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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 David Matsushita, a Democratic candidate for the state House of Representatives District 33, which covers Aiea. There are two other Democratic candidates, Sam Kong and Tracy Arakaki.
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, I believe transparency is needed across all levels of government. I’ve spoken to many individuals and the consensus that continues to come up is a lack of trust in our current politicians. I believe that candidates should be held accountable to any and all wrongdoings in regards to professionalism and campaign spending.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Yes. I believe if the people believe strongly enough, their voice should be heard.
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?
Open communication will be key to making key decisions. We need to have these difficult conversations about budgeting and accountability among all lawmakers. Those that are in office should represent the people and vote according to what they believe is in best interest of their constituents. The consequences of one-party control is that bills get passed that maybe should’ve had more discussion. I would be open to questioning these bills if I saw any deficiencies in them.
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?
Currently, the campaign spending reports are required twice a year. I believe this is adequate as long as everyone is held accountable to making sure it’s done. Candidates should be held more accountable should there be any misuse of funds.
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 like to see a better online system. This would allow us to be more cost effective and allow the public to have access to records that they seek.
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?
Currently, the state’s pension plan had made some adjustments to reduce the amount of unfunded liabilities. I believe that this puts their plan back on track.
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 support more funding for our education system. I would like to have further discussion in regards to taxing investment properties. I would like to see a tiered taxing structure that allows local families to not be taxed more than foreign investors.
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 do see this as a problem. I believe that there should be a limited amount of permits given to these types of vacation rentals. This will allow us to collect the much-needed taxes from those that are profiting.
9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
Yes. We are constantly changing as a state and becoming more innovative. We need to have regular discussions to stay up to date with what our public needs.
10. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
Hawaii is a very unique state and its ecosystem requires a lot of care. I would encourage more studies to be done to determine what the impact we are having on our environment.
11. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Here are just a few of my priorities:
• Putting education first: Education is the most important thing that will get our state back on track. We need to be able to hire and retain the best teachers for our students. We also need to give our children the opportunity to attend pre-school as well as college, without it causing their family an exorbitant amount of financial strain. We also need to make sure that funding for education is going to where it’s needed most; into the classrooms, and toward increasing the pay of our teachers.
• Caring for our kupuna: More and more families are having to drastically change the way we live in order to provide care for grandma and grandpa. These families need education about what type of various services are being offered, and what to expect when the time comes for the care of a loved one. We also should maintain these services that are available as well such as Kupuna Care and Meals on Wheels.
• Spending responsibly: We all pay our fair share in taxes. Instead of increasing taxes, I’d like to see government run in a more efficient manner. People have lost faith in government because no one is willing to be accountable.