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 Rob Burns, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. The other Republican candidates are Tae Kim and Seaula Tupa’i.

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

Candidate for Lieutenant Governor

Rob Burns
Party Republican
Age 69
Occupation Realtor
Residence Hawaii Kai

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

Elks Lodge 616.

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

The economy. Our cost of living is the highest in the nation. This problem is exacerbated by a one-party system, this is not new, not brought on by the pandemic of 2020, but certainly worsened by it. The party in power has had 60 years to solve these problems and hasn’t.

This state has a spending problem, worsened by seeming total lack of accountability. What the state thinks is a “surplus” is a farce, as our liabilities remain unfunded. We think we can just continue to tax and spend our way to prosperity, and this never works. Prosperity is achieved mostly through economic freedom, not endless regulations, taxes spiraling ever upwards, and roadblocks to success such as our lack of real help to the backbone of our economy which, contrary to some beliefs, isn’t government, it’s small businesses.

Just try opening one here. You’ll be shocked and dismayed.

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?

First of all, our location, set in the absolute middle of the Pacific Ocean, between East and West, with the best weather in the world, could offer the most stupendous possibilities for diverse business opportunities for both the public and private sectors.

We need to remove barriers for doing business in Hawaii, and make it known that Hawaii can be the hub of not only new technologies but cutting edge research facilities, eco-friendly businesses, and locally grown specialty foods.

Tourism needs to be refined and in my opinion we need to work toward actually having less numbers but more revenue from the tourists who come. What is sustainable physically (the land) and even emotionally (the local people’s ability to be “happy” with the tourism numbers) is probably less tourists/more money; we should charge more in fees to tourists coming in, using those monies to support our infrastructure, which tourists as well as locals use and enjoy.

We also need to realize that tourists are not our “enemy,” they are our biggest (and cleanest) industry, and handled correctly, everyone can benefit.

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?

Supply and demand, basic economic realities, guide prices everywhere. Here in Hawaii, the amount of land zoned for urban use is ridiculously small, and regulations for building strangle out development.

There is also a huge “NIMBY” problem in our state. There are so many things that could be done to build more affordable housing, but try getting past the “I got mine, you can’t have one” crowd.

To complicate matters, water, sewer, and roads seem to be stuck in the technological past. There are many ways to update this state.

Also, keep the state out of developing housing, they aren’t good at it.

4. 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 only highlighted the heavy-handedness of centralized power in education. Everyone wanted what was best for our children and teachers, but what we ended up with was something else. It became quite dictatorial, and there is still a quite UN-scientific mask mandate in place, for those that can have no say: little children. That is egregious.

As well, teachers unions seem to hold too much power. Everyone wants pay and benefits commensurate with work, but the decisions handed down became questionable in light of what benefits teachers, as opposed to what benefits the children. I would advocate paying teachers more, but have less administrators; As well, conduct audits into where all the money poured into our education system here goes, because we’re paying for steak and getting spam.

5. 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?

Of course. Accountability is key, and anything that helps government stay exposed and accountable is welcomed and needed.

6. 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?

This is a great question for me, as I have spent my entire life and career with every kind of person, rich or poor, every age, every race, every ethnicity, and every political party. I managed to create and run businesses, including Local Motion, Hawaiian Style, Island Snow, Kahala Sportswear, Hawaiian Style Band and a successful real estate career, all the while respecting, serving, and pulling together every type of person out there.

I’ve spent my life here, my ancestors spent their lives here teaching me about our uniqueness. I realize our differences for good and bad, and I love Hawaii and its people so much, and I’m passionate about helping us all. I have a reputation of working well with everyone.

7. The office of lieutenant governor has few official duties and is often viewed as irrelevant. But some LGs have managed to play a significant role in government. What would you do to make the office more productive?

The LG is a functioning “secretary of state” and as such is responsible for making sure voter rolls, conditions, and procedures are followed effectively. The public must know their elections are fair and non-corrupted. It’s vitally important for me to spend time getting our voter rolls updated and processes for voting perfected.

As well, I will do whatever is necessary to support the governor in his endeavors for the state, and I don’t have to wear a stethoscope to do it.

8. Sometimes Hawaii governors and lieutenant governors have not gotten along very well, and those disputes have spilled into the public realm. How important is it for you to be on the same page as the governor, and how will you handle disagreements on policy?

I think it’s very important that we are matched well. I can work with anyone, but as I see it, if it’s BJ Penn and I, that would be, pardon my pun, a “one-two punch,” as we are both business creators, hard workers, and have the same goals for Hawaii.

I honestly don’t think the choice will be different than BJ and I on the ticket. If I were to disagree with the sitting governor, and I was the LG, obviously the governor is the head, as well as the Legislature.

9. 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.

You seem to be asking what my idea would be as regards to handling a possible pandemic differently? The data is coming in: Mandates were wrong and unnecessary and didn’t work. No matter how “intuitively correct” masking sounds, it is not a scientifically proven concept for any kind of influenza.

Yes, Asian countries have been masking up for decades, just because they want to, and yet, are they less sick? Did they get the virus? Yes!

As well, vaccinations. The efficacy of seasonal flu vaccines were 40% in their best year, yet we heard at the outset that these new MRNA ones would be 98% effective! Of course it turned out to be false, and all the while quite literally using the public as their guinea pigs.

So many people lost their jobs, couldn’t go back to work, they lost their retirements, were bullied into taking an experimental vaccine, all because of heavy-handed government policies that were wrong.

I would do everything differently, everything. That’s my “big idea,” do differently from what was and is being done.

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