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 Lynn DeCoite, the Democratic candidate for state House of Representatives District 13, which covers Haiku, Hana, Kaupo, Kipahulu, Nahiku, Paia, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai and Molokini. There is one other candidate, Nick Nikhilananda of the Green Party.
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 transparency can always be increased. The hearings are posted online and videos of hearings are televised and archived on the Capitol and Olelo websites, but they could be easier to find if they were in one central location/website.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I support it with concerns that making sure that the proper wording passes legal checks and balances and that there is no competing resolutions that can cancel each other out.
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 would like to believe that people would speak for the people they represent and have a free exchange of ideas while being transparent and accountable. I know that I do. It doesn’t mean because of a one-party control there aren’t debatable subject matters. I believe even today that many don’t agree with the one-party control even if they belong to the majority party. I would address it like I’ve been addressing it — do the right thing and work with everyone.
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?
As long as the reporting is the same for all people that are running for office. Be honest about lobbying and be honest about your financial disclosures by anyone that is running. Whether you’re a PAC or super PAC the people should know where your money is coming from in state, out state, and out of country. Be honest! Do the right thing!
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?
For those agencies that have not made them available they need to know that it is public information and act accordingly. I’ve never had an agency resist my office or had my constituents call me about having issues getting the needed information. I feel if they do resist then the agency should be paying a fee or be cited. I do agree that a fee can/may be necessary for some requests; it all depends on the type of request. I also encourage residents to use the free resources that are available to them like the Legislative Reference Bureau (including the Public Access Room) and the State Ombudsmen’s office.
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?
No, I would stop giving it to investors who are actually gambling with our pensions. Anytime you invest our money and you are not guaranteed on the return, you are gambling. I would look to get a guarantee out of return investment or make sure the investment is committed.
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, if it is the second residence valued at $1 million and above. Make sure that the division/department(s) are properly funded to get the job done.
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 it is a problem. Especially since it takes away from affordable rentals for our local families. The state and counties need to hire enforcement to go out and find those that are not paying their fair share of taxes.
9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
I support what the people want. I think it should be a ballot initiative.
10. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
Stop building next to the ocean and move future improvements of schools and infrastructure away from areas that have sea level rise.
11. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
The greatest need for my district and my main priority remains the same; to ensure outreach and inclusion of all islands and residents when it comes to state services, resources, programs and jobs.
Representing the only true canoe district is not easy. I have East Maui, Molokai and Lanai along with Kahoolawe and Molokini. District 13 has so many unique and beautiful communities, and we also have similar needs and concerns that need to be addressed, along with natural resources that need to be protected, yet we struggle for the services that people in urban districts don’t need to worry about.
I will continue to work with department heads for services and work with my colleagues in the Legislature to ensure our district continues to receive the much-needed CIP and GIA funds. I will continue to advocate for the area in District 13 as I have done the past four years, like the funds I have gotten for Haiku School (its crosswalk), Hana Highway, Paia School along with Molokai High School, Hana High and Lanai High School travel budgets as well as veteran facility funding and Maui Memorial Hospital.