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 Nick Ochs, Republican candidate for state House District 22, which includes Waikiki and Ala Moana. The other candidate is Democrat Adrian Tam.
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?
We shut down businesses and killed countless families’ dreams and life’s work. If this was a realistic way to stop a deadly disease, I would have supported it. It wasn’t.
The hard facts are that COVID-19 is not particularly dangerous to people without health conditions or advanced age, and that shutting down businesses just funneled people into the same few large stores to do their weekly shopping.
Absolute precautions for vulnerable populations make sense — nursing homes in particular. Hawaii has done well on that specifically. Other states didn’t.
But say I’m wrong about coronavirus and it really is a grave threat to the healthy. Now our elected officials have the gall to tell us that our graduation parties risk lives but 1,000-strong protest marches in Waikiki must be allowed. Residents can watch through the windows of their shut-down businesses while they wait for bankruptcy.
I have yet to get one Democrat to answer my direct question: Why is it OK for you to to gather in the thousands but I couldn’t go to my grandfather’s funeral, limit 10?
2. The state budget is facing record shortfalls. How would you balance the budget? What would you cut? What would you protect?
Every part of the budget has increased, so every part can be cut. Did you know we have “a statewide feminist government agency”? That’s the State of Hawaii’s words, not mine. Ridiculous money wastes like that will be first to go, and there are plenty more.
The budget now, rail and all, is nothing compared to what they want to spend. Democrats are currently using the insane legal argument that we can’t move people living in front of our businesses and homes until there is a free apartment waiting for each and every one of them. And if they all got a free house, I guarantee we wouldn’t stop seeing tent cities in our lovely parks.
The real cash cow is to keep taxing unlimited money from Hawaii taxpayers to fight climate change. I can’t even give you a figure for that because it’s just unlimited billions that Democrats say they need or we will all be underwater. I personally don’t trust them to stop the ocean or the rain.
3. What do you think should be done to diversify the economy? What would you do as an elected official to make that happen?
Tourism is the biggest slice of the economy and anyone who says they can change that is lying or deluded. District 22 is the most important area for tourism in Hawaii. I’m pro-tourism.
The way we’re going to save the economy is to attract more visitors. After this year of personal stress and travel restrictions, people are going to want to vacation and it’s up to us to make them want to come to Hawaii instead of somewhere that may be closer. We do this by welcoming visitors to our naturally beautiful home — and that doesn’t cost us a dollar. Not by charging American citizens visa-type fees for entering Hawaii, as some local politicians have suggested. Additionally, Hawaiian Airlines was among those that received a government bailout. Why not ask for more affordable tickets to Hawaii in return?
Of course there are many kinds of business that would benefit Hawaii and I discourage none of them, but Democrat-controlled Hawaii’s reputation as anti-business is not attracting new and diverse companies.
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?
Tempting though it may be to just cancel pensions to save money, that is a big no from me. It’s awful when private business does it, so it’s just as bad when the government does it too. If you sign up for a job with benefits in America, then that is just what you’re owed.
Now, there is something to say about just how generous some of these government benefits are, but cutting future costs shouldn’t be by breaking deals that workers already made. We can definitely talk about what comes with state jobs for future hires, however.
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’ll assure you right now that the people of Hawaii won’t be trusting top officials anytime soon.
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?
There are a lot of problems with the justice system in America. One of them is not the statistically disproven lie that cops are out to murder black men.
I actually meet left wing calls for police reform with a great deal of sympathy. I just do not indulge their race baiting. No knock raids, for instance, we can all work to get rid of. Bad cop’s records? I’d like to see them.
Ideologically leftist “police oversight boards”? No.
7. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Yes. I think this is a great way to have popular demands recognized by lawmakers. They can ignore your online signature collection, but not something on a ballot.
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?
Does anyone like this? If you want Democrats to stop hiding records, try electing some Republicans. They won’t do it just because we ask.
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?
The Western world is bending over backward to fight climate change. It’s fashionable if not mandatory for anyone in politics in America to demand some further regulation to something, lest we all watch Waikiki sink into the sea in a few years. That’s all fine and good, but meanwhile China and other developing countries look at us and laugh while they dump 95% of the world’s plastic into the ocean.
So I’ll let everyone else mandate you buy a new solar panel. I will work to make Hawaii and America more self sufficient and less dependent on China because that means more to us and to the environment than any empty gesture or picture of a sea turtle with a straw in its face (a straw that definitely did not come from American trash!).
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
District 22 — that’s Waikiki, Ala Moana and Kakaako — wants the standard of living that all Americans should expect. We want to be able to live well on one 9-5 job, and go to that job without stepping over vagrants on the sidewalk or getting a purse snatched.
We can get there by working to get the Jones Act repealed to lower shipping costs, outlaw vagrancy instead of incentivizing homelessness so we can again enjoy our parks, and cut taxes for the small business and middle class taking so much of that burden.
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.
Be wary of people that constantly try to reinvent the wheel. What we need in Hawaii is a normal, functioning political system that includes two parties.
Of course, I’m not known for being subtle so here is a big idea: Defund the University of Hawaii until the UH President and Board of Regents signs a pledge to acknowledge Hawaii is part of the United States and stop teaching otherwise in classes that are, after all, funded by American taxpayers.
UH teaches viciously racist and anti-American sentiment to impressionable young people. It’s more than an embarrassment about being unable to build a telescope. This has poisoned professional life and youth culture in Hawaii. It must end.