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 Van Tanabe, Democratic candidate for governor. The other Democratic candidates include Duke Bourgoin, Vicky Cayetano, Josh Green, Kai Kahele, Richard Kim and Clyde Lewman.

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

Candidate for Governor

Van Tanabe
Party Democratic
Age 64
Occupation Retired
Residence Honolulu

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

Hawaii’s biggest problem is the inability to resolve any of its major issues due to lack of money. Legalizing the Ohana Lottery will provide the revenue necessary to solving our problems and help families across Hawaii.

First you must be a resident of Hawaii, don’t want to depend on tourist dollars and if only Hawaii people play only Hawaii people will win. Second, you must have a source of income, paycheck, retirement, social security, disability. No welfare checks. Third you can only contribute $50 a month, this will eliminate anyone from falling behind on their monthly obligations and will give everyone the same odds. In other words the bank janitor has the same chance as the president of the bank. Hawaii has approximately 600,000 in our workforce, if everyone contributed $50 we would generate $30 million.

This money can be used to seriously address our problems. For every $5 million generated by the state we would pull a $1 million winner payable $100,000 for 10 years, one $50,000 winner, two $25,000 winners, six $10,000 winners — 10 families will receive winnings of $10,000 to $1 million. But wait, we said that we can make $30 million — you do the math. Guarantee someone in your ohana will win!

2. Many people have talked about diversifying the local economy for many years now, and yet Hawaii is still heavily reliant on tourism. What, if anything, should be done differently about tourism and the economy?

If Hawaii is to diversify its economy we must have a plan, commitment, and money. As governor my plan is to position Hawaii as a world leader in solar research and development. One of the first things I plan to do is convert all state buildings to photovoltaic within my first term, saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. I also want to help everyone to acquire the same technology, saving residents thousands of dollars. We can show the world that it is possible to stop depending on fossil fuel.

Do you see all of the new glass towers being built in Honolulu? Hard to miss. Now imagine if all that glass were solar panels. Most would be energy independent. Another thing, Hawaii has led the way in the past in solar-powered vehicles so why not be the first to develop the first solar0powered vehicle.

Next Hawaii should also be the leader in CBD research and development. Legalizing marijuana is a no-brainer; this alone will generate billions in revenue. I’m not saying let Monsanto come here and take the lion’s share of profits. Hawaii will operate everything from growing to distributing. Why settle for 4% when you can have 100% of the profits?

3. The Legislature this session approved spending $600 million for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands plus another $300 million for other housing programs. What specifically would you try to do to create more housing for middle- and low-income residents?

As governor my plan is to build affordable homes using the revenue generated from the Ohana Lottery. These homes will look identical to the homes built by private developers, the only difference is that they will cost 50% less. Private developers got into the housing market to make a killing! The state is getting into the housing market to provide affordable housing.

We can even assist the people with financing. After we achieve our goal to provide affordable housing the private developers will have to adjust their prices to stay competitive. If we don’t do anything about affordable housing more and more of our children and grandchildren will be forced to move to the mainland. There’s nothing wrong with moving to the mainland if you want to, but so many family members are moving because they have to. I want to change this trend and start bringing them back to the islands.

4. An estimated 60% of Hawaii residents are struggling to get by, a problem that reaches far beyond low income and into the middle class, which is disappearing. What ideas do you have to help the middle class and working families who are finding it hard to continue to live here? 

As governor my plan is to create good-paying careers, about 60,000 of them. The majority of these jobs will be on Oahu. My plan is to have the state develop three five-star hotels on Kalaeloa. Between these resorts the state will build a Six Flags Hawaii and a Sea World Hawaii. After completion of these projects we will have created approximately 30,000 great careers on the west side of Fort Weaver Road, eliminating more traffic than the rail was intended to. The state will own and operate these properties, once again instead of taking 4% the state will receive 100% of the profits.

With all this additional revenue generated by the state, my plan is to eliminate taxes on food and medicine.

Next the state will build and operate affordable senior centers from Hilo to Hanalei. This will create great careers in every community also providing a much-needed service for our kupuna. I mentioned earlier I will commit to the development and research of solar power, which will also create thousands of high-skilled opportunities. Depending on foreign investors and developers has failed Hawaii in the past because they are only interested in profits, not our people.

5. The pandemic was particularly difficult for Hawaii’s public schools. Should there be a change in the way schools are administered? Would you support more local control including breaking the single school district into subregions?

The pandemic has exposed how unprepared we are with dealing with such a situation. The important thing is, did the state learn anything from this experience? Hawaii needs to prepare for the next pandemic.  The education system should be holding workshops to help parents, students and educators to cope with distance learning.

Not sure if I would support breaking the school district into subregions for this may cause inconsistencies in the preparedness. The state as well as private businesses should also be holding training classes to be prepared and ready to respond to the next event.

That being said, Hawaii really needs to take food sustainability seriously,what if the next pandemic affected our food and the ability to ship it to the islands? As part of my food sustainability solution I plan to restore Hawaii’s fish ponds, increase agricultural land and support local farmers and ranchers with zero- to low-interest loans to help them acquire the necessary equipment to increase their production. This will also create thousands of jobs. The state will help promote locally grown foods by offering tax incentives and credits to hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets that buy and sell locally grown goods.

6. Hawaii has recently experienced a number of prominent corruption scandals, prompting the state House of Representatives to appoint a commission tasked with improving government transparency through ethics and lobbying reforms. What will you do to ensure accountability at the Legislature? Are you open to ideas such as requiring the Sunshine Law and open records laws to apply to the Legislature?

Corruption can only be rooted out by eliminating the money from politics. Back in 2010 I was informed that a single donor gave three candidates for governor $50,000 contributions. Being naive I asked, who is the donor supporting? The response was “the next governor” so it didn’t matter who won because the donor was the big winner because they got a bunch of state contracts that made millions of dollars for the donor.

Next we need to open the books, total transparency. Finally, punishment must be swift and severe. Anyone abusing their position in government should not only lose their job but also lose all benefits of being a state employee. Furthermore if the guilty person was a lawyer prior to public office then they would be disbarred. Doctor? Lose their license to practice in Hawaii. Businessman? Lose their license and their business. If you want to eliminate corruption? Get serious!

7. Recently a house on the North Shore of Oahu fell into the ocean. Climate change is real and will force us to make tough decisions. What is the first thing Hawaii should do to get in front of climate change rather than just reacting to it? 

Global warming is real! As I mentioned earlier Hawaii should be leading the world in solar research and development. It’s my goal to finance the University of Hawaii to achieve this technology. Within my first term I will convert all state buildings to photovoltaic. This means all schools, hospitals, libraries and even state housing. We will even assist all residents to switch to photovoltaic, saving millions of dollars and saving our planet for future generations.

We can do this and show the rest of the world that we can cut out the dependency on fossil fuel. With the help of the university, Hawaii will introduce the first of its kind 100% solar-powered vehicle. Enough talk, it’s time to walk the walk.

8. Hawaii has seen a growing division when it comes to politics, development, health mandates and other issues. A governor represents all the people of the state. What would you do to bridge those gaps and bring people together in spite of their differences?

Not sure if the governor represents all of the people. I do believe that the governor should listen to all of the people and represent the majority of the people. There needs to be an open dialogue between the people and the lawmakers.

This division that has grown over the past few years primarily because one side only criticizes and grumbles about everything but offers no solutions. We all need to sit down and talk about the problems and come to a mutual understanding that is in the best interest of our people, our land and our future. We must work together to give our children a Hawaii filled with hope and opportunities or a Hawaii filled with struggles and disappointment.

As governor I plan to have monthly cookouts with about 20 people from the communities and also the politicians who represent those people. This is how we’ll know what’s important to the community and how their representatives intend to fix problems.

9. Historically, governors and lieutenant governors have sometimes publicly clashed. How do you envision the relationship between the state’s top elected officials?

Basically I get along well with people. Just don’t lie or cheat and we should work together just fine. Communication is important and I intend on talking with the lieutenant governor on all matters concerning our state. I welcome the input of others as well as their opinions. In fact I have a plan to include all citizens in making the decisions on major issues.

Example: Should we legalize marijuana? In order to pass the legalization of marijuana we must achieve a 67/33 majority. In other words a better than 2 to 1 decision. If this policy was in place 20 years ago we wouldn’t have the rail today, saving Hawaii billions of dollars. That’s money that could’ve been spent on other projects that would’ve helped a lot more people.

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. 

The pandemic has exposed Hawaii’s vulnerabilities. First our economic disaster due to putting all our eggs in one basket. Enough talk, we must diversify our economy.

Second, the state has to establish a plan to deal with the next pandemic that puts the safety of the people first before the profits of businesses. This plan should also include a way of containing and controlling the spread of the virus. Contact tracing, something our current administration didn’t do, and open honest communication.

We need to get serious about food sustainability.

All of these changes that must be made will inevitably take planning and money, two things that our current politicians lack. I alone possess both a plan and a method to fund my solutions. The others have key words like trust, leadership, hope and hard work. Without any solutions they’re only giving you waha!

The Ohana Lottery is my major platform, it’s how I intend to fund all of my solutions. However, I don’t have to be the governor to legalize the Ohana Lottery. But the next Governor will need the Ohana Lottery to get the job done.

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