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 Julia Allen, Republican candidate for State House District 20, which includes St. Louis Heights, Palolo, Maunalani Heights, Wilhelmina Rise and Kaimuki. The other candidate is Democrat Jackson Sayama.
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?
Hawaii’s leaders, both at state and county levels, have handled their response to the virus ineffectively. What they did in the beginning when there was insufficient information was adequate, but now we have better information and expanded testing. We have therapeutics to treat the disease. We know who the highest risk groups are so they can be protected to prevent hospital overcrowding.
Total isolation policies prolong the problem and create poverty. The economy needs to be opened up fully to allow people to make a living. We can implement controls for incoming travelers.
2. The state budget is facing record shortfalls. How would you balance the budget? What would you cut? What would you protect?
The only way to balance the budget is to allow businesses, especially tourism, to open and people to return to work. We need to prioritize better and reduce spending and debt, halt new projects, and not allow any pay raises.
3. What do you think should be done to diversify the economy? What would you do as an elected official to make that happen?
We need to make Hawaii business-friendly by reducing taxes and regulations that hamper investment and business development. Tourism is our economic strength. We need to diversify within it and make the most of a worldwide demand for our value for vacation and business travelers.
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?
The current plans for refunding are adequate, or at least were. Pension funds will improve as our nation’s economy improves. Benefits for new hires should be reduced and retirement age increased.
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?
Deep rifts between the Legislature and the governor have occurred before without a loss of confidence. The administration’s response has lacked transparency and the Legislature is demanding more timely information, which the public needs. If the Legislature keeps up the pressure, the public will have reason for confidence.
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?
Hawaii’s ethnically diverse population is reflected by those in the police department. I believe that discrimination is not an issue in Hawaii. The police commission needs to be more independent and law enforcement oversight boards adequately funded. The release of officers’ names should be only after conviction due to the nature of their work.
7. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I would support initiative, referendum, recall and term limits. Hawaii is the only state that doesn’t have at least one of the four.
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 our open records law and in times of an emergency it is even more important. Our constitutional rights and civil liberties can’t be taken away for any reason. The powers of the governor are time-limited by law.
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?
Starting in the 1970s, there have been predictions of global cooling, then global warming and now climate change and catastrophes to occur within the next 10 years. We have been subjected to incomplete, inaccurate and falsified information, which has resulted in wasteful spending on phenomena unlikely to occur.
On the other hand, there are real climate changes and responsible mitigations that can be taken, if we are honest in examining the data.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Prior to COVID-19, I would have said cost of living because my district is an older community with many retired people who can’t afford increases in taxes, utilities, food and medical care. Now the immediate issue is getting people back to work and children attending school in the classroom.
I support expanding educational choices which many parents are having to find on their own right now, so they can get back to work.
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.
We’ve seen an enormous increase in remote employment and education, virtual meetings on Zoom and live-streamed church services. We are already in the process of increasing freedom by having more customized, individual choices. People have reprioritized their needs and are finding new solutions. Businesses that survive multiple shutdowns will continue to function differently.
I would support keeping new innovations free of additional government regulation.