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 Kathy Feldman, Democratic candidate for state House District 19, which includes Hawaii Kai, Niu Valley, Wailupe, Kahala and Waialae. The other Democratic candidate is Mark Hashem.
1. What is the biggest issue facing your district, and what would you do about it?
After canvassing and talking to folks in my district and asking them about their main concerns, the issue that continues to come up the most is climate change and the impact it is having on the islands. I am anxious to work with those groups that are addressing these issues to work quickly to find solutions.
Some of their other concerns related to the environment are much bigger than just what is happening in our district, but everyone realizes that this is a small island, and what happens outside of our district affects us all. People are also talking about how Hawaii depends too much on imports, and how we don’t use our agricultural land to feed the people in our communities. I would work hard to create and support bills improving this situation by offering incentives to those who produce food for our residents.
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?
There are so many missed opportunities when it comes to diversifying our local economy, and food sovereignty is one of them. Right now, we import 90% of our food.
If we can use our agricultural land to grow our own food in a sustainable way, we can then improve the health of our people, create jobs and become more self-sufficient.
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?
Affordable housing should be our main focus. Let’s make it difficult for out-of-state investors to buy property in Hawaii, which drives housing prices up. This will force developers to focus on middle-income housing, which would benefit our community.
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 Democrats in Hawaii range from conservative to liberal with moderates in between, so although we have a lopsided Legislature, we do have a wide variety of voices and opinions.
While it is clearly a one-party-dominant state, I don’t see it as a problem because of the divergent viewpoints.
5. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I fully support a statewide citizens initiative process, because I feel our residents have a right to have a voice and need to be heard.
The most frustrating thing I’ve heard in my district is how many people have called their state representative and received no meaningful response. A real democracy is involving the citizens in the initiative 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 are so important. If there are no limits, our leaders become complacent, stop attending community meetings, and have no urgency to get things accomplished.
We constantly need new ideas and new solutions to solve current issues, and we can do this by imposing term limits.
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?
Every day we see more and more corruption in Hawaii politics, and we need to put a stop to this. Requiring the Sunshine Law for open records to apply to the Legislature and banning campaign contributions during session are all so important when it comes to stopping corruption in our government.
Some career politicians get caught up in accepting donations for favors, and we need to find ways to create transparency to stop this in its tracks.
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?
I feel we have not included our communities in the decision-making process, and opening our conference committees to the public would be a major step in improving this problem.
We also need stricter disclosure requirements for lobbyists so we know not only who is testifying but also who they represent.
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?
Most people agree that we have three or four major current issues that need to be addressed. I’ve heard a lot of ideas on how to fix those issues, and they have all been different.
What I have found is that party affiliation (Democrat, Republican, or other) is less important than the ideas being proposed. Bridging this divide means people of all parties should be able to come together and share ideas and solutions.
We have more in common than we think, and we all want what is best for Hawaii and its 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 taught us all that we can’t be dependent on tourism, and we need to diversify.
It also taught us that if we have a shortage (like toilet paper), people will be fearful and go into hoarding mode. Imagine if our food supply was drastically cut off by a man-made or natural disaster.
We urgently need to focus on becoming self-sufficient when it comes to food production on the islands. We have the best climate for growing food, yet we don’t take advantage of this. Let’s support our growers with incentives and tax breaks to expand our sustainable agriculture.
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