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Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 primary election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Paul Bryant, a candidate for Hawaii County mayor. There are 12 other candidates.
Name: Paul Bryant
Office seeking: Hawaii County mayor
Occupation: Writer, retired rancher, gallery owner
Community organizations/prior offices held: President, Friends of Library Laupahoehoeof; president, Waimea Arts Council; founding board member, Self Discovery Through Art
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 71
Place of residence: Laupahoehoe, 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 Mayor’s Office is run?
Although current buzz words seem to be “restore integrity,” that’s a lip-service ideal that gets bandied about and forgotten after the election. I intend to see all employees including myself renew their pledge to serving the people and those who seem unwilling or unable to follow that simple idea will be given the choice of retiring or taking a job they may not like. The current modus of employment seems designed to protect the employee not the public by whom they’re paid and for whom they work!
All incoming department heads will provide a self-written letter of immediate resignation that is both signed and notarized but not dated when starting their job. When it is apparent they are not fulfilling their sworn duties they will be leaving without any further discussion or cost to the county. I would like to say here I will ask no one I do not have full faith in to take on any department leadership role and expect these letters to never be used. I have always felt that an hourly job required exactly that — eight hours of work, and I will expect nothing less from every county employee.
2. Should your county implement a 0.5 percent GET surcharge?
No, absolutely not, as Hawaii County has the highest percentage of people living below the poverty level and forced to utilize food stamps. I would rather see both food and medicine exempted from the current GET taxes altogether!
3. 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?
Several candidates have voiced the pie-in-the-sky ideal of Hawaii County becoming the main food source for all the Hawaiian Islands. They talk of training young people to farm, etc. Having been in that arena myself I feel they are talking nonsense. We have increasing levels of pests foraging our crops and only imported chemical controls along with imported fertilizers to properly grow a successful cycle of any fruit or vegetable. The availability of much cheaper fresh foods from South American and Asia (despite not knowing just how they’ve been grown or chemically treated) causes a price disparity our shoppers for the main prefer to the higher cost local goods.
“Buy local” is a wonderful motto and as much as I can I do that myself, but the islands will never eliminate importation of foodstuffs, and to think so is ludicrous. Instead we need to be vigilant against invading pests of all sorts and assist those trying hard to grow non-GMO tainted crops. Finding the balance is where the best agricultural roads lead us.
4. What would you do to strengthen police accountability?
Our county police and sheriff forces have a double duty — protect the public and enforce the laws. If we have laws that are totally out of synch with public opinion then they need to be excised from our law books. And the focus our police should have is prevention of crime and/or any problems they are called on to handle. Although I don’t know all the details, there have been far too many instances of deadly force used in our county over the last decade. Indeed this year there have been five deaths involving police action.
I would hope they can be made to recognize we have a delicate balance to maintain being such an isolated island state. And as such, less egregious ways to solve any conflict would be preferable to killing someone. Thinking outside the box, my campaign motto can also mean “rethinking your actions before acting.” Only a handful of rules/laws are such that they cannot or will not be muted by tweaking. But some rules/laws are being changed or tweaked in the minds of the public and then can be changed through administrative action. It used to be that one was only sure of “death” and “taxes,” but I think today “changes” must be added.
5. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
Our state, and every other state in the union, needs to re-examine how we allow PACs and lobbyists to unduly influence the promulgation of rules, laws and services to everyone. Only when we have elected officials who have only the public in mind when executing their offices will that change. We are serving up totally wrong role models to our youth and cannot expect them to be different if we ourselves are not being absolutely true. Why is it many of our elected officials go into office with great plans and a moderate lifestyle but come out years later super-wealthy and full of empty platitudes? We should expect and demand more of every man or woman elected to serve the greater good. Until that happens little will change.
6. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Without a doubt the cost of $1 or more per page is ridiculous when the ultimate goal for their use is in the public interest. If the files can be used in copy form then access to them can be made simpler via internet. Having to pay for a copy that you can or should be able to read and/or replicate at home is again poor government. We have better things to do than man a copy machine when most homes and all businesses have their own.
Free up the system except for certified items like birth, marriage, death certificates. And lower the production costs of those to actual cost. We’ve already paid the salaries of those doing the copying haven’t we?
7. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
Why do we not have an ombudsman position any longer? They are the ones who should and could help anyone having a problem of this sort. The alternative is to wait for the elected officials’ term to come due and work like hell to see they’re not re-elected! But seriously I think we would all be best served by have a legally competent officer of the court help to guide us in resolving any question of duty. Just remember you can lead an old warhorse to water but cannot make them drink or think! Be the change you want to be and while you’re at it think outside the box when going for solutions.
8. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
The list is enormous! Take your pick of anyone of these problems:
Lack of a county-wide living basic wage per hour. Affordable housing. Energy independence. Agricultural marketing and protection from grey market theft. Fair share taxation. Repair and continued upkeep of both county and state roads. Public safety issues. Government accountability. Invasive species, etc., etc., etc.
Each requires a different touch and quite different solution. None are simple to solve but all can be made less onerous immediately and hopefully altered for the better within my first term. When my cabinet of advisors and department heads is complete we’ll tackle this list and begin whittling it down collectively making in-roads on each problem. By starting with a multifaceted and widened view we’ll find some changes and even some small improvements will engender more and better results along the way.
As for what I hope to do about lifting the basic living wage per hour is to lobby each of our Council members to get them thinking this “experiment” will have far-reaching results of long-standing merit both socially and economically. It is overdue and we need to lead by actions that show commitment to the welfare of all within our county.