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 Yoder, Republican candidate for state House District 15, which includes Wailua Homesteads, Hanamaulu, Lihue, Puhi, Old Koloa Town and Omao. The other candidate is Democrat James Tokioka.
1. Hawaii has been deeply affected by the corona virus 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?
No they haven’t handled it effectively. It made no sense to allow big business (Costco, Walmart, Safeway, Foodland and Times/Big Save) to remain open employing safety and health measures yet deny small businesses and places of worship the same opportunity. It made no sense to quarantine the sick along with the healthy. I would not have quarantined the healthy, only the sick.
Once we knew what we were dealing with in late March and saw lower COVID-19 cases and decline in the death rate in late April and early May, we should have begun reopening Hawaii in phases: You can’t run and hide from the disease. The CDC maintains the chances of the asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 and passing it on to others is remote. Masks are often not worn properly and are nothing more than symbolic.
If people are at risk they should stay at home. Those who aren’t sick should have the freedom to work. If you don’t qualify to be tested for COVID-19 because you’re not sick, you qualify to work. I would have reopened the airports to interisland travel much earlier and then the mainland employing reasonable health and safety measures. Tourism is the life blood of our economy.
2. The state budget is facing record shortfalls. How would you balance the budget? What would you cut? What would you protect?
Cutting taxes and removing regulations that inhibit free markets and business, both small and large, is the only way to balance the budget in facing record shortfalls. I would protect business, both small and large, by removing that which inhibits them from hiring and expanding their markets.
You don’t increase revenue by taking it from those who produce in order to give to those who choose not to produce. I would cease to pay people not to work and produce, and I would reward those who do work and produce. Every time the government reduces the burden of taxes and reduces regulations it increases revenue to the government.
How does business increase their profits? You lower prices and improve service. You don’t penalize people for producing. People who choose to not work penalize themselves and should not be subsidized by the government. I would end unrestrained government welfare. I will promote free markets and small businesses that drive the economy. Welfare robs the economy.
3. What do you think should be done to diversify the economy? What would you do as an elected official to make that happen?
Elected officials can’t diversify the economy nor can the government, only free enterprise and free markets can innovate and diversify the economy. Government isn’t capable because there is no accountability and they set up a heavily funded bureaucracy that cannot be fired or held accountable.
Legislators will continue to tax the producers to fund these bureaucracies that do not produce. Unelected bureaucracy doesn’t live within its means as an individual, family or a small business would have to do. Only the government can force people to pay for what doesn’t work without oversight or accountability. People, family and business don’t live in that kind of world.
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?
Whenever your outgo is more than your income, your upkeep will be your downfall. These underfunded pension programs were in trouble long before COVID-19 arrived. You cannot continually rob the private sector through taxation to pay for the abuses and mismanagement of government unions.
I would call for an audit to discover misappropriation of tax dollars. The government unions over-promised their employees without any regard to those who are paying their pensions, the private sector. Those of us in the private sector are required, by way of taxation, to pay for someone else’s retirement leaving us with little to pay for our own. Governments and their unions must live within their own means and not separate people from their hard-earned income.
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 state’s virus response was wrong on so many levels; “deep rifts within top levels of government” are due to faulty, inconsistent and irresponsible government policy that continues to shut down the main economic driving force in our economy, tourism. The Wall Street Journal stated last week that Hawaii will be the last state to recover because our economy depends on tourism. The WSJ is right. If people aren’t allowed to travel to Hawaii, the economy will continue to die.
Gov. Ige and the mayors have mishandled the pandemic crisis from the start by closing the economy for way too long. Why are states like Florida, Tennessee and Texas prospering? They reopened their economies weeks ago.
If the government is afraid of tourism increasing COVID-19 cases, then take measures that allow people who are healthy to come to Hawaii without violating their civil rights and freedoms. Treat this subject as we did the immigration of those entering the U.S. from the 1880s to the 1920s. If they were sick they were quarantined. You don’t put the brakes on the economy. The harm incurred in shutting down tourism and our economy as a whole is far worse than the disease itself.
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?
The recent deaths of two Black people, one in Minneapolis and the other one in Atlanta, are different from one another. In both instances the deceased were breaking the law. They both resisted arrest. The first death was caused by a police officer purposely choking a man to death. The other three officers asked the lead officer to get off the suspect. Two of the officers were on their second and third day on the job.
In Atlanta the suspect resisted arrest, beat up the two policemen and took one officer’s taser and fired it upon the officer, the officer returned fire defending himself. The U.S. is not a racist country. The Civil War and civil rights legislation have proved our nation’s belief, “that all men are created equal.”
Are there racists among a non-racist country? Yes. You don’t defund law enforcement. You continue to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions according to the law. Sudden rush to judgment without due process is wrong. You don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. I don’t see this as an issue in Hawaii. 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?
I would support direct initiative, where proposals that qualify go directly on the ballot, or possibly indirect initiative, where proposals are submitted to the Legislature, which has an opportunity to act on the proposed legislation. If the Legislature rejects it, submits a different proposal or takes no action, the initiative will subsequently go on the ballot.
Hawaii is a one-party Democrat state. Democrats have dominated politics in Hawaii since 1954 and subsequently since statehood in 1959 to the present time. If a proposal is brought before Hawaii’s Legislature and senate that is against the platform of the DNC, it will not go on the ballot. No matter how much testimony is given and signatures are produced. That isn’t democratic and is a miscarriage of true representative government, which is supposed to support the will of their constituents.
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 support the Sunshine Law. I don’t not understand why Hawaii public records would be cloaked by the government whether there is a pandemic or not, unless it has something to hide. That is socialism and tyranny.
Obviously, if politicians believe that voters cannot be trusted with the truth, democracy is seriously at risk. I once heard, for a democracy to function it is essential that a government respects the people and takes them seriously, not only those that have voted for that government, but all people.
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?
Once again, the premise is that there is climate change and that it is man’s doing. I personally don’t believe mankind can change the seasons, increase or decrease the temperature, cause the sea levels to rise, or increase the intensity of storms.
One important factor is left out of these climate change models that are used: the sun. If the Earth experiences more solar flares from the sun during the year the Earth will be warmer, if it produces less solar flares, the Earth will be cooler. If there is extreme volcanic activity, this too will have a major effect on weather patterns.
Those who believe in manmade climate change never have an answer as to why the temperatures on Mars increase or decrease to the same degree the Earth does. Is mankind on Earth causing global heating and cooling on Mars? No, it’s the sun.
Swimming the ocean water of Kauai over the last 55 years, the ocean levels remain the same level now as they were in 1965. So-called man made climate change is nothing more than a way for the government to separate you from your income through higher taxes to resolve an issue that doesn’t exist.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Traffic. I propose that Kauai improve the Power Line trail, which is between Princeville and the Koloa Tree Tunnel, to a simple two-lane highway, with spokes that connect each community to it in order to bypass the congestion we experience today. There is federal funding by means of a new interstate, which would be called H-4. The bypass can also be funded by toll booths. There is county and state funding. There could be private funding too. The U.S. government offered to improve the power line road during WWII, but Kauai turned it down.
I moved to Kauai in early October of 1970 and we basically have the same road infrastructure that served a population of less than 30,000 then, and now we have a population of 72,000-plus. If we want our children to stay on Kauai then they must have an infrastructure to support that population and future growth. Otherwise we’ll have to tear up the corridors of Kapaa, which will destroy the very businesses that we want to protect. Building the road would produce tax revenue from the laborers employed to build it. Widening the Kapaa corridor would close down businesses creating a loss of tax revenue.
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.
The exposure of Hawaii’s structure and systems causing economic disparity isn’t because of the pandemic, nor is it due to a lack of technology. Technology changes monthly and people adapt. This COVID-19 will leave us one day but the economic disparity will remain. Why? Economic disparity is caused by governments rewarding people who choose not to produce or work yet punishes people who work to put a roof over their heads and food on the table.
Government puts a ceiling on income levying tax burdens on people if they should make too much money. What a crime! Here’s the one big idea: lower the tax burden, repeal the 4-plus% general excise tax law and roll back regulations. Confer with small businesses asking their advice to what will help them grow and hire more employees.
Small business owners will pay higher wages and provide more benefits when their employees become more valuable to the employer they work for. Defund welfare as to government paying benefits to those who refuse to work, bearing children out of wedlock, etc., and see what happens to economic disparity. You don’t make poor people richer by making rich people poorer. A big idea with specificity.