Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 11 primary, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities will be if elected.

The following came from Ernest Caravalho, one of six Democratic candidates for governor. The others are Colleen Hanabusa, David Ige, Wendell Ka’ehu’ae’a, Richard Kim and Van Tanabe.

Go to Civil Beat’s Elections Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.

Candidate for Governor

Ernest Caravalho
Party Democrat
Age 57
Occupation Aloha Care Health Insurance
Residence Honolulu


Community organizations/prior offices held

Board member, of Downtown Chinatown Neighborhood Board No. 13; chair, House District 29; Chinatown Lions Club.

1. Homelessness continues to be a major problem in Hawaii. What specific proposals do you have to help reduce homelessness?

This must be attacked from the economic side, the addiction side, the mentally ill, and with education of the general populace. That is to say, the residents of the state of Hawai’i need to be shown, beyond a shadow of a doubt, why houselessness occurs in general all over, not just in Hawaii. Especially the systemic, historic and economic reasons. By doing that we can finally put an end to the lies and stigma currently perpetuated on the houseless in order to properly address the root of the problem.

We need to improve and prioritize education, get more behavioral health therapists, invest real dollars in our communities to help with houselessness and create real affordable housing. I will suggest we incorporate the puuhonua concept, like that of Waimanalo and Waianae in every ahupuaha. We need to work with the VA, which wants to end homelessness with veterans. Most importantly, stop the criminalization of houselessness while actually acting on the obvious and pass Housing First laws and programs that provide more funding for the nonprofits whose sole purpose has been to help with houselessness all along.

2. What should be done to increase affordable housing, especially for the middle class? What could you as governor do specifically?

To increase affordable housing, we must sit down and talk to the military about the amount of stipends they give to military personal to live off base. Because of this we have artificial inflation in housing prices in those areas.

Secondly, we must make laws that alter how our economy functions in such a way that empowers actual residents to buy and own homes over nonresidents and investors.

Thirdly, the state must seriously think about becoming their own developers of affordable housing for the people. I believe that in the end, over 70 percent of all housing built in Hawaii must be affordable. I would also look into nonprofits to build our housing over big developers who mostly build for their own greed.

3. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?

I support holding a state constitutional convention at this time because I believe that we must make amendments to the constitution that are favorable to all the people of Hawaii. I believe that a convention  would benefit the people, especially the Kanaka Maoli.

There are many issues that are not being addressed properly at the federal level, which means the state needs to step up and be the new standard bearer. Technology, security, privacy, and data are huge issues that should be ingrained in stone that need to be addressed. And, there are provisions that need to be amended within that have no enforcement authority designated, which empowers those that can, to just ignore their duty without repercussions.

In the end, we can not allow our fear of those who are corrupt and in power to hold us back from doing what needs to be done right here, right now, in this moment in time.

4. Do you support or oppose allowing citizens to put issues directly on the statewide ballot through an initiative process? Why or why not?

I fully support the right for citizens to be able to collect signatures to directly put initiative on ballots. I believe that it is our right as citizens to do this and I also believe that this also becomes another check on our legislators who have done little to nothing for the people. This is self-evident with the present status of both Hawaii and our planet. Not to mention that it really is tough to say that we have a government of the people and by the people, without this addition.

5. Are you satisfied with the current plans to pay for the state’s unfunded liabilities? If not, how would you propose to meet pension and health obligations for public workers?

No, I am not satisfied because it keeps the problems and solutions in a stagnant box without consideration of potentially better ways of doing things.

There are multiple factors at play here and some ideas need to be considered before moving forward. For example, if the state were to adopt a universal health care plan, all public workers, along with all residents of the state, legislators included, would be under that. That would remove the health care portion of the EUTF, create a whole new system, and leave only the pension requirements to be funded.

Eventually, even the pension system can be made part of a Universal Basic Income system, thereby taking care of the problem on an incremental basis. So you see, by discussing this issue only within certain parameters, everything is limited to a finite box of solutions. And in the end, it is the purpose of our state government to take care of all of its citizens equally and upliftingly, not just the public workers.

6. Hawaii’s public records law requires that records be made available whenever possible. Yet state agencies often resist release through delays and imposing excessive fees. What would you do to ensure the public has access to government records?

I believe that the state must be transparent and release all records that the public has a right to have access to. If these aren’t being released in a timely manner to the public and excessive fees are being added to stop people from receiving these records then the governor must step in, even if it means firing those who are insubordinate to the law and even bringing criminal charges to the individuals responsible.

Basic accountability. These agencies and their employees are here to do two things: their jobs as required and to serve the people. They are not here to serve themselves arbitrarily and to stifle transparency as per their own agenda. Secrecy and protectionism are big problems in government, so I would have a clear policy for handling these things swiftly and decisively.

7. Illegal vacation rentals have proliferated throughout Hawaii. The state is not collecting tax revenue on many of these properties and residents worry about overcrowded neighborhoods and other problems. Do you see this as a problem given Hawaii’s booming visitor industry, and what do you propose to do about it?

Illegal vacation rentals are a big problem in Hawaii despite our booming visitor industry and should be dealt with directly. The government must police this illegal activity by hiring more help to go in and find those who are illegally renting to vacationers and up the fines as well as the penalties. We also need to enact new laws defining under what circumstances one can rent out space in their homes.

This matters because many property investors outside of Hawaii purchase property with the specific purpose of creating vacation rentals. Until we deal with that fundamental issue, any fix will not solve the issue completely.

We should also not allow any outside agency in to collect these taxes on behalf of the state.

8. Is Hawaii managing its tourism industry properly? What should be handled differently?

Hawaii is not managing our tourism industry properly. The fact is that this has become a “do as we will” tourist economy by allowing more and more people to come without a second thought to the overall impact. Meanwhile we are neglecting to have a proper plan to handle all the excess people while still being respectful of our aina.

Our state is overcrowded in many areas with vehicles, not just with tourists. The infrastructure of certain towns, beaches and other areas is overwhelmed to the degree that it is interrupting the daily life of residents and detracting from the overall happiness of everyone. Now we need to think outside of the box and acknowledge our basic limitations in order to make life better for everyone.

It is not difficult to estimate the comfortable number of tourists our economy can handle. Those numbers should be dictating how hard we market to tourists to come to Hawaii. There is no mandatory education of tourists as they come here, so, in order to empower them to better respect the kai and wai, there needs to be some sort of education to that effect.

9. Do you support amending the state constitution to allow taxing investment properties to fund the public education system? How would you implement it if it passes?

I agree with amending the state constitution to allow the taxing of investment properties for public education. We would start by implanting it on any investment property over $1 million. This would be an added tax that goes directly into the education fund separate from the original tax. The state would be the sole collectors of this tax.

Understand though that merely adding this tax won’t solve how the money is spent, it won’t address whether the Legislature can see fit to appropriate a portion for other projects either. The legalization of marijuana and hemp can also go a long way in supporting the funding of public education, but again without certain protections, it can all go somewhere other than where it is intended. And being as things can and likely will change in the future, we must also be careful to not rely solely on this tax as the end-all solution but merely see it as a part of the solution.

10. Would you support using liquefied natural gas to generate electricity as the state transitions to renewable resources to supply power?

No. I would not support the transition to liquified natural gas as we transition completely to wind, solar and wave. The money, time and resources that would be spent on such an idea will be a complete waste and those resources are better spent on hastening the transition from oil and coal and garbage burning to the aforementioned three renewable sources.

11. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to coral reefs?

First and foremost the State of Hawaii would call for a Pacific region conference on climate change with all the states and countries that make up the Pacific Ocean territories. For our part we must change over to renewable energy like yesterday. We must use the latest and best technologies that we have at our hands to bring a lot of farming indoors and to produce at least 90 percent of our own food to eat.

As for the coral reefs, we must go even further with what people can put on their bodies that affect the whitewashing of our reefs, which is killing them. This includes the wax of surfboards and the boards themselves, swimsuits, etc. The vast majority of our products are made of petrochemicals or contain some in some way and we are fooling ourselves if we think that isn’t affecting the oceans as well.

We must also ban all nonbiodegradable plastic and clean our oceans. Already we have garbage piling up on our beaches and we must go as far as to reconsider our housing codes, building standards, housing types, agriculture and come up with a plan to already begin changing the low-lying areas in order to prepare for the inevitable.

12. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?

The cruelty of the separation of children from their parents that is happening right now, is inhumane and should not be allowed to happen here in the U.S. or anywhere else. As a candidate for governor of Hawaii and as a citizen of the state, I find this treatment to be cruel and tantamount to torture. Trump and his administration are directly liable for this and it sickens me to think that one man can destroy the lives and families of so many because of his complete and utter ignorance. Have we learned nothing from the epic mistakes of our past?

What else goes hand in hand with this cruelty? Human and sex trafficking. How many women and children will never be seen again with zero accountability? This is how it happens. This is an ideal situation for those who would use and exploit other human beings for their own profit. Hawaii has a human trafficking problem too and now, this situation at the borders has empowered these depraved human traffickers even more. It’s up to us to act and make things right ,which is why who you vote for matters.

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