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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 Fred Fogel, a Democratic candidate for the state Senate 2nd District, which includes Puna and Kau on the Big Island. There is one other candidate, Democrat Russell Ruderman.
Name: Fred Fogel
Office seeking: State Senate District 2
Occupation: Retired management analyst
Community organizations/prior offices held: O Kau Kakou; Friends of Puna’s Future; Friends of Hawaii National Park; Volcano Community Association, Hawaiian Orchid Island Estates Community Association (secretary, president)
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 66
Place of residence: Volcano, Hawaii County
Campaign website: www.fredfogel.net
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?
Let the voters have the final say at the polls on whether politicians and governmental workers receive pay raises. Implement term limits for all politicians, eight years maximum (they’d qualify for retirement after 10 years). Eliminate the practice of using funds designated for a specific purpose, for another purpose. Extend legislative sessions from five months to 10, with no increase in the salaries of politicians. Eliminate “riders” or add-ons to a proposed bill that do not apply to the purpose of the bill. Eliminate “gut and replace” – rewording and entirely changing the original meaning of a bill already voted upon.
Require all bills to be heard by committee. Do not allow committee chairs to “table” a bill without a vote. Make line item veto legal for all proposed bills. If governor vetoes a bill, return it to the chamber for possible override. Require analysis of financial impact and the identification of funding sources for all proposed bills. Apply “sunshine law” to state Legislature, or revise law. Politicians should be subject all the laws they enact.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizen’s initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Citizen’s initiatives are often called “direct democracy.” California was one of the first states to implement it. Basically it allows a certain number of registered voters to put a petition on the ballot and force a public vote. Do-nothing politicians often like these initiatives because their names aren’t on it, and people like initiatives because of do-nothing politicians.
There are several issues with “direct democracy.” First, we are not a democracy (50 pervent required to approve something); second, hardly 50 percent of eligible voters actually vote, meaning that less than 25 percent often represents the “majority” when it comes to ballot initiatives; and third, special interest groups often spend lots of money, which dictate initiative outcomes. As it stands now, only politicians in Hawaii can put initiatives on the ballot. If they can, the people should be able to, too.
3. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
There’s no such thing as a stupid question, but this comes close. Party domination is determined by the voters at the polls. Before the sugar plantations, Hawaii was basically Republican. When the agricultural workers banded together, things changed. Personally I would prefer more than two political parties. Perhaps that would force politicians to start cooperating. But the bottom line is that the voters determine which party will “dominate.”
4. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
Really? What do you mean by strengthening Hawaii’s lobbing, ethics and financial disclosure laws? Do you think the present laws are not strong enough? Personally, I think the lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws are fine as they are, with one caveat. If by “financial disclosure” you mean the people who contributed to a politician’s election, I think specific individuals should not be able to hide in corporations or organizations. All names (and amount of donations) should be public record.
5. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes – public records should be free to whoever wants them – no matter what the “interest.”
6. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
The people who complain the loudest often have special interests and don’t speak for the majority. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not implying they shouldn’t be listened to. Often good ideas come from the 10 percent. But communication is a two-way street, and politicians could do a lot better informing the public about what is going on. Proposed bills, sponsors, individual votes along the way and politicians blocking the progress of bills should all be public knowledge — available through an easy search in a governmental, internet database. Right now it is not.
7. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Natural disasters and environmental threats. I support Civil Defense, inspectors and scientists.
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?
If by “new development” you mean new business enterprises, get the government out of the face of business. In other words, make it easier and less expensive to start a new business, and regulate them less. Some people see business as the antithesis of environmental protection, but generally it is not. Granted some people will abuse the environment for their own gain and should be dealt with accordingly. But in general business does not kill the goose laying the golden egg.
9. What should the Legislature do to improve police accountability?
Implement personal and vehicle cameras. Publish the names, offenses and resulting discipline of offending officers. Support officers in the performance of their duties. Ensure adequate funding available for a fully employed workforce. Reduce overtime abuse.
10. Hawaii is the fastest-aging state. What would you do to ensure we’re taking care of our kupuna?
Not too long ago the kupuna were taken care of by their proteges. The government wasn’t part of the picture. People took responsibility for their own survival in old age. Perhaps it would benefit all of us to return to that philosophy. The state is presently doing enough to take care of our kupuna.
11. What would you do to improve Hawaii’s public education system?
Pay good teachers more. Support teachers by putting discipline back in the school environment. Implement an effective “360-degree” teacher evaluation system, with input from parents, students, peers and superiors. Implement standardized tests to measure the progress of a student from the start of the school year to the end, as well as their overall grade-level capability. Make student achievement (improvement during the year) part of a teacher’s evaluation, not student competency. Do not graduate or promote students who fail to meet a minimum competency for specific grade levels.
Provide educational pipelines for students interested in trades, special need students, college-bound students, exceptional students and special-need students. Help poor-performing teachers find a more appropriate vocation. Eliminate the state school board and create county boards comprised of principals (both public and private). Implement a student voucher system to give parents a say in which schools are good – public, private and charter. Allocate the money presently spent on education (including facility maintenance) to schools based on student registration. Empower school principals to manage, prioritize and distribute all resources as best they see fit.