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.
The following came from Jo Jordan, Democratic candidate for state House District 44, which includes Waianae, Makaha, Makua and Maili. The other Democratic candidate is Cedric Gates.
1. Hawaii has been deeply affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps the biggest impact is to the economy and the tourism industry, which has been Hawaii’s biggest economic driver. Do you think state leaders have handled the response to the virus effectively, including the approach to testing and health care as well as the stay-at-home orders that have caused serious economic harm? What would you have done differently?
State leaders have done the best job under the circumstances to keep the number of positive COVID-19 cases to as few as possible. A better job could have been done on centralizing the message across the state and counties to minimize confusion.
2. The state budget is facing record shortfalls. How would you balance the budget? What would you cut? What would you protect?
The budget needs to be trimmed back to essential needs like health, human services, public safety and education, given the budget shortfall. At the same time, the Legislature must scrutinize tax expenditures that benefit corporate interests at the expense of working families.
3. What do you think should be done to diversify the economy? What would you do as an elected official to make that happen?
The state must implement policies to support food sustainability similar to legislation I introduced to encourage purchases of Hawaii-grown foods by individuals and institutions, including public institutions like schools, hospitals and prisons. During my time in office, I supported funding for creative media through Searider Productions and believe we should expand these industries as well.
4. 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? Would you support reductions in benefits including in pension contributions for public employees in light of virus-related budget shortfalls?
The state must honor its pension and health obligations for public workers. I do not support any reductions for current public employees, however, a reduction of benefits for employees hired in the future could be considered.
5. The state’s virus response effort has exposed deep rifts within the top levels of government, including between the Legislature and Gov. David Ige. He will be in office two more years, so what would you do to ensure public confidence in Hawaii’s government officials and top executives?
Be transparent and do my job. It’s a kakou thing, we’re all in this together.
6. Recent deaths of citizens at the hands of police are igniting protests and calls for reform across the country, primarily aimed at preventing discrimination against people of color. How important do you see this as an issue for Hawaii? What should be done to improve policing and police accountability throughout the state? Do you support police reform efforts such as mandatory disclosure of misconduct records by police agencies and adequate funding for law enforcement oversight boards that have been established in recent years?
This is an important issue for Hawaii that is largely handled at the county level. I support police reform efforts such as mandatory disclosure of misconduct records by police agencies and the collection of data relating to police arrests and prosecution of cases within the Office of the Prosecutor to assess and address racial and ethnic disparities.
While the state faces budget constraints, we must look at investing in community-based programs such as law enforcement assistance diversion programs like neighborhood security watch and programs for at-risk youth.
7. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I don’t have a position on this issue.
8. Hawaii’s public records law mandates that public records be made available whenever possible. Gov. David Igesuspended the open government laws under an emergency order during the pandemic. Do you agree or disagree with his action? What would you do to ensure the public has access to open meetings and public records in a timely fashion?
I understand the decision to suspend the open government laws given the need to practice social distancing and reduce public gatherings. The state must work toward greater transparency through livestream and other means to increase public participation remotely.
9. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs? How big of a priority is this for you?
Climate change is a priority for me because Farrington Highway, which is the main ingress and egress along the Leeward Coast, is in an inundation zone. Hawaii should be preparing for the effects of climate change and make appropriate decisions when building or doing alterations within inundation zones.
We should be looking at infrastructure that can hold up against stronger and harsher weather conditions.
10. 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 education as a means to provide more opportunities for my community. We must support educational systems for traditional and non-traditional students to obtain better-paying jobs and support our public school system to allow students to prepare for higher education or trades while ensuring the system is sustainable going forward.
11. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, from outdated technology to economic disparity. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, to build on what we’ve learned and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share One Big Idea you have for Hawaii. Be innovative, but be specific.
My one big idea is social impact bonds that bring together investors, nonprofits, and government to finance preventative programs expected to lead, in the long run, to overall cost savings.