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 Tim Riley, a Democratic candidate for State Senator, District 21, which covers Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Ko Olina, Nanakuli, Maili, Waianae, Makaha and Makua. He is one of two Democratic candidates. The other is Maile Shimabukuro.

Go to Civil Beat’s Elections Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.

Candidate for State Senate District 21

Tim Riley
Party Democrat
Age 57
Occupation Retired mental health counselor
Residence Waianae/Makaha


Community organizations/prior offices held

Democratic Party of Georgia State Senate nominee 1988, 2008, 2010 and 2012; statewide council for HIV prevention.

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, a more transparent Legislature is necessary. My community will require of me to represent their needs and desires regardless of what leadership holds as their tradition. We must avoid at all costs any appearance of unethical fundraising. We must make sure that all people feel safe from sexual harassment. We can achieve appropriate lobbyist regulation. Televising and archiving all hearings is important and must be a priority. Televising and proper archiving is a major part of accountability and transparency.

2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?

Yes. Ballot access and initiatives must be allowed in Hawaii.

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?

Coalition building! We must work across the party lines to ensure all of our citizens have their voices heard. I would continue doing what I have been doing in the process of getting on the ballot in this election. I got Democrat and Republican signatures to place my name on the ballot. I am asking both Democrats and Republicans to allow me to be their voice in the state Senate so it is my duty to listen and represent all ideas and constituents.

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?

Transparency is a must in the election process. We must allow the public easy access to all donation information and expenditure information.

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 must control the fees and make rapid access a priority. We are rapidly becoming a technologically based society and we need to make these records technologically friendly. Let the public have access to this 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?

Unfunded mandates must be stopped. Unfunded liabilities are not acceptable. All workers must be protected. We have made a commitment to our workers and we must make the funds available for these commitments. We need to have a truly independent audit of our spending and then act accordingly. Doing the audit will help us find the funding we need to meet our obligations.

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?

Yes with a very clear and legally thorough definition of what an “investment property” is. We would work closely with legal professionals to fairly implement this policy.

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?

This practice is very common in our state. It is a problem in our state. This is an area that must be addressed. We will continue to have these rentals so it is incumbent upon us to address this issue. One way of fixing the problem is licensing them. If they are licensed we can collect appropriate taxes and save further issues from developing within our neighborhoods and fix the current issues we have come to see as major problems.

9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?

My constituency appears to be against a convention. The terminology I have heard at our neighborhood board meetings is, “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.”

10. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?

We have started in the right direction by our recycling efforts as well as the “Paris climate accord” and the “sunscreen” regulations. We must continue to be innovative with how we deal with our waste. We must turn up the pressure on our federal representatives to get this issue addressed on the national level. At our local level we can stop adding to the problem by cutting back on plastic and nonbiodegradable waste.

11. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?

We face a terrible housing cost issue just like all areas of our state face. It is imperative that we make truly affordable housing available to our citizens. We are pricing our Native Hawaiian people out of our homeland! We can work with builders to be able to make housing available at all levels of affordability. My district faces possibly the worst traffic issue in the state. We must look at alternative routes in and out of the west side. Water is a severe issue for the entire state as well as my district. We must begin to allow alternative ways of dealing with the water issue.