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 Emil Svrcina, Republican candidate for state House District 37, which includes Mililani, Waipio Gentry and Waikele. The other candidate is Democrat Ryan Yamane.
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?
No, they have spread and reinforced fear in our residents. It was maybe good to shut down travel from the source (China) and other hot spots initially, but the complete shutdown was overreaching and constitutionally illegal.
State leaders have exchanged one major problem (the virus) for another major problem – the destruction of the livelihood of many of our residents. While large companies (Walmart, Target, Home Depot and grocery chains) have stayed open, small businesses and our local entrepreneurs were forced to stay home and obey orders.
That’s un-American medical fascism — picking winners and losers. It is my understanding the forced closures have been a leading factor in the increase of domestic violence, suicide, substance abuse and other crimes. Time to reopen Hawaii is grossly overdue. The flu kills many of us every year. The numbers appear similar.
2. The state budget is facing record shortfalls. How would you balance the budget? What would you cut? What would you protect?
I would close down many organizations that are wasteful and not needed. First, stop the rail. Even though it is a Honolulu County project, the state has been complicit in authorizing the collection of funds for this mismanaged, unneeded, unwanted and unaffordable project.
Many residents would be happy if the number of tourists decreased. Reduce the budget of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. In 2019 over $50 million was spent on branding.
Get rid of the separate recycling collection and stop the bottle bill tax. Just send it all to the H-Power plant, which is under-utilized. It would save a collection and increase our energy resources.
Eliminate the Housing Authority. If the funds used to sustain that 300-person organization were put into real starter homes, we might not have a homeless problem. When government becomes responsible for real estate, the buildings deteriorate because of poor maintenance and apathy regarding conditions. We need to have incentives for developers to build small private homes on small lots at a low cost.
Instead of paying salaries, let’s move to having a community free of homeless on the streets. I would protect the police 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?
There are so many opportunities that our leadership ignores. We have a cancer research center. We could research other medical abnormalities so that we are never surprised by a “pandemic” outbreak in the future.
As space operations become more important to our future, we should become a center for the world’s most advanced astronomy and space research. We could grow lumber, especially exotic wood for which Hawaii is well known (koa and mango) and use it for furniture and carving.
We need to have a robust shipping and air delivery industry. Reform of the Jones Act from 1920 is 100 years overdue. We need to be self-sustaining in our food – both animal husbandry and agriculture needs to be a primary focus with meat processing facilities in our state.
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?
Under Democrat leadership, this state is going bankrupt. You need to provide pensions and health care to those to whom it has been promised. If you don’t, the residents should vote you out of office. Democrats talk about caring about “the people” but they should be wary if they will actually be able to collect those pensions.
It looks like the Democrat-led states are trying to get the federal government to bail them out for their excessive spending that occurred well before the pandemic hit. Democrat leadership only knows how to tax and spend.
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 have no faith in our top officials, that’s why I am running for office. I hope other residents of the state finally realize that current leadership will do nothing to improve conditions and the only answer is to vote current leadership out of 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?
The police reform is being done by starting to remove the corrupt police and prosecutors. I don’t know if you have them all, but it is a good start.
We don’t need more oversight boards. Don’t tie the hands of police officers. Police work is dangerous. We have people on the street who have mental disorders and many who abuse drugs and alcohol. Individuals who are arrested need to stay calm and not resist. Bad consequences happen when someone tries to escape from police custody – and especially if that person has taken a weapon (gun or taser).
Statistics show that the real race problem is all the murders in Chicago – and it is one race mostly killing their own race. That is a failure of leadership. We don’t have similar problems in Hawaii.
7. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Yes. Often the voices of the people are not heard in the legislature. I would be agreeable to a citizens initiative process where at least 70,000 signatures are obtained and the top 10 are considered each year.
With all the bills the current Legislature considers – most of them result in changes that are unwanted by the citizens and only address their “sponsor”/donors’ desires – not the people’s.
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 object to Gov Ige’s suspension of open government laws. It is tyranny.
In this day and age, all government sessions could be shown live over the internet. There is no excuse for the excluding of citizens in the legislature 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?
The climate is always changing. Models may show the sea rising, but as we saw with the COVID-19 models, you can’t believe many of them. I believe that American ingenuity can tackle the problems if and when they occur.
We should not be spending our citizens’ hard-earned money that is collected on taxes on some weather forecast decades in the future. The same people who try to alarm Americans about the perils of climate change are the ones buying oceanfront property on Martha’s Vineyard.
If we are concerned about the ocean rising we shouldn’t build the rail near the ocean, but our Democrat leadership did. All the major housing development has been approved for areas that are supposedly going to be flooded. If our leaders really believe that climate change will cause flooding damage in those areas, those leaders should be held liable for allowing those building to be built in that area.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
We need to get back to work for all our residents. We need to build the second bridge or add two lanes to Kamehameha Highway at Kipapa bridge.
With the increase in homelessness, crime in the area has increased. We need to get the government to stop taxing us at the excessive amounts and for unwanted programs. Because of the excessive taxing we have become slaves of the government whereas the government was created to protect us.
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.
It is obvious – we have to diversify the economy and have reliable, low-cost shipping. Interisland and worldwide. Not nonsensical aloha rail boondoggle-type of make-work projects benefiting only the pay-to-play corrupt government officials and their special interests, but logically for island state “we the people” benefitting practical local ferry system has to come back in full force.
We are also probably the most isolated state but we are surrounded by more than a billion people. We have to take advantage of that and become a shipping hub (like a Singapore). After reforming of the Jones Act or getting the exemption from it we can do that.