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 Sam Slom, Republican candidate for State Senate District 9, which includes Hawaii Kai, Kuliouou, Niu, Aina Haina, Waialae-Kahala and Diamond Head.
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?
Not handled effectively. Social distancing, non-mandatory masking and testing OK; ever-changing opening dates without a solid plan not OK. A healthy economy or a healthy population are not mutually exclusive. I would have concentrated on positive and risk groups, not the entire population. One size does not fit all.
2. The state budget is facing record shortfalls. How would you balance the budget? What would you cut? What would you protect?
When I was in office I produced annual lower cost balanced budgets. Reduce spending and debt. Prioritize better. Halt any new projects. No pay raises.
3. What do you think should be done to diversify the economy? What would you do as an elected official to make that happen?
I’ve spoken out on this for many years. Listen to business people and investors. Change Hawaii government from hostile to helpful toward business. Reduce taxes. Keep contractual promises. Expand entrepreneurial zones.
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?
Yes the present re-funding is adequate. No new major increases. Reduce benefits for new hires.
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?
The Legislature needs to take a more proactive role and hold executives to set goals.
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?
I stand with law enforcement. The police commission should be more independent. Names of officers after conviction should be released. Many groups are anti-police without good reason.
7. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I have always supported and introduced bills for initiative, referendum, recall and term limits.
8. Hawaii’s public records law mandates that public records be made available whenever possible. Gov. David Ige suspended 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?
Support open records and enforce the current law.
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?
I stand with those scientists who question how much a single person or state can do to influence change, but would use responsible actions for adverse change mitigation.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
My district, East Honolulu, shares many of the same problems (homelessness, traffic, sewers/water) but as the population ages, there are worries about cost of living and rising taxes too.
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.
Monopoly one-party powerful government is a major problem. My big idea is real involvement with initiative, referendum, recall and term limits.