Editor’s note:For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Russell Ruderman, a Democratic candidate for the state Senate 2nd District, which includes Puna and Kau on the Big Island. There is one other candidate, Libertarian Frederick Fogel.
Community organizations/prior offices held: State senator 2012- present; member, Hawaii County Solid Waste Advisory Committee; member, Hawaii County Agriculture Committee; member, Hawaii County Environmental Management Commission; member, University of Hawaii Hilo Performing Arts Center Advisory Committee; president, Waawaa Community Association; spokesperson, Big Island Rainforest Action Group
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 would institute video testimony to allow for outer island citizens to participate equally. Limit campaign donations from corporations and lobbyists during session ( I introduced a bill to this effect).
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizen’s initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Yes, in fact I co-introduced a bill for statewide citizen’s initiative along with Sen Laura Thielen. I also support term limits for state legislators and introduced a bill for that.
3. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
I would welcome a viable third party, unless the Democratic Party can evolve to allow more participation and less top-down control. It is not the party that is at fault, but rather an atmosphere of closed-door decision making and stifling of new participation. I hold no hope whatsoever for the Republican Party to be part of the solution.
4. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I introduced this year a bill to prohibit campaign donations from corporations and lobbyists during session. I have supported all moves toward more disclosure of campaign and financial disclosure. I support publicly funded elections, which is the ultimate answer to the problem of corporate money in politics.
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 respond to all constituent communications as a matter of policy and principle. If we reduced the influence of corporate money in politics, such as with publicly funded elections ( or other ways of reducing money in politics) , then elected officials would have much more reason to listen to constituents.
7. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Lack of basic services in a district larger than Oahu and which is also the fastest-growing and poorest district in the state. Puna has only one road in and out, which goes to one lane serving 30,000 people; no emergency room or hospital; no classroom of higher education; no airport or harbor.
To respond, I will continue my efforts to fund a medical center in Puna, and for new libraries, for both of which I have gotten startup funding. I will continue to advocate for highway improvement, and better schools, including a distance learning center.
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?
By promoting business that is beneficial to our existing communities. I have created over 200 jobs in a business I started, and we have been award-winning environmentalist all along the way. I was awarded the SBA State of Hawaii Businessperson of the Year at the White House in 2015 in recognition of this accomplishment. Business and environment not only are compatible, but they must go hand in hand. My business success is proof that this is possible.
9. What should the Legislature do to improve police accountability?
Strengthen Police Commission power and roles, pass laws such as body-cams for police (we came every close this year).
10. Hawaii is the fastest-aging state. What would you do to ensure we’re taking care of our kupuna?
Fully fund kupuna programs.
11. What would you do to improve Hawaii’s public education system?
Decentralize it. More decision making should happen at the complex area level, including procurement, so local foods can be available to schools. I wrote and passed the “Farm to School” bill in 2015 to facilitate this process.
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