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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 Miles Shiratori, a Democratic candidate for the state House of Representatives, District 50, which covers Kailua and Kaneohe Bay. He is one of two Democratic candidates, the other being Micah Kalama Pregitzer.
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?
Accountability holds these government officials, whether elected or appointed, by those who have been elected. They are responsible to the citizens of Hawaii for their decisions and actions. The transparency requires that the decisions and actions of those in government are open to public scrutiny and the public has the right to access government information.
If elected I would create a bill to bring about change to end closed-door meetings. Accountability and transparency trends to help create better policies and stop the abuse of power and we need to stop the corruption that is evident in our government as of today. I would make sexual harassment policies much more strict and enforceable.
There is no need for fundraising to be done when the legislative body is in session. We need to do more televising and archiving all hearings in front of the public to end all the secrecy and stop all the corruption that is going on.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Yes, I would create a bill to allow the citizens of Hawaii an initiative process. This is our government and the power needs to be shifted back to the people.
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 a great question. Our government is a joke and because of this lopsided legislative body, it is the reason that most of these Democrats who have been in office far too long, and the reason for all the problems we have in our government today. The answer is term limits.
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?
No, I don’t support more finance reporting during election years. But I would create a bill to stop candidates from campaigning a year ahead of elections. When you file your nomination papers to run for office that is when you start your campaigning and I would move the election period back to September. The financial disclosures as they are now are sufficient. As far as the lobbyists are concerned they should be filing disclosures of how much they are paying our government officials.
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 am all for Hawaii’s public records law to be available to the public. The government belongs to the people and not to our elected officials. I would create the People’s Information Act that will stop all these backroom deals, closed-door sessions and stop all corruption and stop the abuse of power in our government.
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?
No, we need to have our government employee collective bargaining process reformed. The power of the government sector unions and their impact on elections is too great. Government employees’ salaries and benefits, particularly pensions, are financially unsustainable and collective bargaining reform is needed. The other solution is to start setting aside money now to address the unfunded liability problem. We also have to start cutting down on wasteful spending.
The time for state and local government to offer a defined contribution retirement plans that protects both the taxpayer dollars and the public employees’ retirement security is now.
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?
No, I do not support changing the state constitution to allow taxing investment properties, because the state has already done this. They are already taxing investment properties and then to tax them again is outrageous. Hawaii is the most heavily taxed state in the union. You have to ask yourself where are all our hard-earned tax dollars going to? If elected, I will open up an investigation as to where our tax dollars are actually going.
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?
These illegal vacation rentals either need to be licensed or shut down. We need to collect the taxes from these properties. The world is over-populated and it seems there is not a lot of hotel rooms to accommodate all the people that come to Hawaii. Also, the hotels need to stop being greedy and all this has to stop thanks to our legislative body that is already greedy. Our legislative body (2018) wants to raise the transient accommodations tax again.
As far as I can remember I know vacation rentals and B&Bs have been around a long time, even I rented a B&B in Prague back in the 1990s, so as long as they are legal and pay their taxes I have no problems with them.
9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
At this point and time I do not support a state constitutional convention (“con-con”). The way that the state of the world is in now, it is not a good time to have a con-con. If we had a con-con now it would create more damage than good.
10. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
I keep hearing about these bills that have been passed to help stop climate change, etc., but I don’t see these bills being implemented by our government. If I am elected I will see to it that these bills are implemented and put into motion, rather than just sitting there on the books. We definitely need to take care of our islands and our world or vanish from the face of the earth. So let us take care of our “aina.”
If you see anyone or company polluting our seas, rivers, streams and our reefs, you should report them to the proper authorities.
11. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
The biggest issue is we need to fix our state highway system, which hasn’t even been touched since Obama was our president, and get the city moving on fixing our city streets instead of being fixated on this dumb rail. We need to maintain a strong, vibrant Windward Oahu and have a strong sustainable economic growth that creates jobs, allowing us to keep commitments and to create new opportunities for generation to come.