Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 3 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 Travis Gyldstrand, Aloha Aina candidate for state House District 10, which includes West Maui, Maalaea and North Kihei. The other candidates are Democrat Angus McKelvey and Republican Kanamu Balinbin.
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?
I feel that the time is now to diversify Hawaii’s economic priorities and bump “tourism” down a few notches. There is still so much mystery surrounding COVID. We will find out shortly how the state leaders have handled it. I would have shut down flights/cruise ships from the very beginning unless they were residents returning home. I would of kept local businesses open for the businesses and employees paid via “rainy day fund.”
2. The state budget is facing record shortfalls. How would you balance the budget? What would you cut? What would you protect?
By collecting taxes from corporations, its wealthiest residents, and out-of-state investors.I would raise taxes on transient accommodations, liquor, cigarettes and corporate tax measures. Cut most major items on the state budget by 15-20%. Other areas could be cut 5-10%. Also cutting money spent to “market” Hawaii and putting that in the general fund
I would protect health care (including first responders), agriculture, conservation programs and education.
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 really think that Hawaii can grow niche crops for export. Industrial hemp would be huge for the islands, I also believe that we can lead the way in medical innovation as well as space education (not TMT). I would also look at Singapore’s manufacturing economy and see if we could implement any of those ideas.
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?
These earned pensions and benefits are what get many families through crises like the one we are experiencing. I would never support reductions in benefits, including pension contributions for any public workers.
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?
Bring back accountability to governance. Focus on collaboration within the administration. Demand more transparency from the governor.
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 a huge issue all over the globe, not just Hawaii. Police reform on tactics used and possible budget cuts and community reviews, more innovative body cams, reform in incentives/contracts. Yes I support mandatory disclosure of misconduct records by police agencies and adequate funding for law enforcement oversight boards.
7. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
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?
I disagree with anything that goes against transparency. We should use Zoom meeting platforms and easy-to-follow platforms to keep everyone informed.
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?
This is a big priority especially on West Maui. Smart construction that is not near shorelines. Natural remedies such as strengthening our reefs and beaches would help. Stopping deep well injections and the dumping of raw sewage or anything that contributes to an unhealthy balance of our ecosystems. I would push for a task force to monitor such issues and bring forth solutions.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it? Affordable Housing and food security. I would suggest a freeze on all new luxury developments and take inventory to see what we can re-purpose and what is available. Look into how places like Singapore solved their affordable housing situation. I strongly support the need of a Maui County agriculture department and operations like what Maui Food Hub And Local Harvest are doing to help meet local food needs.
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.
Medical marijuana, other medicinal plants and hemp. I would love to see Hawaii using hemp in full-scale mode. Hemp grows fast, uses less water, no pesticides, and can contribute to food security (hemp seeds), energy (hemp is better conductor than graphene), soil health, hemp fuel (imagine all of Hawaii’s farming equipment running off hemp fuel), 3-D printing (less imports), Hempcrete (hemp hurd and limestone; no more sand mining for cement).