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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 Brickwood Galuteria, a Democratic candidate for the state Senate in District 12, which covers Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kakaako, McCully and Moiliili. There is one other Democratic candidate, Sharon Moriwaki.
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?
We live in a democracy where legislators are held accountable by the voters that elect them at the ballot box and through direct communication with their respective elected offices. Legislators and their staffs can be reached by phone, mail, email, fax, social media, and/or walk-in visitations at any time of the workday. That is certainly the case for my state Capitol office where aloha is always served to everyone.
Reform is an ongoing process. Reform measures adopted in the past may need further reforming today simply because times have changed. However, one does not reform simply for reform sake. It must be meaningful and relevant.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
If it is the will of the people to adopt a process, I support it. However, I remain cautious that this will be used as a tool to advance special interests that are normally vetted through the legislative process. In addition, a major consideration will always be locating the resources and capacity to enact a citizens initiative process.
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 open and inclusive nature of the Democratic Party is evident by the diversity of perspectives and political viewpoints of its members. It best reflects the values and uniqueness of the people of Hawaii. Contending political parties fail to demonstrate their relevance and understanding of Hawaii’s people; thus, their abilities to elect members of their own parties to the Legislature falls far short. It is to no fault of the dominant party that other parties are not in play.
A multi-party system doesn’t necessarily ensure open government and transparency. Democratic Party control has existed since 1962, all the while reformist measures have been pursued and implemented. We can ensure transparency and accountability by calling on continued participation of the public and public interest groups in the legislative process. As the majority caucus leader in the Senate I am very aware of the diverse views of our members and the spirited debate that comes from having such a big tent.
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?
The current campaign finance requirements are quite effective but I would have no problem if the reporting frequency were increased.
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?
It is quite rare that I receive complaints about the inability to access information. The formal process is that the Office of Information Practices intervenes when and if agencies are not cooperating.
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?
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 supported asking the voters to decide on allowing a tax on investment properties to fund the public schools. But that’s only the beginning. If agreed to, the Legislature would then be instructed to provide enabling legislation. It’s within this process that we clearly define which investment properties are taxed. Every suggestion will require thorough vetting probably accompanied by vigorous debate.
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?
Illegal short-term rental hurt the visitor industry and compound the problem of inadequate affordable housing supply in Hawaii. That’s why I have supported common sense legislation that would provide the necessary enforcement mechanisms to eliminate the practice of illegal short-term rentals in our State.
The legislative branch of government must prescribe sound policies for enforcement, and to this end I will continue to support legislation that includes:
• Mandatory listing requirements for any platform renting STRs in Hawaii, requiring the posting of applicable non-conforming use certificate for the STR and the address of the subject STR; and
• Prima facie enforcement to allow the relevant county Department of Planning and Permitting to penalize hosts who list rentals that do not maintain a non-conforming use certificate or which are not located in an appropriately zoned resort district; and
• Penalties sufficient to encourage compliance by hosts, and penalties for platforms listing non-compliant units.
9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
I don’t support holding a constitutional convention at this time. Amendments that the community sees as essential and necessary can be proposed through an established legislative process as evidenced through your Question 7.
10. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
We are already doing this. Hawaii is one of few states in the nation to adopt a statewide climate adaptation policy for addressing the impacts of climate change. Act 286 is codified as HRS § 226-109 establishing priority guidelines to prepare the state in addressing the impacts of climate change, including impacts to the areas of agriculture; conservation lands; coastal and nearshore marine areas; natural and cultural resources; education; energy; higher education; health; historic preservation; water resources; the built environment, such as housing, recreation, transportation; and the economy.
In addition, because the policy is an amendment to the Hawaii State Planning Act, all county and state actions must consider the policy in its land use, capital improvement, and program decisions.
11. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
The cost of living. The day-to-day struggle of local families living in my district have it particularly hard given the cost of housing in urban Honolulu.
The top three issues I will continue to work on for Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kakaako, McCully, and Moiliili are 1) building more affordable housing, 2) empowering individuals who are homeless to move off of the streets, out of the parks and into support programs and housing, and 3) supporting programs that allow kupuna to live and age in place.
Regarding affordable housing, the state and city have rules and ordinances (respectively), that require a certain percentage of residential units constructed be set-aside at affordable rates. While private sector set-asides encourage investment in housing, it is important to support good, balanced development and fund supportive infrastructure.
Homelessness is a symptom of larger challenges that individuals face including mental health, drug abuse, and low-wage jobs that cannot sustain Hawaii’s high rent. I have supported and will continue to support investment in programs that connect homeless individuals with services.
Regarding aging in place, as the price of existing housing stock continues to increase, it is important to ensure that costs remain stable for our kupuna who live on fixed incomes.