Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 Primary 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 Nicole Gi, Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District, which covers rural Oahu and the neighbor islands. The other Democratic candidates are Patrick Branco, Brendan Schultz, Steven Sparks, Jill Tokuda and Kyle Yoshida.

Go to Civil Beat’s Election Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.

Candidate for 2nd Congressional District

Nicole Gi
Party Democratic
Age 32
Occupation Environmental consultant
Residence Kauai

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

Board president of environmental education nonprofit.

1. What is the biggest issue facing Hawaii, and what would you do about it?

The biggest issue is corruption. I can barely keep up with the local political corruption cases brought to light in the past year, and there’s plenty more where that came from. Getting funding for important services such as housing, health care and infrastructure doesn’t count for much if that funding is going to be embezzled, used for wasteful contracts awarded to out-of-state companies, and so on — and if the projects that are supposed to be funded get stalled again and again by corrupt interests.

If elected, I will update the requirements for federal funding of projects to include increased public disclosures of decisions made throughout the project, increased disclosures regarding conflicts of interest of anyone involved in the project, and more stringent restrictions limiting such conflicts of interest.

I will also publicly, and loudly, criticize any actions of political leaders that may incentivize or hide corruption, such as Gov. Ige’s restrictions on the release of public records during Covid-19. I will summon corrupt actors to be publicly grilled at congressional committee hearings to the full extent possible. Powerful people must be held accountable for their actions.

2. What can the U.S. Congress do about mass shootings in America? Would you support banning military-style assault weapons and establishing universal background checks? What other measures would you propose to reduce gun violence?

Yes, I would support banning military-style assault weapons and establishing universal background checks. I also support increased safety training requirements.

Violence, including gun violence, can furthermore be broadly reduced with improved access to mental health services and poverty reduction measures.

3. The Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and the questions of whether the 2020 election was stolen have shown how seriously divided the nation is. Some say democracy itself is in trouble. How would you work to end the political polarization that divides both the Congress and the country?

I would end censorship and address the root causes and common ground of people’s concerns on various issues.

The way political controversies are framed by our leaders can serve to unite or divide us. I’ve never met someone who was told their political position was wrong because they’re crazy or a bad person, who then replied, “Wow, when you put it that way, I totally agree with you and will listen to you in the future!” When we, as some on the left like to call it, “invalidate their lived experiences” rather than focus on the changes that the people in power can make, we isolate people from society and leave them in echo chambers that will just build feelings of rejection, resentment and anger.

Such polarization is amplified by the censorship of unpopular ideas. We can’t have a government “disinformation” board when our understanding of the truth evolves over time, and when we know the government has lied so many times in the past. There are reasonable types of censorship, such as censoring child pornography. But when people’s ideas are silenced, they may be driven to try to make themselves heard in other, more destructive ways.

4. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, while currently financially sound, risk future funding concerns because of changing demographics. What would you propose to shore up the country’s major safety net programs?

 I think we should funnel funding from activities that are providing zero actual value to citizens. This includes a tax on the very wealthy (who have tens of millions of dollars) who are making tons of money just from the interest on their wealth. I would support the proposed Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act, for example.

We could also get funding from a tax on stock trading transactions, particularly on high volumes of trading, similar to the proposal in the Wall Street Tax Act. There are firms that run computers that automatically make many trades a day, and make money just from slight price differences in stocks throughout the day.

Funding can also be redirected from the excessive military budget. In 2018, the Pentagon faced its first audit, and its own numbers showed that it couldn’t account for $21 trillion — you read that right, trillion in spending between 1998 and 2015. The U.S. spends more on its military than the next nine countries combined.

5. What is your position on the Senate filibuster?

 I support ending the filibuster.

6. Is the U.S. on the right path when it comes to mitigating climate change and growing renewable energy production? What specific things should Congress be considering?

 I’ve worked in the environmental field for the past decade, and this has included completing complex greenhouse gas emissions calculations. The U.S. needs to steer away from approaches that create financial markets for natural resources and greenhouse gas emissions. Such markets are not necessary to protect the environment, and will be gamed by those who control and understand them. They’ll just continue making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

We should instead focus on approaches that preserve our natural resources overall and create jobs, such as planting trees, rejuvenating our soil, and reducing the use of plastic (which is made of petroleum). I think decentralized forms of renewable energy such as rooftop solar should be prioritized, as they are beneficial for emergency preparedness and less vulnerable to potential attacks on utility grids. I strongly oppose any legislation requiring a certain percentage of “renewable energy” to come from burning wood or other materials. We should also remember that the world’s biggest polluter is the United States military, and ending foreign wars are a form of environmental protection.

7. The Jones Act requires that domestic freight transport on U.S. waterways be conducted by crews that are at least three-fourths American, and on vessels built in U.S. shipyards, and that are American-owned.What is your position on this law and its effects on Hawaii? Does it need to be amended or repealed?

I support the current proposal of the Hawai’i Shippers Council, a nonpartisan organization representing grocery stores and other businesses heavily reliant on shipping. They’ve proposed an amendment to the Jones Act that allows noncontiguous portions of the United States, including Hawaii, to use foreign-built vessels registered under the U.S. flag, while maintaining current requirements to employ U.S. crews. Vessels built in South Korea or Japan, for example, would be about four to five times less costly than vessels built in the U.S., and the reduced costs could be translated into lower costs for local businesses and consumers.

My primary concerns regarding the Jones Act are preserving local jobs, reducing the costs of necessities for residents and supporting local agriculture. I’m open to an alternative approach to the Jones Act if presented with evidence that another way better addresses these concerns.

8. The Biden administration says China is the greatest long-term threat to the U.S. and has been trying to expand its influence, especially in the Pacific. What can the U.S. do to build better relations with the Asia-Pacific region?

 I believe the greatest short-term and long-term threat to everyday people, in the U.S. and around the world, is the imbalance of power between the richest and the rest of us.

I’m extremely concerned about authoritarian measures implemented in China such as a central digital bank currency that the Chinese government can make disappear from people’s bank accounts, their recently enacted social credit system, and their draconian Covid-19 lockdowns. However, last time I checked, China is not bombing any countries, and the U.S. is currently bombing Somalia, Libya, Yemen, and Syria, just to name a few. If we want to build better relations with other countries, including in the Asia-Pacific region, we should end such foreign interventions, and enable trust in the Asia-Pacific region that we won’t do the same to their nations.

9. The Red Hill fuel crisis illustrated not only how critical the military’s role is in Hawaii but also the serious problems it sometimes causes. It is also a central component of the local economy. What would you do to ensure the military behaves responsibly in the islands? 

I applaud the Wai Ola Alliance for filing a lawsuit against the Navy to speed the closing of Red Fuel and payment of damages. Members of the military can and do provide valuable services that are not strictly militarily related, such as the National Guard’s emergency responses to natural disasters.

We should focus the permitted activities of the military in Hawaii to these and other nonmilitary activities, and end the military leases in 2029.

10. 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.

I think Hawaii should pilot a local currency at the county and/or state level. Local currencies are currencies that circulate at the community level.

They complement an official, legal currency, and are accepted by local vendors, and give residents an incentive to shop locally. Such a model has been successfully implemented in various communities in Europe and the U.S.

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