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 Michael Juarez, a Democratic candidate for the state House of Representatives District 43, which covers Ewa Villages, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Nanakai Gardens, Ko Olina, Kahe Point, Nanakuli, Lualualei and Maili. The other Democratic candidates. The other is Stacelynn K.M. Eli.
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?
I believe the Legislature is doing the best they can. We have experts in all fields, and when you are bringing people together for the sole purpose of leadership, it is hard to please everyone. We have to be vigilant in so many ways. We need to focus on the essentials of living, the necessities that we need. We need to focus on our children, and the serious issues that we are faced with.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Definitely. Running in politics is not for everyone, most people are afraid to take a stand in the public’s eye, because you put yourself at great scrutiny, hostility, including harassment. So if we had an alternative method to voice our opinions, and not as a leadership position or a candidacy role, then it would work for all citizens. Just so long as their voices are taken seriously, and not disregarded. Citizens’ opinions do matter, and I can’t even imagine why our State of Hawaii is the only state that does not offer such a process.
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?
This is disastrous. There is no checks and balance. People become afraid to step out of the norm, they’re afraid to upset the status quo. The elected officials are unable to lead as they should, not without scrutiny by those higher-ups, and if and when they do, they are targeted in many ways. Those who have the seniority and the many years of public service, who seem to be the most qualified — this may not be so true.
Without a strong second party, there is no one to keep the other party in place. As you know, competition just as in the airline industry prevents a monopoly in airfare prices, which benefits the consumer. Similarity in politics, competition does so too, only to protect and benefit the citizens. Without fair competition, we are left with a dictatorship, a one-party system that makes all the rules, which does not serve justice, and is a failure of our political system.
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?
One thing that can be definitely done is to hire a professional auditor and bookkeeper that works solely for the candidates. An organization of auditors that are paid by taxpayers to help the candidates, would easily resolve all issues of lack of proper bookkeeping and campaign misspending. So basically, the campaign spending office and the state should just hire auditors and bookkeepers to personally help each and every individual candidate, this way, if there is an error, or a mistake, it is caught by the hired bookkeepers and corrected. Sometimes, these errors are mistakenly made, or made by inexperience of a newly elected politician, who has so much to learn. There is no college training course for politicians, and many times, they have to learn on the job, and by doing the work, thus, errors will be made.
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?
Well, sometimes, records are intentionally made private. Just as the federal government has “classified” information, so it is with state and city records and documents. I believe some things should be classified “private.” Again, you “can’t please everyone,” and this saying has a purpose. Because you can’t please everyone, and sometimes too much information is confusing, misleading and causes chaos. The easy accessibility to information has changed since the onset of technology. So we, too, need to understand that there is just too much information. I call it “information overload,” which is not helpful and lacks benefits.
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?
Were going to have to make better investments. What we are investing now, and what we have invested in the past has changed.
We definitely need to improve our health system. And many of these health improvements begin with diet and nutrition. But the lack of education dismays our citizens, and burdens our health care system. As public workers, they should help to set the example, and as workers for our government, they should know that there are high expectations upon them, so that way they can set the example.
For example, public workers should not be smoking, they should be mandated to exercise regularly. We should be monitoring their diet, educating our public workers, so that they set the example for others to follow, so that they can help to create the necessary change. Again, higher expectations, and mandating people to take extra care of their health will help to make a change and have a better quality of life.
As for pensions, what good is a pension if you have a poor and unhealthy lifestyle? You’ll end up dead before even enjoying the benefits of a good pension.
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?
Yes, our public school education is so very important. However, I think the tourist industry should be heavily taxed to better our public education system as a main priority. Our investment properties are one way to fund the public schools, but more so is the tourist industry, which should be more than enough funds to fix our public schools. With the right leadership and know-how, our public schools can be so much better. We have to instill pride, and leadership and focus on the right issues, not playing around in school and taking up space in school.
To implement a better school system, we need to have to change our values, and when we prioritize education as the key to our future, then implementation of improved better public schools will easily follow. It is in our attitude, our “laid back” mentality, and we lose focus on what is important. It would be worthless unless I am elected, to give away too much of my insights and knowledge. It would be unappreciated, as ideas and words are taken right out of my mouth as done before without credit given. I am unable to share too much of my opinion. Thank you for your understanding.
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?
I am not surprised. This is one of the top tourist industries in the world. Of course people are going to take advantage of their vacation rentals. How do we balance this? Very difficult to do. We have to provide incentives, and/or find the positives in what people are doing. This is one of those situations that we can’t please everyone. I mean, the rentals are being rented out, income is being generated, tourists are coming, and spending their money, so whats the problem? And the owners are making money, and spending it into our economy. Isn’t that what we want?
But on the other hand, they are not being taxed. I completely understand the situation, but there is no perfect solution, there is no perfect answer. So what do we do? We have to have incentives, or just deal with it, we are not a monopoly on tourist dollars, everyone relies on it. And overcrowded neighborhoods are our future. Our population is growing exponentially, and that is our future.
9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
Yes I would. We already have a state constitution in place. And just like our federal constitution needs to be amended, so does our state’s. It replicates the federal, and we need to be reminded that there is a constitution that should keep us in checked balance, however, that is not the case. What we need to be more focused on is to make sure our constitution is being followed, and if not, then what remedies and action do we have to rectify the situations.
10. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
We need to prepare, prepare for the worse. Climate change is coming, it’s real, and it’s here. It’s actually coming at a faster rate than scientists had initially predicted. In some ways, there is nothing we can do. I have a few fascinating engineering ideas, but again, unless I am elected, I am in no way at liberty to give away my smartness! One thing I despise, is when people steal my ideas and take credit for it. So I need to “not comment” too much on this one, for it to only be stolen right out of my mouth.
11. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Traffic is definitely the most important issues. Second to that is health care. Thirdly to that, is housing, and fourthly to that is education. So unless I am elected, I am in no way at liberty go give away my brilliant ideas, smartness and answers. I don’t like when people steal my solutions to these issues and then take credit for it. Thank you for your understanding.
But I will definitely make improvements. I’ve traveled to many places around the world, and have seen many different cultures, and what I see here, what we are lacking and not lacking, there is a difference of how they think, how we think, what we valued compared to what they value, and by implementing other countries’ values to ours, we will be that much better and be up to par with other countries that are way more advanced than us.
We are about 1.5 million in population, can you imagine if we implemented a way of life that other countries that are triple or tenfold our population? We would solve a lot of our issues.