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 Josh Green, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor. There are three other candidates, including Republican Marissa Kerns, Green Party candidate Renee Ing and nonpartisan candidate Paul Robotti.
1. Homelessness continues to be a major problem in Hawaii. What specific proposals do you have to help reduce homelessness?
Working intensively over the past several years, I have developed an evidenced-based model to address chronic homelessness in Hawaii and have begun to implement an actual solution that will serve people who are struggling with mental illness, addiction, and homelessness. In its own dedicated facility, this new model called H4 provides hygiene services, acute health care services, respite medical support, and housing.
In Hawaii, 3.6 percent of our population consumes 61 percent of our Medicaid budget ($2.1 billion), $1.2 billion is spent on 13,000 individuals, many of whom are homeless. Employing the new H4 model of care we will be able to save 43-73 percent of this. Using private sector funding, I have raised $13 million for H4 and am partnering with public entities to launch it.
We already have opened the initial health care satellite clinic in Chinatown, and we will be able to aid up to 50 percent of Hawaii’s most seriously challenged homeless in this way and save resources for programs like the revolving housing trust fund and subsidies to build units. This new approach could save the state over $400 million per year, which could be used immediately to support building necessary housing for all who need it.
2. What should be done to increase affordable housing, especially for the middle class? What could you as lieutenant governor do specifically?
We should require assurances from developers that for every large high-end development they do, that they will also build an affordable housing project. Savings from progress on the chronic homelessness crisis should be applied to subsidize loans to make these projects feasible. State land should be offered, especially along the rail line, to build transient oriented housing.
3. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
I don’t oppose a state constitutional convention because more democratic energy is always welcomed, however we need to be very careful about its scope as outside resources could overwhelm the issues in Hawaii on volatile and divisive issues.
4. Do you support or oppose allowing citizens to put issues directly on the statewide ballot through an initiative process? Why or why not?
I support citizen initiatives, because government by citizens is healthy for a democracy and our current legislative process is often too controlled by a small number of elected officials.
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?
I believe in full access to public records provided that the rare abuse of these requests for political or personal interest is vetted. Otherwise fees should be waived.
6. 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 are contributing to the affordable housing and homeless crisis in Hawaii, and I believe the state should conduct a comprehensive audit and investigation of all overuse and over-proliferation of the illegal units in our communities. I have witnessed this problem firsthand as I walk door to door statewide and talk to residents in every part of Hawaii.
7. Is Hawaii managing its tourism industry properly? What should be handled differently?
Hawaii should expand tourism in new markets such as health and wellness tourism, which has a potential for up to $3 billion additional annually based on our current health care macroeconomics. We should also take better advantage of our strengths and brand ourselves in new ways to appeal to growing lifestyle markets, such as a state that offers a fully organic lifestyle, sustainable agriculture and energy self-sufficiency, and as a bridge to the east.
8. 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, I support the proposed amendment. I believe that a compromise can be reached for investment properties over $1.5 million, which would bring in critical added revenue for public education and teacher retention. This would only impact speculators and the extremely rich, who in my opinion are willing to help more.
9. Would you support using liquefied natural gas to generate electricity as the state transitions to renewable resources to supply power?
I prefer to not use LNG, which is extracted in ways that damage our environment. I believe greater investment in solar and wind energy can help us meet our energy needs as we transition to a fully renewable future.
10. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to coral reefs?
The lieutenant governor’s office should house a comprehensive working team to develop a plan to prepare for the effects of global warming, and it should include environmental experts, energy experts, public health experts, concerned citizens, tourism and hotel officials, developers, university scholars, and legislators. We should prepare a plan to mitigate the changes, costs of structural relocation, the impact of refugees who may need to come to Hawaii from the Pacific and multiple other significant concerns.
11. The office of lieutenant governor is often viewed as irrelevant. What would you do to make it more productive?
As a physician and policymaker, I intend to take ownership and responsibility of the homeless crisis, the opioid crisis, and a plan to achieve affordable, quality, accessible health care for all of the people of Hawaii. I hope that Hawaii’s leadership in these areas can set a national example as we implement fresh approaches and new solutions to these significant challenges in better, more compassionate, and more effective ways.
12. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
I have spent my life working as a local doctor, caring for the people of Hawaii, and this perspective has shown me that we need to have a person with significant real life experience to make a difference as lieutenant governor.
We must address our critical shortage of access to mental health care if we hope to serve our people adequately and help those who are struggling the most among us.
We must also raise the minimum wage to a truly livable wage immediately, and address economic disparities and the cost of housing in Hawaii if we hope to achieve and maintain greater social justice in our state.
As lieutenant governor, I will be committed to creating meaningful change and moving Hawaii forward with greater justice, equality, and prosperity for all our people.