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 Cynthia H. Thielen, the only Republican candidate for the state House of  Representatives in District 50, which covers Kailua and Kaneohe Bay.

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

Candidate for State House District 50

Cynthia Thielen
Party Republican
Age 84
Occupation Retired environmental/land use attorney
Residence Kailua

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

State House of Representatives; Kailua Neighborhood Board; National Conference of State Legislators Environment/Ag Committee; former member, Board of National Conference of Environmental Legislators; Coalition of Legislators for Energy Action Now; former chair, Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center; former member, Mayor’s Task Force on the Environment.

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 needs to adopt meaningful sexual harassment policies, ban fundraising during sessions, provide more sunshine on lobbyist activities/donations, and live-link all hearings, with ability for neighbor islanders to submit live on-screen testimony. As a Republican, I have been outspoken in favor of open government, and at times have been “punished” by a bill I co-sponsored being killed. I continue to speak out and do not hesitate to go against leadership. This is why a two-party system is so essential.

2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?

I definitely support initiative and have sponsored such legislation in the past. Such bills do not get heard by Democratic committee chairs, though.

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 presently have five Republicans in the state House. Look at the House Journal to see how we challenge bad bills, such as the misguided attempt to shield information about the financial holdings of major board members. During session, I moved to recommit the bill, explaining when a person is appointed to the Public Utilities Commission, the public had the right to know the value of Hawaiian Electric stock that person might hold. An active media is key to keeping the public informed about these debates.

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?

Yes, there should be more frequent campaign finance reporting in the months and weeks before the primary, as unfortunately many races are decided in the primary in Hawaii. The present system doesn’t give the public and media meaningful information in time, particularly where about 50 percent of the people vote by absentee ballots. There could be a threshold donation amount, and then require weekly reporting of the donations which exceed that value, from June up until the August primary date.

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?

One solution could be to amend Chapter 92, HRS and impose fines and attorney’s fees when access to public records is unreasonable delayed or hindered by excessive fees. Make sure the fine comes out of the agency’s appropriations and not out of the General Fund.

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?

There should be a prohibition on raiding pension and health obligations for public workers. While there has been a move to periodically reduce the unfunded liabilities, there needs to be a financial plan where these legal requirements will be funded in full by a set date.

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?

I voted in favor of the constitutional amendment to allow the public to vote on changing the state constitution to allow the Legislature to tax investment properties to fund public schools. I strongly will oppose any attempt by legislative leaders to reduce the percentage of the general fund that has been going to education by the amount of the new tax money that would be generated. As a Republican, I am not beholden to majority leadership, and would fight to let these newly generated funds go to education. You can see how majority leadership controlled its members when they insisted on yes votes for increasing the GET for neighbor islands for Oahu’s rail. I will not be (and have not been) controlled by majority leadership.

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?

Illegal vacation rentals, particularly whole house rentals, are depriving locals of housing. The majority of transient vacation units are owned by out-of-state investors. Kailua is particularly hard hit by this problem, which frankly is ignored by Mayor Caldwell and his city administration. A good bill last session would have required platforms like Airbnb  to require owners to prove they were legally permitted to rent these home, before listing the rental. The company opposed the bill, and it died. Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice has reported the extent of the problem, and I continue to work with majority colleagues to get more support for needed reform.

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

I have supported holding a con con for years. Leadership appears to be apprehensive of what the con con members might propose, but I believe it is time for this convention. The end result would be placed before the voters for decision, and this is how a democracy should work.

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

As a retired environmental attorney, I have proposed and supported legislation to prepare Hawaii for climate change and sea level rise. It is unconscionable for government agencies to continue to allow building in the areas which will be impacted by sea level rise. Charles Fletcher and his team at UH have mapped the areas to be impacted, and his work must be integrated into the city’s permitting process. At the state level, we have passed a measure to require projects preparing an environmental impact statement to include sea level rise issues. This is only a first step, in my opinion.

11. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?

Kailua is being marketed by Hawaii Tourism Authority and others as “the place to discover the real Hawaii.” This has resulted in local housing being snapped up by out-of-state investors and rented illegally to short-term visitors. Housing for locals is priced out of possibility, natural resources are stressed, and local people are being displaced. I have pressured HTA to start managing resources instead of just trying to “up the numbers” of visitors coming to Hawaii. I support legislation redirecting some of HTA’s funds into resource management and believe this should now become the primary focus of the HTA. By protecting, and improving our natural resources, Hawaii markets itself.