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 Diamond Garcia, Republican candidate for state House District 43, which includes Ewa Villages, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Nanakai Gardens, Ko Olina, Kahe Point, Nanakuli, Lualualei and Maili. The other candidate is Democrat Stacelynn Eli
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?
Our economy has taken a significant impact due to the various social distancing measures implemented by the state. Many businesses were forced to shut down with no alternative. Regardless if you think these measures were warranted or not, one thing I’ve heard from many small business owners, is that there was no clear sense of direction and there was a major lack of communication on the part of the governor and mayor.
What would I have done differently? Soon after imposing a mandatory quarantine for all incoming travelers (both residents and tourists) I would’ve provided the opportunity for travelers to show proof that they have been tested negative for COVID-19 as an exemption to the mandatory 14-day quarantine. I believe that if this were the case, our tourism industry wouldn’t have been impacted as bad as it has. Also, it’s crucially important that during times of emergencies, the governor and mayor articulate updates clearly and succinctly so that the public is certain as to what is happening on a daily basis.
2. The state budget is facing record shortfalls. How would you balance the budget? What would you cut? What would you protect?
Desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s unfortunate that this pandemic hit, but we are going to have to face the reality that we are going to have a major income problem for the next few years as businesses try to get back to where they were pre-COVID-19. I support cutting funds to various departments that don’t spend the money normally allotted to them by the Legislature. I believe that we should audit every single state department to look for inefficiency and mismanagement. If any of the two is found, we need to cut funding.
It was appalling to hear that the governor even considered cutting the pay for our first responders in a time like this. Defunding our first responders is ludicrous. In the months following the pandemic there should be no pay raises for any employee in state government at this time, be it elected or civil service. I don’t support elected or civil servants getting a pay increase while thousands of local families can’t even put food on the table due to the collapsed 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?
For far too long the State of Hawaii has relied on tourism and the military as our sole income generator. The House and Senate minority caucuses have long stated that we desperately need to diversify our economy. We should’ve learned our lesson after the 2008 economic crash. Because our state was dependent on tourism we faced a major shortfall that resulted in pay cuts and furlough Fridays. We cannot afford to “hope” for the best, we need to have a game plan ready to go in the event the inevitable happens.
Once elected, I will propose legislation that would provide tax incentives for the film, agriculture, sports and medical industries to give them the opportunity to establish themselves in Hawaii. Not only will we diversify our income stream, but we will also be providing jobs for the people of Hawaii.
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 am not satisfied with the current plans put forth by the tate to pay for our unfunded liabilities. Until the state learns its lesson and stops relying on tourism as the main mode of our income stream we are going to face the growing unfunded liabilities that we owe to public workers. It disappoints me that the Legislature did nothing during “non-emergency” times to address the situation. Now we must tackle this issue in the midst of economic uncertainty.
I am not in favor of cutting benefits for current public employees because that would be dishonoring the collective bargaining that was already agreed upon. Moving forward, the Legislature must carefully look at addressing or maybe even amending the state law to provide alternative pension and health options for future employees.
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?
It’s very concerning that our governor has a track record of not being able to work with his lieutenant governors. It is my hope that the governor and the lieutenant governor can work together to aid in the relief of Hawaii’s struggling families. We need leaders who can put their self-interest and personal vendettas aside, to get problems solved.
Something we need in the executive branch, that I believe has been lacking, is transparency. The Ige administration has the worst approval ratings out of all the other 49 states – that’s alarming.
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 can all agree that what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis was a horrible tragedy that should’ve never happened. However, I vehemently disagree with the growing movements across this nation to defund our law enforcement institutions. In times like these, I believe that we should be appropriating more funding for law enforcement, not less.
I do not agree with the anti-law enforcement legislation that is being considered by the Legislature at this time. We already have an officer shortage in this state, and here we are making it more difficult for our police departments to recruit.
I don’t support a blanket mandatory disclosure of misconduct records. Just like every other citizen is given the benefit of the doubt (innocent until proven guilty), likewise our officers have the right to due process. I do support however, misconduct records being released based upon the nature and extremity of the crime committed.
We have elected officials who like to use deceptive and transparent tactics like “gut and replace” while pushing for “transparency” in our law enforcement institutions. Pure hypocrisy.
7. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Yes, I do.
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?
Like I mentioned earlier, we need more transparency in order to restore public trust, not less. I disagree with the actions that the governor took by suspending the open government laws. During times of emergency, it’s even more prudent upon leaders to be open and transparent.
The House Minority Caucus has been pushing to ease public access by providing a way for outer island residents to testify via video conference during all public hearings; till now, that is unfortunately not an option. Once elected, I will continue to push for government transparency and open access to all public records.
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?
I believe that we should keep our commitment to the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative that Gov. Lingle spearheaded. It’s important that we not overlook the effects that humans have on our environment. It’s our duty to preserve the aina that we have been given stewardship of.
I support the efforts that the Legislature took in 2018 to ban the sale of sunscreen containing harmful ingredients that not only harm our precious marine life, but also pose a health risk to humans.
Preserving our environment is a huge priority of mine.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
While there are many issues facing my district, the most pressing issue is the ability for families to survive and thrive in Hawaii. The cost of living is a hurdle that’s causing many local families to pack up and move to the mainland. We need to seriously address the high cost of living that is pricing our local people out of Hawaii.
When you have more than 40% of the Native Hawaiian population not living in Hawaii, that’s a serious problem. Unlike my opponent, I commit to fighting for the people in my district by voting “no” on any measure that would decrease their ability to thrive in their homeland.
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 COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fumes that our state’s economic engine has been running on for quite a while. This pandemic has peeled off the band-aid that the Democratic machine has kept on our state’s infected wound. No more band-aids. From this point moving forward we need to face the hard truth and establish a government that allows the private sector to thrive.
Hawaii has been ranked worst in the nation as “business friendly.” How do we expect to grow our local economy and not be dependent on tourism when our local businesses aren’t afforded the opportunity to thrive? We need to cut the red tape that the government has imposed on our local businesses, reduce the amount of taxes that they are required to pay, so that more jobs are created, and more local families can afford to live in Hawaii for generations to come.
Envision a Hawaii that is self-sustaining, where more than 50% of the food we eat is produced here at home. Envision a Hawaii where we are not the second-highest taxed state in the nation, where local families can now afford to save enough money for a down payment on their home. Envision a Hawaii where there are enough good-paying jobs available. Envision a balanced Hawaii where politicians in both parties are held accountable to the people who elected them! This is the one big idea that I have for Hawaii.