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 Adriel Lam, a nonpartisan candidate for the state House of Representative District 49, which covers Kaneohe, Maunawili and Olomana. He is the only nonpartisan candidate.
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 should be more transparent and accountable. Legislators need to be responsive to the constituency in their respective districts, not special interest or lobbying groups. We have state House candidates today that have less than 5 percent of their campaign funds originating in their own district. Let the representatives answer to their own district.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Yes, I support a statewide citizens initiative process with proper voter and civic education. People should understand how their vote works in the democratic process ￼and have the confidence that their voice is being heard. Most importantly, they need to be properly informed on the initiative and its fiscal, economic, and social impact.
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?
Our lopsided Legislature with its one-party control gives little room for alternatives and is quick to stifle dissent. A one-party state may be able to get things done, but whether it was the right thing is a completely different question. We need to have the debate whether something is right or wrong, beforehand, not after when it’s too late to change. ￼
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?
I’m not convinced more requirements on campaign financing will help. The lobbying effort can waste its money on a fruitless campaign. We don’t need to further burden local grass-roots efforts with unnecessary bureaucracy.
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?
Unless there are legitimate privacy and security issues, state business should be a matter of public record. The state should consider better information management and archival practices. It’s not just about public access to records, either. It’s about providing decision and policymakers the right tools to glean from the historical record for past precedence and best practices.
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?
I’m satisfied with the plans by director Thom Williams to pay for the state’s unfunded ￼liabilities in the pension fund. However, in the same way that the state pension fund deteriorated from a healthy fund 15 years ago, it takes political will to keep the reforms in place for the next 15 years.
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 tax investment properties to fund public schools. There are better ways to acquire and manage education funds that do not require a change to the state constitution. Businesses have a vested interest in the quality of the workforce coming out of our public schools. Provide incentives for businesses to invest directly in education programs and minimize the administrative bloat of the public school bureaucracy.
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?
Vacation and short-term rentals need to avoid negative impacts to neighbors and public spaces, like overcrowded parking, excessive noise and abusing common areas. As a business, a vacation rental should meet certain standards of practice and professionalism. Legal status for vacation rentals may increase the tax revenue stream and provide much-needed income for Hawaii residents, but we need to ensure our neighbors are equally protected and taken care of.
9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
Yes, regular opportunities to review and revise the state constitution are a necessary part of maintaining a healthy democracy. As the general population of Hawaii attains higher professional and educational standards, more communities are able to manage their own government. As Prince Kuhio brought us the city and county system in the 1920s, it’s time for Hawaii to implement more self-government through local town mayors and councils.
10. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
Citizens, representatives and decision makers should be better educated on knowing the difference between science, science fiction and junk science. Climate change has been occurring for centuries and we have adapted accordingly through the centuries. Encourage and inspire innovation to address our current issues. Avoid jumping on the bandwagon with latest trends and lobbying campaigns.
11. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
There are many issues that affect Kaneohe, monster homes, petty crime, traffic, etc. Of course, re-opening Haiku Stairs is a perennial favorite. The most pressing issue, though, is taking care of our streams. Water is lifeblood of our aina; it defines the ahupua’a, and it affects how our communities are connected. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did a great job with flood control in creating the Ho’omaluhia Reservoir, but if we don’t properly manage, maintain and fix the debris buildup in our streams, those days of flooding won’t be a distant memory.