Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 6 General Election, 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 Jim Brewer, the Green Party candidate for Governor. There are three other candidates, including Republican Andria Tupola, Democrat David Ige and nonpartisan candidate Terrence Teruya.
Candidate for Governor
Quest for Human Unity activist
Community organizations/prior offices held
Opihi Alliance; Ground Zero; Legal Aid Society.
1. Homelessness continues to be a major problem in Hawaii. What specific proposals do you have to help reduce homelessness?
The two parties talk about “reduce.” We call for the “elimination” of homelessness in Hawaii! If elected governor, we will correct half-hearted actions.
I will, on all islands, lead forming several specific-issue CARTs (citizen-action round-tables). I have confidence in the common sense and general goodwill of caring and sharing grass-roots citizens. We must come together to defeat the big-bucks pushing, unsustainable “growth for growth’s sake” and the gentrification of an entire state. “We the people” — registered and voting — must ensure the trumping rule of big-money-politics is over.
Citizen-Action Round-Tables are organizing tools: Brainstorming to achieve solutions to important problem — 1) Gather all the facts. 2) Face the truth. 3) Take responsibility. 4) Do the right things; all, together!
We agree ohana zones should be built on state land. A parcel of state land with an ohana zone at one end — at the other end, low-cost housing is built. When the affordable units are completed, the temporary ohana “tent-city” is dismantled. Nonprofits holding a “master lease,” with strong leadership, can create a safe community.
2. What should be done to increase affordable housing, especially for the middle class? What could you as governor do specifically?
Affordable housing solutions: Leasing unused state land to build affordable housing on — forever keeping it leased by the state, the state can ensure it stays affordable forever. Cost of the land is generally 50 percent to 75 percent of the total cost of the house. Only housing on government-owned land could take 50 percent to 75 percent of the housing cost off the top, to make affordability feasible, and a sufficient dent in the affordable shortfall.
Building co-op apartments would further make affordability possible. Since co-ops must be sold for the agreed upon price (closer to what it was bought for), co-ops don’t engage in the steep price raises that other housing does. “Limited equity housing co-ops” in state law encourages affordability even further.
Building in-town, where most of the jobs and population are, low-to-mid-rise apartment co-ops, with commercial space on the bottom floor, affordable apartments on-top, build community where ordinary families can live, work and play.
The commercial space below can generate regular income for the co-op that can be saved in reserve for future, necessary maintenance — painting, spalling, plumbing, etc.
3. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
We oppose holding another con con now. The last con con was constructive because it was held at a time when people were engaged in the community and advocating for many good issues. It was the time of the civil rights movement, Hawaiian sovereignty, zero population growth, the women’s movement, etc.
But today, we live in the age of Trump and total corporate domination; where Wall Street owns Washington, D.C. Now is a dangerous time when corporate lobbyists on K Street in Washington, D.C. and Bishop Street in Honolulu write bills for politicians aimed at enhancing their almost tax-free, corporate bottom lines and making the ordinary citizen pay for it in higher-and-higher-taxes ways.
And, when Big Money funds movements to harm and do away with many protections to our environment, the social safety net, our democracy, etc.
The corporate fight-back against “New Deal decent wages” included, for instance, subverting the women’s liberation movement so that today it now takes two, instead of one, 40-hour-per-week paycheck to just to get by! Originally, paychecks also included money for savings accounts.
It would be extremely dangerous to have a Con-Con in this environment.
4. Do you support or oppose allowing citizens to put issues directly on the statewide ballot through an initiative process? Why or why not?
Yes, we support initiative. Initiative — allowing citizens to put issues directly on the statewide ballot — is direct democracy. The question is how to protect the process from being taken over by corporate persons for their own interests.
5. 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?
A new kind of Hawaii governor is needed now! We need to make necessary changes. Several states are already raising their state income taxes, making them more progressive to make up for their revenue shortfall and get adequate funding for their state to function again. The top 1 percent — or even 10-20 percent — had their federal taxes cut drastically and can afford to pay more at the state level. Some have even said they’d be willing to pay their fair share of taxes (ie. higher taxes) to keep Hawaii, Hawaii.
The current accelerating, destructive and destabilizing massive rearrangements of the U.S. militarized economic empire is crushing “we the people,” in our respective states — we produce more and more, but consume less and less — to benefit those who make more and more money off of just having more and more money! They simply are not paying a fair share of the taxes!
6. 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?
Public records should be available to the public in a timely fashion. Zeroxing fees should not be excessive.
If you are zeroxing a lot, it can get pricy. Perhaps there could be/should be a sliding scale (taking into account how much each piece of paper costs, plus associated costs).
Some require that the public fill out a form to request zerox copies. We could have a policy that public records that can be given to the public must be released within a certain time: one day? If the records require that staff must do a lot of research to find them, for instance because they are very old, in the distant past, it seems reasonable that they charge a “labor” fee for the time it takes for difficult records that need to be searched for to be found.
And the form filled out would have the date of request, and date supplied.
7. 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 do you propose to do about it?
Illegal vacation rentals degrade our communities and our public areas. Some people are profiting at the expense of everyone else. They’re working on a solution, which apparently has been successful — if
you have the resources to perform the job.
Each vacation rental, B&B, etc,. must have its “license” number clearly shown on any kind of advertisement for that rental — whether it’s print, on-line. I’d include it even if someone gave them a plug in an article or on TV. It would be a number shown on their taxes to prevent doing business and
evading taxes. If that license number is not shown, the owner incurs a fine for tax evasion. Personally, given the extremely negative effect this problem is having in the islands, once the owner is caught, I would fine them daily for non-compliance until they applied for their license number.
Because government has had its staffing cut, it’s not able to perform the regulatory tasks we need them for. For this system to work, the proper agencies must have the proper numbers of staffing to perform the task and follow through with legal action.
The drive to “downsize government” makes this problem difficult to handle.
8. Is Hawaii managing its tourism industry properly? What should be handled differently?
No, Hawaii doesn’t seem to do anything to manage its tourism. All it seems to have done is do everything to grow the industry, grow the numbers of visitors, the numbers of hotel reservations. I’ve never noticed any vision concerning the quality of tourism, guidance, management or mitigation of impacts on the local community.
A product of this thinking is the Hawaii Convention Center. Build it and they will come, in greater and greater numbers
Some have introduced different types of tourism—e.g., eco-tourism — but it seems to come from individuals rather than any concerted policy to create a long lasting, sustainable, quality industry.
At one time when I was young, it seemed that there was a policy that commercial activities were not allowed on public lands. Restrictions on private commercial use of public areas (e.g., not allowing private, guided hiking tours on government land) and restrictions on the numbers allowed (e.g., at Hanauma
Bay) might help begin to get things under control. This would require appropriate numbers of staffing to monitor needed restrictions.
Has the state studied how others create quality tourism? Since it’s regarded as one of our most important industries, perhaps they should.
9. Do you support amending the state constitution to allow taxing investment properties to fund the public education system? How would you implement it if it passes?
Yes, support this constitutional amendment. Since property taxes take into account the age of the owner and occupancy, record keeping of ownership of multiple units owned (one owner-occupied, the others investments) could be a way of tracking and taxing non-owner-occupied units. Taxing could be on a sliding scale according to the assessed value of the non-owner-occupied property. The tax could be collected by adding on to their annual property tax — before being transferred to a fund dedicated to education.
Nonresident, non-owner-occupied properties above $1 million should be taxed at a higher rate. Taxing luxury properties at a much higher rate seems only fair because of the negative impact of such land-banking skewing our local housing market. This has exacerbated our housing problems, and leaves many children homeless who are having difficulty in school because their homelessness makes their whole lives more difficult. This educational tax could be a way we can pay DOE teachers better.
10. Would you support using liquefied natural gas to generate electricity as the state transitions to renewable resources to supply power?
I don’t support using liquid natural gas — isn’t it still a carbon-based fuel? Why should we put an intermediate step when trying to switch to renewable solutions? It seems that would just slow down the transition to renewable energy and we are running out of time.
11. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to coral reefs?
We need to quickly put policies in place to prohibit more development in areas that probably will be affected by rising oceans, ground water inundation, king tides and storms. Not doing so will predictably incur huge costs for the state and residents — as the volcano’s eruption on the Big Island because development was allowed in a zone known to be affected by past eruptions shows.
For the present development along the coast that is predicted to be inundated, mitigation actions should be required immediately. Policies needing to be written into law should be worked on immediately. I’m sure the many concerned experts in this topic would help. And there is someone at UH who
specialized in mitigation measures.
Otherwise, governments will be picking up the tab of the negative effects of climate change and sea level rise — after the developers have made their profit and left town, leaving us to clean up the very expensive, debilitating mess we all are aware is coming.
The hyper-development of luxury apartments in an area predicted to be under water because of rising oceans should not have been allowed either. Because it was, we all will pay the piper.
12. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
• Food security: Hoopili is being built on the best agricultural land in the state. Hawaii’s constitution mandates prime ag land be kept in agriculture. We should use a little of the state’s $1 billion surplus –only $78 million — to buy back Hoopili land through eminent domain, saving the best ag land in Hawaii for diversified agriculture and food for Hawaii’s people.
• Voter owned elections: Taking the corrupting influence of money out of our elections, allowing candidates and elected officials to listen to their constituents who want change for the better rather than the lobbyists.
• PK to 3 (preschool to third grade): Creating PK-3 programs in the DOE. PK-3 has a track record of bringing kids in poverty environments functionally up to par with children in the general population by grade three.
• Medicare for all Hawaii residents: Canadian Medicare costs half what we pay for health care, gives all medically necessary care, and Canadians never see a bill. Hawaii can make a health system like that.