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 Adrian Tam, Democratic candidate for state House District 24, which includes Waikiki. The other Democratic candidate is Ikaika Olds.

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 24

Adrian Tam
Party Democratic
Age 29
Occupation State legislator
Residence Waikiki

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

None provided.

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

From speaking with constituents, the top two issues that our community faces are crime and homelessness. We should not lump the two issues together, but come up with long-term solutions that will solve them together, including innovating and investing in affordable housing, good-paying jobs and education. Through these initiatives, we can ensure that one’s likelihood of going homeless or resorting to a life of crime is lowered.

At the same time, we need to have open communication and collaboration between departments and organizations to ensure that the responsibility is shared between everyone instead of passed around.

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?

Tourism will continue to be a major factor in the economy, and is not likely to disappear. Regardless, we need a new industry that complements tourism and supports our economy.

The next industry that we need to heavily invest in is renewable energy/green technology. We can accomplish this by making heavy investments in research through the university and the private sector. By doing this we can ensure good-paying jobs, a new economy, and meet our clean energy goals.

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 largest chunk of one’s paycheck goes towards housing. People often take up one or two part-time jobs just to get by in Hawaii (myself included). This is why I supported raising the minimum wage and making the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) permanent this past legislative session.

However, we must do more, such as increasing our supply of housing to ensure that the amount of units can meet the demand. We can do this by building in unutilized lots zoned for residential or mixed use.

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 believe that no party has a monopoly on good ideas. As a citizen, I understand that people come before politics, and I’ve had the privilege of working with those who may not agree with me and are not in my party. I’ve always listened to my constituents and weighed the facts before making a decision.

I do see the downsides of having only one party make the decisions, such as a lack of perspectives and ideas, but I continue to work for the people and not the party. This is why my grassroots campaign is made of diverse supporters from all different political views.

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

I support a statewide citizens initiative process. This initiative would allow regular citizens to take matters into their own hands if they also have good ideas for the state that simply aren’t being heard during the legislative 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?

I do not have an opinion on term limits because I see both sides of the issue. If a constituency is happy with their legislator, they should not be forced to vote for a new legislator.

At the same time, I believe that term limits can continue to bring new perspectives to the Legislature, which is why I ran in 2020 despite the seat not being an open seat.

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?

I would support a new law that would require political action committees to have to disclose all donations regardless of the amount of money donated to a political campaign. Currently, donations from PACs under $100 do not have to be reported.

I support the Sunshine Law and open records law to apply to the Legislature and banning campaign contributions during session to all candidates to ensure that an incumbent cannot be threatened by a lobbyist with donations to their challenger.

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?

When I first got involved with the legislative process, I was able to navigate the legislative website to submit testimony fairly easily. I’m glad that it is easy to submit testimony and that it is open to everyone, not just special interests.

That being said, I believe that the remote live testimony should continue to stay and that it should continue to be broadcasted on YouTube.

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?

It is unfortunate that there is this growing division and I attribute that to politics and fear. The sentiments of anger are there because many feel like their government isn’t working for them anymore, and I understand that because that’s why I ran for office in the first place.

For us to bridge the gap, we need open communication and a willingness to come up with new government reforms and innovative solutions that we can all support. I believe that it isn’t enough for us to show the people that we are working for them. They deserve results, which is why we need leaders willing to propose bold ideas.

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.

In my first election, I answered this Civil Beat question on a Big Idea with the establishment of a state dividend fund similar to the Alaska Dividend Fund. I still support this idea, and I’m committed to working toward it. However, this is my next Big Idea:

Right now, we face a recidivism problem where people leave prison and end up right back in prison. The reason why this continues to happen is because those who have served their time have a hard time securing housing and jobs. At the same time, there is a huge burden on our social and outreach workers, and thus many slip through the cracks in our system.

This last legislative session, I proposed an idea (HB 1543/SB 2375) that would create a social/outreach worker training program in our prison system to inmates that are scheduled to be released. After completing the program and being released, they can work for service providers as outreach workers and assistants to social workers. This would give those who have served their time a job and lessen the burden on our current human services system.

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