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 Steve Monas, Republican candidate for state House District 14, which includes Hanalei, Princeville, Kilauea, Anahola, Kapaa and Wailua. The other candidate is Democrat Nadine Nakamura.
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 would have followed guidelines by our current presidential administration. We could have started preparing during the State of the Union address when President Trump announced that we should be on high alert of a new flu-like virus coming from a city of Wuhan.
I do not think that the local government should have had the right to decide which business they could save and which they should close down. Same as in 2008 when Lehman Brothers failed, now Kauai has an unemployment rates as high as 95% percent, which is in my District 14. Everyone should have had the chance to put in place safety measures; we are all essential.
2. The state budget is facing record shortfalls. How would you balance the budget? What would you cut? What would you protect?
Currently our mayor and some of our unelected “task force” officials are unofficially cutting regulation, bureaucratic red tape, cutting taxes and handing out loans for the remainder of small businesses that might survive. Does that sound familiar? It should because when you cut regulations, and taxes, just like our current administration has been doing for over three years, we will see an economic boom.
I would never cut the wages of our health care workers, teachers, police officers, firefighters, lifeguards, social workers and other first responders.
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 am running on my ideas on how to diversify the economy that I have been regularly posting on social media sites with hashtag #votestevemonas.
It is not the position of the elected official to create businesses, that would be socialism, and some would say communism. It is up to the ingenuity of our Hawaiian citizens to use this time to come up with ideas based on its elected officials cutting burdensome regulations and taxes. Let the culture of the Hawaiian people create products that are unique to the world and export our aloha.
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?
I would never support reductions in benefits, including pension contributions for public employees or for any public workers. Why should they have to pay for the elected officials mismanagement or poor decision making? I would support doing a bipartisan independent audit of the government’s current regulations, taxation and spending.
If we need to cut costs, it would not be from our hard-working Hawaiian public employees, including and not limited to health-care workers, first responders, police officers, social workers, firefighters, and lifeguards – let’s not forget about the administration staff of each that makes their department work.
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 best example I have read was the response of Vietnam. I am not saying that we should follow everything, but what I am saying is that they were prepared since 2002 when China had an outbreak that affected this small nation. They took note, and were ready.
China has been known to experiment with various flu-type viruses since 2002 and now the world sees it. I think that Gov. Ige has scared public confidence into submission.
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 have been an outspoken person about this topic on my various social media channels, #votestevemonas. Hawaii is a place of diversity. We have all sorts of different colors, races, religions from all over the world.
If the movie “Trolls World Tour” has taught us anything besides that it took too long to own the movie instead of renting it, what makes us different is what makes us beautiful. If we need to make change, let’s make change together. I support mandatory disclosure of misconduct records and internal affairs agencies.
7. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Distrust of the Legislature is a theme in support for initiatives. It is a very expensive process as other states have seen, and at times the proposals are disguised. Democrats have dominated politics since 1954 and subsequently since statehood in 1959 to the present. If a proposal is brought before Hawaii’s Legislature and Senate that is against the platform of the Democratic Party, it will not go on the ballot.
So if you are angry about the Legislature in Hawaii since 1954, you know who to blame. I would support a statewide citizens initiative process to let the Hawaiian people get their voices heard and not be silenced anymore.
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?
The government, unless it’s for national security, like keeping secrets from our enemies, should be transparent and not keep secrets from our own Hawaii citizens. When you are not being transparent, it basically means you are hiding something.
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 do not think it’s a good idea to cap the population at 9.2 billion and enact a one-child global policy like China did. The documentary “One Child Nation” was, being polite, horrific of what the Chinese government did to its citizens when they believed they had more than one child. If we need to find answers, we should not look to the Chinese Communist Party for answers.
The climate is going to change, it will rain, it will be sunny, it might snow in some parts, but we should not hurt our populations if we think that we are the biggest threat to our planet.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
The biggest issues we have in my district is high unemployment, fear of each other infecting each other that has been played over and over on our portable display screens. We need to use our ingenuity to diversify our economy like opening up swap meets, drive-in movie theaters, able to us our SNAP benefits on our phones for pickup at grocery stores, creating a “Smart Kauai” and most importantly, remember that we should not be scared of each other.
We are a culture, we are a community, we are a small island that will survive and thrive.
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.
One Big Idea from SteveMonas.com: A “Smart Kauai” is our community built on a foundation that our kids will remain on the island. We are already teaching our kids “STEM” from kindergarten, and they are competing in robotics in high school.
These high-paying computer jobs are work-from-home jobs. Generations of Kauai ohana can stay at home with good-paying computer jobs. Since #WuhanVirus, most big tech firms (Facebook, Shopify, Twitter, Square, Google, etc) have already said that within the next five to 10 years most positions will be “work from home.” I will get these tech firms to use Kauai as a pilot program.