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 Sam Kong, a Democratic candidate for the state House of Representatives District 33, which covers Aiea. There are two other Democratic candidates, Tracy Arakaki and David Matsushita.
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 have always been an advocate for transparency; accountability can always be improved in government. As a representative, it is my responsibility to speak up for myself and my constituents even when it goes against your party. We also need to televise and broadcast all hearings to the public. I am always supportive of initiatives for sexual harassment policies and lobbyist regulation.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I would definitely support a citizen initiative process because it will “give power back to the people” and allow Hawaii residents to bring important issues to the Legislature.
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 need to encourage open debate and discussion across all parties. I encourage voters to research issues and political candidates, and to vote in their best interest regardless of the political party.
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?
More frequent campaign finance reporting would definitely increase transparency. I would support proposed legislation to improve disclosure of top contributors and corporations to political candidates.
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?
We need to take advantage of the technology available to us and create an electronic streamline process that can greatly improve public access. I would support legislation to eliminate excessive fees and would consider imposing fines for excessive delays in the release of requested information.
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?
We need to really examine our unfunded liabilities and find ways to return our state to full funding. One idea is to look at the possibility of defined contribution plans or partial contribution plans.
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 believe we should let the people decide. If the people of Hawaii do in fact vote to pass the amendment, a special fund should be created for the revenues collected from the investment property tax. If passed, the allocation of funds should be very clear so voters have confidence in how these additional funds will be utilized; we need to be accountable for these funds.
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 because almost 70 percent of vacation rentals are owned by nonresidents of Hawaii, which has greatly contributed to the shortage of housing in Hawaii. We need to create laws and ordinances requiring vacation rentals on Airbnb and other platforms to certify compliance to state and county rules.
9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
I have supported holding a state convention for years and have introduced measures urging Congress to call a convention.
10. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
We continue to make headlines all over the country for our clean energy initiative by 2045. This past session, we passed legislation addressing the effects of climate change on sea level rise and the reefs.
11. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
The most pressing issues facing my district are traffic congestion, air conditioning in our school, and infrastructure. As development continues to increase, I will work closely with the City and County of Honolulu to insure traffic concerns are addressed and find ways for improved traffic flow. I will also continue to fight for more funding for our classrooms and our teachers.
The rising cost of living and housing cost also contribute to stresses faced by our community. My priority is to support our community, keiki through kupuna, to insure access to quality public education, coordination of the impact of future development in Aiea and to insure responsible government spending.