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 Feena Bonoan, Libertarian candidate for State Senate District 20, which includes Kapolei, Makakilo and portions of Ewa, Kalaeloa and Waipahu. The other candidate is Democrat Mike Gabbard.
Zonta of Leilehua, vice-president; Hawaii Veterans Cannabis Alliance, director of operations; Libertarian Party of Hawaii, executive committee member.
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?
Studies show that Hawaii’s economic depression may lead to hundreds of deaths from suicide or substance abuse, so the state should have taken a more balanced approach to protecting the public’s health.
It should have simply encouraged safety measures such as voluntary mask wearing and voluntary social distancing for people at high risk while allowing freedom of movement and commerce.
2. The state budget is facing record shortfalls. How would you balance the budget? What would you cut? What would you protect?
The Legislature already cut $772 million off of Gov. Ige’s budget, which is a good first step, but if they cut just 10% more, it would eliminate the entire shortfall and we’d have a surplus of $146 million.
3. What do you think should be done to diversify the economy? What would you do as an elected official to make that happen?
Send a signal to entrepreneurs that Hawaii is open for business by lowering taxes and making cuts to unnecessary regulations like occupational licensing laws or regulations on home-based businesses. That and decriminalize gambling.
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?
Stop taking money out of public employee salaries to be wasted on an unstable pension and health benefits fund. Just give that money back to the public employees so they can purchase a privately run benefit plan.
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?
Reinstate Hawaii’s open meeting laws and transparency laws. Most of the distrust built between the government is from a lack of information and communication. Open the doors and windows to the government and let the sun shine in.
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?
Get rid of qualified immunity so police are responsible for their actions. Close the loopholes in Hawaii’s transparency laws to allow for all police records to be handed over.
7. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Not necessarily, since bad laws can be easily passed by the initiative process. However, I support a constitutional spending cap that only allows overspending and taxation by a three-fourth’s vote of the people.
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?
Transparency is needed more in an emergency. Gov. Ige, as an emergency measure, should have required more transparency, such as police records and government online meetings. Also, the public should be able to give live testimony in government meetings.
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 changing, and Hawaii should adapt, not through government mandates, but through individual choices. Energy renewable portfolio standards are unrealistic and will make cars, airplanes and ships illegal.
Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission has locked the state in old energy systems which are inflexible with more environmentally friendly alternatives.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Normally traffic is the biggest issue, but the economic downturn has put renewed focus on economic opportunity as the most crucial issue for my district. Hawaii should slash spending, lower taxes and get out of the way so entrepreneurs can rebuild and diversify the second city.
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’s time to eliminate the Jones Act. This outdated law has tortured our island for 100 years. It bogs down our supply lines and increases the cost of everything here. We can do better. State lawmakers should send a powerful message to Congress that we won’t pay for higher shipping prices any longer.
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