzheimer’s and dementia related medical needs and care as well as appropriate nutritional care.
11. What would you do to improve Hawaii’s public education system?
It begins by allowing our teachers to be the professionals that they are. Hiring 1,000 emergency teachers per year is neither respectful nor is it effective or sustainable. They need to be paid more and afforded year-long benefits. Only if we create a supportive and professional working environment will we be able to train, grow and retain our teachers from pre-K to Ph.D.
In addition, we have kicked the can down the road long enough and we must address the needed infrastructure upgrades and deferred maintenance once and for all. We must also incorporate more technology in the classrooms, including laptops and software for every child beginning as early as third grade. I would be in favor of establishing a vocational program at all schools as well as beginning college and career courses as early as middle school. We may have the next Mozart or Einstein in our midst, but if we don’t provide them with every opportunity to thrive, they will not have the chance they deserve.