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 Lori Goeas, Democratic candidate for state House District 42, which includes Varona Village, Ewa, Kapolei and Fernandez Village. The other Democratic candidates are Sharon Har and Anthony Makana Paris.

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

Candidate for State House District 42

Lori Goeas
Party Democratic
Age 53
Occupation Retired educator
Residence Kapolei

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

Board member/president, Villages of Kapolei Association; chair, Walk for Hope; co-chair, KMS School Community Council. 

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

Currently, one of the great concerns and most significant issues facing our district is the rising cost of living. The cost of living is a threat to financial security for many, and it will disrupt many families across our state.

Residents are still trying to recover from the past two years, people are still healing from the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, and yet we are faced with an onslaught of rising costs of everyday expenses. There is not much we can do about the inflation rates; the feds control that. However, I think it’s important to offer people access to information to minimize the impact of inflation — whether it is increasing access and education in financial literacy, managing consumption levels, or ways to pursue sustainable pathways through individual or community farming projects.

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?

Strengthening Hawaii’s economy requires more than diversifying it. It requires redesigning an equitable workforce system. We must address the barriers that keep people from fully participating in the workforce, such as affordable and accessible quality early child care, transportation, up-skilling existing employees, and increasing educational and training opportunities.

We also need to better welcome and provide incentives for new businesses to support the local economy.

3. 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?

Early in my career, I learned that a strategy is only a strategy if it works for the individual. Similarly, ideas to help the middle class and working families who are finding it hard to continue to live here are just ideas unless it helps them recover and advance out of ALICE-like circumstances (asset limited, income constrained, employed).

The hard truth is that we will continue losing our local families to a more affordable mainland lifestyle if we do not commit and collectively take action. We must stop giving lip service to public policy changes that will anchor our people here so generations can successfully thrive. We all know what we must do; we’ve been talking about it for decades.

4. Hawaii has the most lopsided Legislature in the country, with only one Republican in the Senate and only four in the House. How would you ensure there is an open exchange of ideas, transparency, and accountability for decisions? What do you see as the consequences of one-party control, and how would you address that?

I have always advocated for inclusion and a leader willing to listen and collaborate to achieve outcomes necessary to achieve shared goals regardless of the person or party affiliation. Accountability requires transparency on how and why decisions are made, particularly what data is informing those decisions. My training and background as a doctorate defaults to seeking evidenced-based research and data integrity when making decisions. I welcome healthy, honest, fact-based debates as we seek to problem-solve Hawaii’s many challenges together.

I would undoubtedly consider Hawaii a predominant party system, but not a one-party. A one-party system is noncompetitive, which is just not the case, as seen in this year’s electoral races. In my race alone, there are three Democrats, all of whom are committed to representing our district and state.

5. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process? 

I do not oppose a statewide citizens initiative process; however, I do not feel it is necessary. I still believe the power lies with the people of Hawaii — however; residents must civically engage in the electoral process.

6. Thanks to their campaign war chests and name familiarity, incumbents are almost always re-elected in Hawaii legislative races. Should there be term limits for state legislators, as there are for the governor’s office and county councils? Why or why not?

Term limits would increase the opportunity for others to run for office and essentially deter the potential for a monopoly by an individual. However, I am not in support of term limits because it takes away the power of the people to choose who they want as their representative. Choosing our government representative is a fundamental principle of our government. I tell people they need to vote if they are unsatisfied with their elected representative.

There are other opportunities to improve our elections other than term limits. I’m particularly in favor of ranked-choice voting, where voters rank their preferred candidate. More significant contribution restrictions are another way to improve our elections. In February, I decided not to take monies from large corporations or any political action committees, including unions. Elections need to be determined by the people, not predetermined by any other outside influence.

7. 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 or banning campaign contributions during session?

The problem is that no accountability metrics exist for legislators other than elections. If elected, I want my district to provide me feedback on my performance throughout my tenure. We have performance appraisal reviews (PAR) and evaluations for almost every other state position; why not institute a PAR for legislators?

Improving transparency and maintaining the highest ethics in the government must be a shared responsibility. I am open to exploring any measure that will improve our political environment and rebuild trust between our residents and government. Transparency increases accountability and ultimately improves serving the people, so we must work toward greater transparency.

8. How would you make the Legislature more transparent and accessible to the public? Opening conference committees to the public? Stricter disclosure requirements on lobbying and lobbyists? How could the Legislature change its own internal rules to be more open?

Improving transparency and accessibility to the Legislature could undoubtedly be enhanced through publicizing conference committees and lobbying and lobbyists’ disclosures. I would also recommend modernizing our current systems and methods, particularly when drafting, viewing and publishing bills, into a more coherent and simplified one to help track and understand the changes made, when they are made, and by whom.

I would also suggest a centralized committee voting data system for the public to access to improve the transparency and accountability of their legislators. If we want more people to be actively engaged in the process and hold their legislators accountable, we need to equip the public with a user-friendly system that shows how their legislators voted.

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

As leaders, we have a responsibility to ensure that we are not perpetuating division. As a newcomer to the political scene, I’m often taken aback by some and frankly disappointed by others who continue to point fingers and bash individuals and political parties.

I believe, regardless of party affiliation, collectively, we all have more values in common than not. We need to do politics differently. I choose not to engage in the negativity, untruths and indecency of politics but to focus on listening and learning about common-sense sustainable solutions to strengthen Hawaii.

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.

With so much uncertainty and hardship we have experienced in the last two years, rebuilding trust through transparency and delivering equity is paramount. Hawaii deserves better, and together I believe we can do better.

Building on what we’ve learned to create a better state and a better way of doing things, I would promote a new social contract governing the use of data to ensure we understand and prioritize the role data plays in Hawaii’s vitality. We must prioritize and invest in developing a statewide comprehensive, integrated data system.

The Hawaii Data Collaborative (HDC) is an incredible resource for decision-making, and it’s a start. Still, it will need to be expanded and designed with a multistakeholder, purpose-driven approach to data management and governance to help keep pace with our ever-evolving data and strengthen the legitimacy, transparency and accountability of all decisions.

Addressing Hawaii’s challenges and doing things better requires us to leverage and value data to inform our public policies is essential moving forward.

We’re here to help Hawaii vote.

Our staff has spent months preparing for this election season. Now it’s your turn to vote on the leaders who will impact our community for years to come.

If you’ve relied on our daily analysis and reporting, Candidate Q&As, free events and online resources, please consider making a donation to your local nonprofit newsroom.

Every contribution, however big or small, powers our journalism.