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 Netra Halperin, Republian candidate for state House District 11, which includes Maalaea, Kihei, Keawakapu, Wailea, Makena, Kanahena and Keoneoio. The other Republican candidate is Shekinah Cantere.

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 11

Netra Halperin
Party Republican
Age 63
Occupation Permitting consultant
Residence Kihei, Maui

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

Committee on the Status of Woman; legislative analyst, Rep. Rida Cabanilla; interim director, Neighborhood Place of Wailuku.

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

Affordable housing. There are many nationwide causes of the escalating cost of buying or renting a home on Maui, however the biggest contributor is a shortage of housing units. And the biggest contributor to the housing shortage, which is completely within the control of the government, is the time it takes to get a building permit. It can take many months or even years to get a permit. And most of that time the application is just sitting in a queue, not actually being reviewed.

In real estate and construction, time is money. While waiting for the permit to be processed the homeowner or developer must pay the mortgage on the raw land or fixer-upper. This of course increases the cost and diminishes the supply of housing. My proposal is for the state Legislature to offer the county planning departments funding to hire employees, with the caveat that they must dramatically reduce the processing time in order to continue to receive this subsidy.

If we don’t fix this bottleneck, affordable housing developers and homeowners will still be unable to build more housing, and the lack of affordable housing will continue to worsen.

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?

In 2011, film producer Ryan Cavanaugh came to the Hawaii Legislature to request a tax credit for film production. Unfortunately, that did not happen.

I propose that this idea be revisited. Also, on Maui a marine research facility would be in keeping with the theme of the island and would bring in many scientists and students, and thus add to the 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?

The biggest expense struggling people have is housing. See above for solutions to this. Also within the purview of the planning department is zoning that prohibits “eco-village” type communities (especially in agricultural land, which is monitored by the state) in which one TMK can hold numerous smaller houses, that can all share a community gathering house.

This form of housing would be a lot cheaper and would give like-minded residents the “village lifestyle” that would allow shared child care, gardening and cooking — making life easier and more affordable.

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?

The consequence of having a one-party controlled state is that more of the money and power has been consolidated in the hands of a few. After having run as a Democrat, I am now running as a Republican. This switch is happening around the country, and if elected I expect to have a lot more Republican colleagues than I would now.

Also, the candidates who are running as Republicans at this point in history tend to “think outside the box,” so I believe that 2023 will be an exciting session.

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

Yes, it is critical for a democracy. Maui used the initiative process for the GMO moratorium. They won, but the county skirted the citizens’ voice. This is not acceptable. We need both a statewide citizens initiative and the mechanism to ensure that the state actually abides by its voters’ wishes.

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?

Yes, there should be term limits. There is too much temptation for incumbents to become complacent about the issues that they were originally passionate about, and instead, “toe the party line” to keep their campaign donations coming in.

Also, Hawaii, like many other states, should distribute voter information, by giving all candidates the opportunity to express their platforms, experience, etc., in a pamphlet. This would help offset the name recognition advantage of incumbents.

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 only way to rid the Legislature of corruption is to ban private campaign donations and go completely to a full public funding model. One method is to require candidates to get, instead of 15 signatures (for House seats), say 100 signatures, and $5 with each.

This would ensure that the candidate has public support. They would then receive the amount that the last winning candidate for that seat raised. This would dramatically reduce corruption.

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?

Yes to opening conference committees to the public. Air committee meetings on Akaku for Maui as it is done on Olelo for Oahu.

Large campaign donations almost always carry a “quid-pro-quo.” Money is the corrupting force. Only getting private donations out of campaigning will fix the scourge of corruption.

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?

Regarding the health mandates, a free and open discussion would make a huge difference. Currently any opinion that is not in alignment with the CDC is censored. There have been zero debates at either the county or state level, despite many doctors and scientists requesting them. That would help bridge the gap.

But ultimately forcing people to accept a medical procedure (vaccination) or medical device (surgical mask) against their wishes will never bridge any gap. People do not take well to coercion.

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.   

Leadership needs to listen to all citizens, not just the ones who agree with them. Mandate Free Maui asked for a town hall meeting with Mayor Victorino to discuss all sides of mandates. He refused to meet with his constituents. Gov. Ige also refused to meet with the people of Hawaii.

If the grave concerns of one — very significant — portion of the population are systematically ignored then we do not have a democracy but something much less desirable. I will listen to and consider the desires/views of all of my constituents, whether I agree with them or not.

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