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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 Ken Ito, a Democratic candidate for state Senate District 24, which covers Kaneohe, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kailua, Heeia and Ahuimanu. He is one of two Democratic candidates. The other is Jarrett Keohokalole.
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 always be transparent and accountable to the people. Using technology has made this possible. The people that elected you expect you speak up on their behalf on issues and matters that affects our community, state and the nation. Anything short of that is unacceptable.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I am open for further discussion.
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?
I believe in the two-party systems for democracy to work. Three individuals have left the Republican Party because of philosophy differences.
We already have a legislative process in place providing an open exchange of ideas, transparency and accountability for decision making.
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?
No. I feel we have adequate financial disclosures at the present time. The Ethics Commission and Campaign Spending Commission have done a tremendous job monitoring financial and ethics issues.
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?
This question assumes that state agencies are improperly resisting release of public records through delays and that they are imposing “excessive” fees. The data actually shows that most requests are completed in less than 10 work days, are granted in full or in part, and are provided without charge by government agencies.
According to the FY 2017 Report by the Office of Information Practices (OIP) summarizing state agencies’ UIPA Record Request Logs, “the typical record request was granted in whole or in part and was completed in 7.8 work days on average, and the typical requester paid nothing for fees and costs.”
Complex record requests necessarily take longer and will incur more fees for agencies’ time to search, review, and redact confidential or personal information from requested records. Moreover, most fees are paid by commercial entities, not individual requesters. Only five commercial entities comprising 2 percent of paying requesters paid 80 percent of the total fees and costs recovered by state agencies from all requesters in FY 2017. Therefore, the unbiased data shows that most members of the public already have fast and free access to government records.
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 am satisfied with the current plans putting more general funds into the ERS, but they need to change their investment strategies into investments that give greater returns.
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?
The people will all vote to ultimately decide if the state constitution needs to be changed to address education issues and if it passes it will be implemented through the legislative process.
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?
Yes, I see that it is a problem. The state and counties should collect taxes on vacation rental properties.
9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
I feel we don’t need a constitutional convention at this time but a task force should be appointed by the governor to examine issues that need constitutional changes to address current and future issues and also calculate the cost to taxpayers.
10. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
The state and city and counties should start planning and making changes to zoning maps to accommodate new sea level rises. This will change the physical landscape of Hawaii, where the new construction of hotels, shopping centers, etc., will be built.
This session we banned the sunscreen that was a danger to our reef and coral. By the year 2040, we will have a total ban on fossil fuel for energy generation.
Climate change is a global problem and needs to be addressed on a global level.
11. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
I see homelessness, traffic and affordable housing as key issues in my district. We are working with the governors and mayors with their homeless czars to help our communities. The residents, churches, nonprofits, businesses are all working to help solve this problem.
The traffic is a problem during key hours of the day and on weekends. There is a also a need for affordable homes for our residents. Homeownership is important and hopefully the city and state will put in the necessary infrastructure for home construction.