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 Dean Hazama, one of four Democratic candidate for the state House of Representatives District 36, which covers Mililani and Mililani Mauka. The others are Zuri Aki, Marilyn Lee and Trish La Chica.
1. Should the Legislature be more transparent and accountable? What would you do, given how tough it can be for individual lawmakers to go against leadership, to bring about needed reform in areas like sexual harassment policies, lobbyist regulation, fundraising during session and televising and archiving all hearings?
Yes, the Legislature should be more transparent and accountable. As an elected official we are 100 percent accountable to our constituency. I believe leadership understands the importance of zero tolerance sexual harassment policies and I would be willing to discuss other opportunities to better our policies. I also support more televising and archiving of hearings, although there are often multiple hearings going on simultaneously.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
No, I do not support an initiative process. There are examples of this not working for the good of the people such as in California. Our voters elect their legislators who should represent and work for and in their best interest.
3. Hawaii has the most lopsided Legislature in the country, with no Republicans in the Senate and only five in the House. How would you ensure there is an open exchange of ideas, transparency and accountability for decisions? What do you see as the consequences of one-party control, and how would you address that?
We get too caught up in “party” and fail to look at elected officials’ qualifications. There can and should be open exchange of ideas, transparency and accountability regardless of how many legislators are from a particular party. We should elect the best qualified candidate regardless of party affiliation. One-party control only means that the “other” party needs to field better candidates so that the public is given a true choice during elections.
4. Would you support more frequent campaign finance reporting during election years, particularly before the primary? What other steps would you take to improve lobbying and financial disclosures?
I would support one campaign spending report just before the primary and we should give the state Campaign Spending Commission more powers to enforce and issue stiffer penalties for violations.
5. 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 would impose caps on fees that are allowed to be charged for access to public government records. Many state records are manual and it does take time to locate, review and print out copies. For automated records, there should be minimal delays and limited costs imposed. We should never restrict public access to public records.
6. 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?
I am satisfied with the plan for the state to make scheduled, incremental payments toward the unfunded liabilities. We need to instill discipline in meeting this commitment as prior legislatures have raided these funds for other purposes. I am a strong advocate for responsible stewardship of our tax dollars. We also need to eliminate wasteful spending and increase efficiency in government operations so we can continue to pay this down.
7. Do you support changing the state constitution to allow taxing investment properties to fund the public schools? How would you implement it if it passes?
As chair of the Mililani High School Community Council I have actively been engaged in the efforts to better our schools and provide for the best possible learning environment for our students. The need for additional funds for our local schools to support infrastructure repairs and improvements, provide sufficient resources for academic, athletic and extracurricular programs and provide for adequate staffing is obvious. I would be in support of this idea, however, the funds collected should go directly to the schools and teachers and not to pay for any DOE administrative expenses.
8. 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 would you propose to do about it?
Yes, enforcement of our current ordinances regarding illegal vacation rentals is a problem. We need to level the playing field with all of our tourist accommodations by making sure the vacation rentals pay their fair share of taxes so that they can contribute back in some way to the community. The rentals are illegal in residential areas and we need to take a serious look at how and where they should be allowed to operate. Enforcement is the critical factor and must be corrected now before we look at changing any of our laws or ordinances.
9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
I would support letting the voters decide if they want to have one.
10. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
As chair of the Honolulu Planning Commission I have seen firsthand the drastic impacts of communities that have not planned for and are unprepared for climate change. I have advocated and required planning of new communities and revisions to existing ones that include allowances for climate change and sea level rise. We need to be constantly reviewing and updating our zoning laws to account for climate change and subsequent sea level rise. We should designate more areas as natural reserves to help preserve our reef areas.
11. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
As the Mililani Mauka Neighborhood Board chair I am always working on our pressing issues and addressing the concerns heard from the community on a daily basis. I am actively engaged, connected and know what is important to the district. We need to fix our traffic congestion problems. We have a completed traffic congestion study that proposed installing a second access lane on to H-2 southbound. I would get this project funded. I would also have DOT and OMPO revisit several H-1 traffic improvement projects that have yet to be started to help relieve our traffic congestion during rush hours (eastbound in the morning and westbound in the afternoon/evening). Projects such as the Waipahu interchange improvement, PM zipper lane, and many others will help ease congestion for our residents’ commute to and from downtown
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