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 Ana Mo Des, Republican candidate for State House District 16, which includes Niihau, Lehua, Koloa and Waimea. The other candidate is Democrat Daynette Morikawa.
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?
This is a loaded question since it’s a no-win scenario and very easy for me to answer having hindsight vision, but I do carry respect for those in the decision-making positions having not been afforded this luxury.
The answer is no, the measures have not been effective. Being on Kauai we have been able to keep the virus off the island for the most part having adhered to strict protocols but the state did not follow the example in proper time and now we are all being held hostage because Oahu has not gained control over the situation and we are unable to open up our commerce in an effective way.
We now need to open up our minds in allowing for the proper treatments to take place without bias or political narratives and create the spaces for those needing extensive therapy to receive it in addition to the proper distribution of federal funds, which I believe it is not only criminal but immoral to misuse at this time.
Suicides due to the economic crises existed before COVID-19 but this shutdown has exacerbated an already extremely vulnerable situation. The deaths on either side of this pandemic are detrimental.
2. The state budget is facing record shortfalls. How would you balance the budget? What would you cut? What would you protect?
I believe the state needs to return to its priority functions of education, hospitals and infrastructure. Providing a well rounded nonbiased education is paramount for the future of our keiki, island and state.
The obvious drain of the rail in the budget needs to be dealt with once and for all. If government made the decision to eliminate the income of business owners and service workers, then the leadership should also reflect that decision in their salaries and enact a temporary pay cut.
3. What do you think should be done to diversify the economy? What would you do as an elected official to make that happen?
As an elected official I would eliminate restraints placed on small businesses by removing restrictions. The government should encourage business growth, not stifle it.
That is the only role government should play in the economy. Let’s give individuals the creative freedom to establish the businesses necessary for the future of their communities and give more power to local families that inherently know what needs to get done in order to prosper.
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 start with the raises granted in the state and county within the last couple of years before I would consider touching anyone’s pension.
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?
I voted for Andria Tupola so there isn’t much I can say about the governor and remain respectful but I will say that this should serve as a wake-up call to all those in elected positions of power and remind them of whom they serve and what their role is.
As far as public confidence is concerned, that is directly linked to the actions and decisions of the government officials and top executives, but I would recommend for the public to vote for a change in leadership and direction and elect the Republicans running for office.
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?
We are all equal in the eyes of the law no matter if we are in uniform or not. The police chiefs of every county should look at the example Kauai Police Department’s chief of police has set where the men in blue are participating in alleviating the burdens on the communities and not adding to them. Having meet and greet and talk story in different communities and having events where there is outreach providing food, etc., during this crises. It is ruling with compassion versus an iron fist and it works.
I do believe that any misbehavior should be reported with respect to due process and the rule of law. Ultimately the burden for justice lies on the shoulders of those making the decisions of where the budget is allocated so that there is fair and equal distribution when it comes to education and infrastructure in every district.
7. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I don’t have anything against this process but my guess is that since we’re the only state with counties divided by ocean that it would make cohesiveness less feasible in such initiative.
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 absolutely disagree with this action; it is unacceptable and needs to be reversed. It is our government after all, of/for/by the people and we the people have a right and obligation to know what is going on at all times and be included in the decision-making process.
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?
Man cannot control nature but we must learn from it. Is there a way to stop the rising tides and receding shorelines? What we can do is act on what we know and protect what is still intact, starting with our reefs, educating our residents and visitors to be respectful at all times and why it is so important to do so. Taking the initiative to not sell sunscreen with proven reef-damaging chemicals and add to protocols from there.
We reside the most biodiverse natural state on the planet and it should be our utmost pride to respect nature and abide by her laws on the sea and upon the aina.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Each election’s most pressing issue in each district is affordable housing. Private landowners and the state ought to offer land at a discounted price and the county should donate the infrastructure so homes can be built and sold at an attainable price.
During the West Kauai Plan developmental community input meeting it was discussed what should be done or what zone change should be enacted for a property adjacent to the coffee fields in Hanapepe. I proposed this concept and made the request since this land was acquired through a signature and will not affect its bottom line. It’s more fiscally responsible for the county to invest in a one-time donation for infrastructure than to subsidize the remaining portion that the individuals approved for affordable housing can’t afford in perpetuity.
When these homes are sold they will go at fair market value as price-comparable for homes in the area and start to balance the industry that has been inflated by the affordable housing model. When developers need to satisfy the affordable housing requirement they offset their profit margin by selling their market homes at a higher price and there have always been buyers at these prices where sales are used as the comparable for the area and continue to inflate the market creating an endless cycle.
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.
My priority has remained the same since I first testified before the council in early 2017, discussing leveling the playing field and balancing the economic disparity caused by exploitation resulting in drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, crime, homelessness, survival/commercial trafficking and the eventual suicide.
We need to introduce legislation that would fit in HRS under the GET .5% increase stating that the income tax of the businesses profiting off the land, air, sea, spring, river, aina, aloha, mana of the island be diverted to stay on the island where generated and put into a similar fund as the Alaska Permanent Fund created off oil profits and distributed to the residents as dividends paid.
This measure is merited since these businesses did not create the product they are profiting off and this action will align us with the true practice of capitalism where one is not allowed to profit off exploitation, meaning no plundering nor indentured servitude allowed.