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 Robin Vanderpool, Republican candidate for state House District 13, which includes Haiku, Hana, Kaupo, Kipahulu, Nahiku, Paia, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai and Molokini. The other candidates are Democrat Lynn DeCoite and Theresa Kapaku of the Aloha Aina Party.
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?
Frankly, I would have followed states like South Dakota and and countries like Sweden who have not interrupted travel or commerce in any way. I would instead suggest the public live clean, wash hands and face regularly, wear masks if they wish and social distance if they wish.
Influenzas, pneumonia or tuberculosis are ever-present in our environment. I would leave it to the public to decide for themselves rather than any overreaching mandates. Government needs to get out of the way.
2. The state budget is facing record shortfalls. How would you balance the budget? What would you cut? What would you protect?
First of all I would not vote for any more borrowing from the federal government. With the tax money we have collected I would vote on spending only those things that meet the immediate needs of the people. Those constructions and entitlements not absolutely necessary would not be funded.
I would protect farming and expand the accessibility for local residents to acquire farm leases.
3. What do you think should be done to diversify the economy? What would you do as an elected official to make that happen?
Assuming we open up the state to tourism soon I would first focus on making Hawaii attractive again for world travelers to vacation, have conventions and get married in our tropical paradise. I would ease regulations and create a lower tax environment to entice businesses returning from China and elsewhere to invest in tech assembly plants, aerospace, film and “TMT-like” opportunities.
I would push to farm all arable land. I would repeal the Jones Act to be able to ship and import products for less than half the cost.
I would form new committees/think-tanks with entrepreneurs and business leaders to develop strategies for solutions toward economic diversity.
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?
There is a $12 billion Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund debt and a $12.9 billion in unfunded liabilities of the state Employees’ Retirement System. Hawaii taxpayers now are expected to cover $25 billion to make good on the state’s obligations to current and retired employees and their dependents.
I don’t have those answers. As a freshman legislator I would seek the highest counsel to find solutions to this crucial issue.
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?
Part of my reason for running is to balance the conservative and liberal spending in the Legislature and making laws governing such.
Currently we have 46 liberals and five conservatives in the State House of Representatives. This needs to change. I am a conservative.
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 don’t believe there is institutionalized racism. Our police force needs to be allowed to do their jobs. They deal with criminals all day, every day. We need more policemen.
Yes, I agree with transparency and body cameras.
7. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I do not. Democracy in one sense is “mob rule.”
I do, however, encourage the public to hold their legislators to task by engaging them directly. I would hold monthly public forums with the people to hear their grievances and fresh ideas on how to make Hawaii a better places for all.
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?
Transparency in government is very important for public trust. There are many cases where issues need be held in private when discussing sensitive data.
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 have done extensive research on this subject. I see no evidence that there is a bonafide consensus on man-made climate change.
There are many new peer-reviewed climate models that suggest the Earth’s atmosphere is in thermodynamic equilibrium and the oceans will not rise faster than normal. I do have plans that move infrastructure and economic zones up to higher altitudes above tsunami impact areas. I believe we cannot afford to spend any money on climate alarmism.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
The same as most districts, traffic, jobs, homelessness, difficulty in acquiring farm leases and farm worker housing, drugs, crime, delays in acquiring Hawaiian Home Lands for 50/50 blood quantum candidates on the list. I have solutions for each of these subjects.
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.
I love tourism. I would further beautify the state in a variety of ways to make it more appealing to more world travelers. I would plant trees on all highways and solve all traffic issues. I would enact strict loitering laws in urban areas yet create “safe spaces” for the homeless to camp. I would improve mental health and drug rehabilitation facilities.
Hawaii is a healing center for the world’s people. All of the seven great kings of Hawaii encouraged travelers and wealth to come here. When travel is once again allowed to flow freely we will find our economy will flourish again. This is a very broad question, one I could discuss at length.