Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 8 Primary Election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities will be if elected.
1. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your office? What will you do about it?
Cutting the budget. Watch my videos for my information, we will save millions of dollars.
2. Jails and prisons are overcrowded and Hawaii’s correctional facilities are in poor physical condition. What would you do to reduce overcrowding in the jails and prisons?
Prioritize by gravity of offense and focusing on violent crimes. The prosecutors haven’t been prioritizing and that’s why people who were being held based on crimes of violence were released.
3. Because of COVID-19, many of Hawaii’s inmates were released so as to reduce the risk of infection. Where do you stand on this issue?
Some of them weren’t supposed to be in there in the first place, but because the jail was filled with people who missed court, there wasn’t space for people who were alleged to be violent. That’s the smaller issue, the bigger one is that the jail needed to be renovated years ago to accommodate a larger population. The estimated population of the island in 2019 was 201,513. Somehow we are going to believe that our necessary jail capacity needs are met at a few hundred bed spaces?
The correctional facility workers need a better facility to work at for their own long-term health needs. The inmates are packed in like sardines and that does not help with rehabilitation. Jail renovation needs to be at the highest state priority. We need a renovated bigger jail so that we can stop paying into the for-profit jail system of Arizona. Renovate the jail and bring everyone back. It will be cheaper and it will help in the long run for families to be able to participate in the rehabilitation.
How about the state stop wasting money on rail fail and focus on public safety?
4. The recent police killings of black people in police custody have caused widespread racial unrest throughout the country. What would you do to strengthen police accountability in Hawaii including the role the prosecutor’s office plays in police use-of-force cases?
Black lives matter. I’ve voiced my support and shared my video on Facebook and Instagram to support the peaceful movement and also denouncing the rioters who are destroying America’s cities and distracting from the peaceful movement.
Hawaii’s issue is that we need to make sure law enforcement is accountable when it comes to Kanaka Maoli lives, and I’m talking about the Prosecutor’s Office on this issue. I don’t have a problem prosecuting anybody who commits a crime, including police officers or a drunk prosecutor that might be swept under the rug in another regime. There will be transparency in my office and I will work with the police to focus on what’s important.
5) Native Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. What would you do to address racism and discriminatory treatment in law enforcement?
First thing to do is make sure that the office doesn’t discriminate in its hiring practices. How many of the people waving signs in Kona from the Kona prosecutor’s office are Hawaiian? Which public defender in the Maui office is Hawaiian? Somehow it’s okay for Hawaiians to make up 40 or more percent of the jail population, but zero or close to zero percent of your office? I’m going to change that.
I’ve been a prosecutor and a defense attorney. My experience is unique. Fair and equal treatment is my priority.
6. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I can’t do anything about other officials, I can only do something about who I will be. I’ll talk to you. Doesn’t mean that you’ll like what I have to say, but I’ll talk to you. I’m not going to tell you what you want to hear, I’m going to tell you what you need to hear.
7. Gov. David Ige suspended the state laws on public records and open meetings because of COVID-19. Do you think that was appropriate? What will you do to ensure your agency’s business is conducted as openly as possible?
Government must be transparent, the closing of public records was wrong. Just Zoom a meeting or Facebook Live it. In the criminal justice system, so as to not prejudice a case and infringe upon a defendant’s right to a fair trial, certain facts cannot be divulged ahead of time publicly but must be turned over to defense in a timely manner. A judicial determination of probable cause, however, is a publicly filed document and therefore the media must have access upon request.
8) What other issue would you like to address or make the voters aware of?
The safety of the public on Hawaii island was severely compromised when half of the police force was sent up to Mauna Kea to enforce the Huawei TMT project. There were burglaries, robberies, terroristic threats, family abuse, drunk drivers, missing persons, shootings, etc., but there were half as many officers in the biggest county of the state. Being a police officer is a very stressful job on a normal day. In this case, they were doing overtime and were overworked. We have to look out for the long-term health of our officers so that they can look out for the long-term safety of our community.
I’m going to be on the front line in court doing trials where I’ve always been. Not sitting at some table eating poke in a meeting held for the sake of having meetings. Not at the banquet, not shaking hands and making promises. We don’t need a politician, we need a prosecutor. I will not let public safety and law enforcement be distracted when I enter office. My office will be focused on fighting crime, so you don’t have to.