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 Sam Peralta, Democratic candidate for state House District 9, which includes Kahului, Puunene and Wailuku. The other Democratic candidate is Justin Woodson.
1. What is the biggest issue facing your district, and what would you do about it?
We need serious public education reform. Our current system was made for a different time in a different place. We need to get out of the industrial age and plantation politics and into the emerging horizon upon us. Hawaii people should be global leaders.
We need education reform to increase our collective innovation, creativity and strategic power in this global society. Kahului is the heart of education. We can’t lead the future by what we’ve done in the past.
I have been in public education for the past 10 years, three of them substituting in Hawaiian immersion schools. I’ve coached baseball teams, created lunch programs, led after-school groups, and volunteered at numerous school events. I will continue to do what I’ve always done, which is increase engagement and participation with the community.
Public meetings where parents and teachers can voice their needs and wants are going to be huge this coming year. We also need to make sure our youth is learning practical technical skills. We need to bring back the arts, wood shop, cultural practices, media and technology, financial planning, philosophy, and critical thinking skills.
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?
We need to think global and act local. If we don’t raise up local leaders and empower local talent we will be replaced, or go somewhere else.
We talk about diversifying the local economy but for whom? How many of our local families have been raised by the old ways of doing things? Go to school, go to college, get a good job, start a family, then what? The younger generations don’t believe that rhetoric anymore. And people in my generation are tired of it.
We have it backwards, we think we need to be doing something (and) therefore box our people in. Our people need to take back their power and create, innovate and move into the 21st century. We should be looking at upcoming modern biotechnology in agriculture, cryptocurrency, international trade and most of all educating our youth in Hawaii ways, not from foreign pedagogy.
Talk is cheap, we need our government leaders to lead the way first and stop taking orders from out of the state and lead the way Hawaii way.
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?
Education reform. Our people are struggling because they have been put under the industrial plantation spell. They have given their power to foreign affairs, white saviors, and victim mentality. We need holistic education. We need education reform. We need well trained global thinking, local leaders.
Have you seen the younger generations these days? They’re making robots, programing apps, finding ways to save endangered species, fill in the blank. Our people are powerful and valuable. But because many do not have financial advisors, business coaches, or know-how to increase their credit score, someone else who does takes their place.
It’s sad. Furthermore, the crab mentality and old paradigms keep our local people spinning their wheels. We need education on all levels in the community and give our people tools, skills and opportunities to create, innovate, trade and feel good about how they chose to live their lives.
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?
He waʻa he moku, he moku he waʻa. My translation: “everything is important.” When you’re on a canoe there is no wasted space. And everyone has a role. You go in circles paddling in two different directions. Is that the kind of future you want?
On an island you have limited resources and everyone knows everyone. We need to keep that spirit of Aloha vibrant and alive. This should be reflected in our governance. As a young visionary leader, I’m not held down by past political affairs, or entanglements. I went to Christ the King, Maui Waena, Maui High School, and graduated from University of Hawaii Maui. I’m as Maui as you can get. If you live in my district chances are you’ll see me. That’s local accountability and transparency.
I meet with many of my kumu and mentors on a weekly basis. They are cultural activists, business owners, church leaders and environmentalists. I have a wide range of people I’m accountable to. And I’m going to take that into the governance sphere.
5. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Unofficially I think we do have one of those statewide citizens initiative process. Either someone has aloha or they don’t. Living on Maui my whole life, it’s easy to feel and sense if someone has been initiated by the island or not. No bureaucracy needed.
What makes Hawaii special is the way we accept and care for one another. We may have our differences and challenges but at the end of they day we know we are better together. If our government officials and local leaders cannot identify who’s a true citizen of this place I would question how they got to their position in the first place.
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 for state legislators should be something we all need to take a look at. As of now I’m not sure what the implications or consequences of giving an expiration date to those who are making laws and policies would be.
Good things do take time and patience. Even though I am a progressive I do know that rushing into ideas and plans without proper counsel and advisors can do more harm than good. What I do encourage is that more of our politicians make themselves more available to public discussions, debates and events.
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?
As a candidate I am open to all levels of accountability and open records. There’s a saying, “How you start something is how you end up keeping it.” We need fresh new visionary leaders in our governance sphere. Those who are not caught up in bipartisan, plantation politics, cohort monopolies, and/or colonial environmental capitalism. It’s sad that our government scandals make more news than the good we as Hawaii people can do as leaders in Western, Eastern and Oceanic cultures.
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?
Establish a social media committee. We need our governance up to date with social media and technology. We need a whole department that can keep the public up to date with minute-to-minute updates on all governance issues.
From zoom meetings, social media posts, interviews and podcasts, we need to strengthen our communication lines and have open communication happening 24/7. There is no reason why we could not already have this happening.
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?
Currently Hawaii is one of the most diverse places in the world. We carry Western, Eastern, and Oceanic ways, memories, and modes of being. What brings us together is our natural resources. We need to protect our water, and we need to protect our land. We need to bring back reciprocity to one another and to the aina. We need to be ecocentric rather than egocentric.
Holistic education and health will be a way Hawaii paves the way for future emergent leaders. We need to act now. Our education systems have been running the same way since the Industrial Age. We need to do more than just invest in infrastructure. Let’s invest into the identity of 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.
Nano nations within Hawaii. Decentralized governance where communities are able to run themselves. Such as our counties were designed for.
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