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 Cindy Evans, one of two Democratic candidates for the state House of Representatives District 7, which covers North Kona, North Kohala, South Kohala. The other is David Tarnas.
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?
The Legislature can do better. There needs to be more work on the details of implementation, including costs, training, enforcement, and use of technology to achieve transparency. I would sponsor such legislation.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
It’s the details I want to consider. Right now we have low voter turnout so having policy determined by a few people could lead to special interest regulations. I like the legislative process, which allows vetting of ideas and solutions.
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?
The people vote and send their representative to the Legislature. Organizational behavior is created by the individuals, tradition and custom. Hopefully each individual uses their voice and authority invested in them by the state constitution and their constituents to actively participate
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?
Regarding reporting, I have to see the proposal first. What is missing now that would make a difference? Your question about improving lobbying is an interesting one. When someone talks to me about an issue you could say they are lobbying. Our laws have a threshold for when someone or some organization has to register, along with requirements.
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?
You assume delays means resistance. Clarity of the request and getting the right information can take time. However, delays are frustrating so we put in place a law regarding response time and an Office of Information Practices so the public can ask for assistance in getting the information.
Please provide specifics on fees. What do you think about an individual who makes a record request every week and multiple requests? This does happen.
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?
This is one of those issues that needs to be worked on every year and for years to come. The retiring of the baby boomers and the increase of fixed costs will require us to do so. We need to keep working with all stakeholders to make progress on this issue. We can learn from other states too since this is an issue felt everywhere across the United States.
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 currently serve as state representative and I supported asking the public the question in November. Implementation will be through legislation; and I will vote.
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?
There has been no shortage of solutions proposed to address this. One of the big hurdles has been addressing enforcement. Also, home rule is a big issue since zoning and property taxes are controlled by county government. Technology is changing how properties are marketed and rented. We will figure this out.
If we can address cost of living and landlord-tenant code we could reduce illegal vacation rentals.
9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
Yes I support, but can we assure the public we can address the concerns of the minority in a fair and balanced way? Remember your question No. 3 above.
10. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
We need to fund research and innovation, work with county governments, who make decisions regarding land use, and develop nearshore regulations to mitigate man-made impacts.
11. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Economy, more specifically related to agriculture and tourism. The hotels of the Kohala Coast are situated in my district. My rural district is known for the quantity and quality of agriculture land.
How can I help? By supporting:
• Improvements to infrastructure;
• Quality education;
• Stop water pollution;
• Airport modernization;
• Address invasive species;
• Assist beginning farmers;
• Develop water resources;
• Support branding and marketing; and
• Work with stakeholders to find solutions.
Mark Ladao was a summer intern for Civil Beat.
He grew up in the San Joaquin Valley in California before moving to Hawaii. In college, Mark chased after an interest in nature, studying biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Several years after graduating, he decided to return to school study journalism, which he hopes will allow him to explore his interest in nature and writing.
He has published stories with Ka Leo at UH Manoa and Kapi’o News at Kapiolani Community College.