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 Boyd Ready, Republican candidate for state House District 47, which includes Waialua, Haleiwa, Pupukea, Kahuku, Laie, Hauula, Waiahole, Waikane, Sunset Beach, Punaluu and Kaaawa. The other candidate is Democrat Sean Quinlan.
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?
Open sooner, protecting the most vulnerable, expand contact-tracing, and implement pre-flight testing and post-arrival checks of travelers as our minority caucus has already quietly arranged through RNC links with the White House to confirm “no objections” and have the FAA cooperate with such arrangements, and which Alaska is already doing.
2. The state budget is facing record shortfalls. How would you balance the budget? What would you cut? What would you protect?
In the immediate term, cut unnecessary programs and badly overseen tax credit schemes; empty unused “special funds”; cut travel budgets; reduce planning and back-office services in consultation with agency heads; reopen employee-union negotiations with provisions (see No. 4) to deter conflict of interests; and defer grants to non-profits wherever duplication with state responsibilities exists.
Protect National Guard, emergency and disaster preparedness services, lifeguards, sheriffs, prisons, indigent support, Medicaid, hospital subsidies, criminal and family courts, pesticide, Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division, and Health Department inspectors. These would be short-term, emergency measures. Structural reforms to follow would emphasize better use of existing workforce and future major cost-structure items handled so as to minimize conflicts of interest.
3. What do you think should be done to diversify the economy? What would you do as an elected official to make that happen?
• Implement market programs for local ag production including promotion of tropical starch staples (breadfruit, kalo, tapioca) and fat-protein staples (coconut, aquaculture, shoreline fishponds); support local slaughterhouses and dairies so ranch lands can provide local food; replace plastic eating-ware with plates/containers of pressed banana, palm, ti-leaf and other fibers;
• Support military training so their extensive economic footprint is not reduced.
• Continue and increase focus on TV and movie production.
• Stimulate high tech and aerospace industry with launch facilities (near equator), telescope construction, and internet-based information technology.
• Implement zero-carbon energy alternatives: geothermal, wave and ocean-current power and advanced modular nuclear power.
• Ramp up shoreline cesspool replacement industry with latest modular waste-processing technology.
• Clear away regulatory hurdles to construction with bamboo and other locally sourced materials, pre-fabricated housing, and mandate local building permit acceleration.
• Land reform for idle lands to encourage best economic use, not land-banking.
• Longer state lands’ lease terms for farming, housing and new economic activity,
• Improve education accountability, teacher-retention with housing, and trades-curricula.
As an elected official I would bring up bills and cooperate in these and other diversification and workforce-upgrade law changes.
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 adhere to prior contractual arrangements with no benefit cuts for current pensioner. I would conditionally oppose cuts in scheduled pension contributions unless other budget cuts and changes I recommended in answer to question No. 2 are not substantially to be implemented. If Legislature will not cut other unnecessary and wasteful and badly managed schemes then I would vote for deferring pension contributions (no cuts to current recipients). You can’t have your cake (bloated government anytime, especially in a crisis period) and eat it (full funding of future pensions), too.
For future negotiations with public employees I would propose a law that prohibits any elected official, or any appointee of a committee composed of a majority of elected officials who receive substantial cash or in-kind or volunteer-cadre support from employee unions, from serving as negotiators or arbitrators in state and county collective bargaining. Our constitution protects public employees who rely on the results of negotiations. Our laws should protect the public from conflict of interests among the negotiators.
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?
You cannot legislate the leadership’s temperament or rivalries that fail to inspire confidence. Instead, implement term limits for state elected offices, and require periodic reopening of all salaried positions in the higher echelon of civil service to competitive hiring and transfers.
Impose a special income tax, during the three years after leaving government employment or elected office, on any earnings from enterprises or self-employment relying on government oversight, subsidy, lobbying or regulation, related to the employee’s prior public service.
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?
I would urge leadership to proceed to protect our lives and liberties from police misconduct without waiting for a riot over another egregious error. People of every color are mishandled by police forces due to poor oversight and training, and the courts’ deference to a rubric of “qualified immunity.” This legal interpretation should be modified.
The police commission that recently lost two key members due to frustration with intransigence and sweetheart treatment of those overseen, should get a new and more effective set of members, and its authority increased to more than just hire/fire the chief. Better methods of physical apprehension, nets, for example, should be explored and implemented.
But the key factor in police shootings is the legitimate fear by police officers that they will encounter a recent perpetrator who has been repeatedly arrested but is out and at-large again, hostile or drug-addled, and armed. Police deserve to know that when they make a good arrest the alleged perpetrator will not be at large any time soon, and the public, and the perpetrator, need prompt adjudication of the matter.
Our courts’ process is too slow, we need local magistrate courts in local areas with more authority to quickly adjudicate petty crimes, and we need an end to unconscionable delays.
Prisons need to be reformed so as to, in substantial part, offer work programs producing food and operating useful trades/industries for products to help support the prisons.
7. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Yes, with suitable scheduling and oversight protocols to limit spurious or badly worded initiatives, limit outside corporate, union, or non-profit’s money, and prevent year-in and year-out agitation and campaigning.
You’ve not asked this but we’re one of the few states in the union without citizens’ ability to incorporate a municipality so that would be one of the first initiatives I would propose.
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?
He may have been partially justified in a limited area where emergency-necessitated administrative rule changes were immediately needed, but not the blanket suspension of Sunshine Laws. Amend the emergency powers law to ensure transparency, and apply the Sunshine Law to the legislators themselves – legislators should be subject to the same laws they’ve enacted for others to follow.
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?
Sea level rise should be closely monitored, areas susceptible to confirmed, unavoidable inundation scheduled for remedial drainage or shoreline protection works, and phased demolition/removal where unavoidable retreat is necessary, and reefs should be protected by better non-point-source pollution controls and rotating, multi-year fishing/spear-fishing banned zones to restore health of the reefs and fisheries.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
My district, the largest on Oahu, has multiple pressing issues:
• The proliferation of homeless, exacerbated by drug abuse and untreated mental illness, and the failure of property management in state and city landholdings to deter unlawful occupancy and the associated unsanitary, illegal-dumping, and criminal-enterprises found on those lands;
• The high cost of living, especially the high cost of housing;
• The scandalous and preventable traffic jam at Laniakea;
• The chronic road flooding of Kamehameha Highway and of the Kahuku High School site during prolonged but not unusual heavy rains;
• The displacement of long-term rentals by unpermitted tourist accommodations;
• Tourist and Honolulu day-trippers faced with the lack of adequate parking, infrequently cleaned restrooms, un-maintained and poorly marked hiking trails, and rampant petty thievery from vehicles.
What to do about these? Which is most ‘pressing?’ As HD47’s legislator I would provide responsive constituent services; propose legislation focused on root causes of these conditions; and engage with coalitions of citizens and community-association/Neighborhood Board committees to push for enactment of legislation as well as inter-agency coordination to improve each condition. These are long-standing problems that existing political leadership has not solved.
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.
Idealist rhetoric on this subject abounds. A society is not “reinvented” as a product or industrial process might be. It’s obvious that pandemic disaster plans that had been prepared were ignored or inadequate. And it is obvious that, in the most isolated developed society on Earth we all need to be more aware of what really faces us in a disaster.
So, my “One Big Idea” would be to replace the holiday too controversial to celebrate, “Admissions Day,” with “Disaster Day.” Each year on Disaster Day everyone would go through mock preparations, using protocols from our Emergency Management authorities, for a particular disaster: tsunami, earthquake, hurricane, pandemic, war interruption of shipping, nuclear attack.
As we prepared our homes, or relocated with our “go-bag” to the designated shelter area, we would see what it would really be. No supplies at the hurricane shelter, roads jammed, no way to high ground in many of our coastal areas, no signage for how far to go in a tsunami evacuation. Then break out the tailgate party puu puu and drinks and enjoy the evening with whoever you end up with. Fireworks and local live musicians could entertain at the shelters and neighborhood centers. Result: We could all be aware and better prepared for what could happen, and disaster prep would spread from a tiny administrative cadre out to every citizen and neighborhood.