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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 Maile Shimabukuro, the Democratic candidate for State Senate District 21, which covers Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Ko Olina, Nanakuli, Maili, Waianae, Makaha and Makua. There is one other candidate, Republican Diamond Garcia.
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 good way to get tough legislation through is via the various legislative caucuses, such as the Women’s, Kupuna and Keiki caucuses. The media and public demonstrations are also very powerful tools. I would work through these various avenues to push for needed reform.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Possibly, if the legislation were carefully crafted to avoid creating chaos.
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?
There is a very large range of philosophies and views among Democrats, and many power struggles within the party. I believe Democrats hold each other accountable due to this diversity among ourselves. If you look at the internal battles for leadership within the Democratic Party, state House and Senate, governor’s race, congressional, presidential races, etc., you will see that trying to unify Democrats is like trying to “herd cats.” But that is what many find appealing about being a Democrat, i.e., that diversity is celebrated.
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?
Yes. To the fullest extent possible, I would support initiatives from the League of Women Voters, Common Cause Hawaii, and other groups aimed at improving our political system.
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 would support efforts to enforce our public records law, and eliminate overly excessive delays and fees.
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?
Yes, as a member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, I believe we are on the right track.
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. I would support carefully drafting the legislation to target investment properties owned by the wealthy, such as mansions, vacation rentals, etc.
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, I see it as a problem. I would support renewing efforts to pass legislation modeled after House Bill 2605 HD2 SD1 (2018). Currently, many property owners in this state are renting their places to tourists and transients. HB2605 provided taxpayers the opportunity to pay delinquent taxes through an amnesty program, discouraged unlawful transient vacation rentals, enhanced the department of taxation’s ability to collect taxes due through a tax collection agent, and protected property owners from unlicensed property managers.
9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
Support. Hawaii’s last con con was in 1978, and it appears to be time to re-examine our constitution.
10. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
In 2017, Hawaii was the first state to pass legislation to align its goals with the Paris climate agreement, despite President Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of it. I supported this legislation whole-heartedly.
11. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
• Traffic: This will continue to be my top priority since it is the number one quality of life issue for my constituents. I have been able to obtain funds for the following major projects: Nanakuli turn lane, from Haleakala Avenue to Nanakuli Avenue; and Parallel Route Phase 1, from Paakea Road to Nanakuli Avenue. If I am re-elected, I pledge to continue to fight for critically needed projects, including: Parallel Route, Phase 2, from Nanakuli Avenue to Piliokahi Avenue; extension of the 5th lane on Farrington Highway to Hakimo Road; and rush hour contraflow lane through the Nanakuli bottleneck.
• Housing/homelessness: To help address the lack of affordable housing, I have championed the following initiatives: Ohana Ola O Kahumana transitional shelter training kitchen grant in aid, transfer on death deeds for homes; and inclusion of legal non-conforming homes for Section 8 eligibility.
• Education: To improve education in my district, I have obtained funds for the following initiatives: Leeward Community College-Waianae Moku purchase of the Tycom Building in Maili; Searider Productions building expansion at Waianae High; Waianae Elementary School administration building; Makaha Elementary School ADA improvements; and DOE Alternative Learning Center for at-risk students on the Waianae Coast.