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 Trinette Furtado, a candidate for Maui County Council (Makawao-Haiku-Paia). The other candidate is Mike Molina.
1: This year has seen an outsized influence from people who want big changes in how government is run. What would you do to change how the Council is run?
I support a different structure of governance where the council has more input on department heads and members of boards and commissions that are currently appointed by a popularly elected mayor. If there were a different structure containing a manager or managing director that actually managed county resources and administration with an eye for experience and expertise, I believe there would be more accountability and transparency throughout the system.
I support and currently hope to vote on, a mayor-manager structure to our governance. The changes people want have been a long time in coming and are certainly not knee-jerk reactions to the current administration.
2. Should your county implement a 0.5 percent GET surcharge? If so, for what purpose?
I don’t believe our county should implement a 0.5 percent GET surcharge on residents. I believe the county should implement a surcharge or tax on all new large developments in Maui County, especially those that utilize entitlements or credits to shirk the responsibility of meeting the county’s minimum requirements for affordable housing units within developments. This surcharge or tax would be a tiered structure, based on the property values of the area. These funds could be placed into the affordable housing fund with the specific purpose of funding actual units (through property or building acquisition) or subsidizing residents in the purchase/rental of housing.
3. There is a desire to grow the economy through new development yet also a need to protect our limited environmental resources. How would you balance these competing interests?
They do not have to be competing if they are done with inclusion in mind. The neighborhood, the surrounding community and the lineal descendants of any particular development area all need to be included in all discussions of impactful development. We can pace our development and keep it within the limits of our resources if we plan and develop smartly, efficiently and with an eye to the future and the resources that may be available then.
If there is proposed development in a sensitive area, I believe it is necessary to consult and include those who will be directly and immediately impacted. All development will have an affordable housing component to it, whether it be through direct funding of a local housing fund or construction of units within the development, concurrently with construction of market and above market priced units.
4. What would you do to strengthen police accountability?
I believe that recording devices (whether body or dash cams) should be utilized. Corruption or malfeasance discovered within the Police Department whether by information disclosed by an individual or by investigation would be subject to scrutiny and punishment via the Ethics Board, enforceable by current policy or policy created to address the issue(s). Misconduct would be dealt with swiftly and assuredly, no matter familial or political connection. “Desk duty” would not be offered to those who are accused of a serious infraction.
5. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I will create and support legislation that specifically defines our current “Sunshine Law,” such that it may not be used as an excuse to delay or to deny access to critical documents regarding financial disclosure, discussions on key issues where the public is not included (access to recordings and notes) in the attempt to stall examination and investigation. I will also create and support legislation that clearly defines the requirements of all lobbyists to make disclosures to legislators, committees, boards and commissions, of their affiliation(s) to/with entities that will benefit from their involvement and intervention.
6. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes. I absolutely support eliminating the high fees for access to public records when it is in the public interest. I also support transparency that negates the need for a FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) request, if the information requested is not of a personal or intimate nature. We should be able to hold our representatives accountable in our governance and we are ill-equipped to do that when fees are staggering or one must file a FOIA request to do it.
7. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I believe, that we need to have the availability to offer testimony through a video set-up. So many residents cannot make it to the county building to testify or speak with representatives.
I also believe that the county website needs to be streamlined to make contacting officials (whether by email, a video message, social media message, fax, text or VM) easier by outlining simple steps for people to follow. In addition, I believe that every elected representative should be required to hold at least one district-area “talk story” meeting to allow people the opportunity to meet a representative face-to-face and voice their concerns.
8. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
The most pressing issue facing my district is the availability of water for subsistence living and growing food for sustainability and food security on this island. The recent court workaround successfully accomplished with House Bill 2501 and Gov. Igeʻs decision to sign it into law, only highlights the dire circumstances many of our ohana have been in for more than a decade. The issue of water availability touches not just Haiku, Makawao and Paia, but the rest of the island as well. We can ill afford to allow exported mono crops or seed crops to dominate our landscape while our keiki arenʻt food secure and we import over 90 percent of our food.
I will work on finalizing our Water Use and Development Plan and ensure that the figures contained, detail high and low water flows and seasons. I will work to ensure that figures are not inflated and accurately consider all current water uses and needs, as well as begin to look at ways to identify other sources of water and creative storage solutions.