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

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

Ikaika Olds
Party Democratic
Age 37
Occupation Community homeless concerns liaison, state Department of Education
Residence Moiliili

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

None provided.

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

I’ve spoken to hundreds of members in our community and it’s clear that the primary concern is safety. Their safety concerns come down to crime and the homeless.

With the rising rates of crime and the growing homeless population in our streets, many of our neighbors are afraid to leave their homes once the sun goes down. As a father of two young children, we also avoid going out for walks or to play at the park once it’s dark.

I will push for legislation that gets tough on crime, especially for crimes against our kupuna. I will push to ensure that criminals, particularly repeat offenders, are punished accordingly and kept off our streets. No more career criminals terrorizing our community with 30, 40, 50-plus prior convictions.This means we need more than just legislation, we also need to support our police officers.

Homelessness requires a dynamic approach. Having worked extensively with our district’s homeless for the last six years, for Waikiki Health and now the HIDOE’s Homeless Concerns Office, I have the knowledge and experience to help clean up our streets. I will continue to support and expand certain homeless housing models that have been shown to have long-term success and continue to support local agencies that facilitate the process.

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?

Like many college students in Honolulu, I waited on tables in Waikiki to help pay for school and to pay the bills. So while I completely support diversifying our economy and moving away from being tourism-dependent, the current reality is that we likely won’t be able to for many years. Until we are actually able to diversify our economy, we need to find a happy balance with tourism.

I believe that the Hawaii Tourism Authority has stepped up in educating incoming tourists about our islands, our unique island culture and people, and spreading awareness for tourists to be mindful during their stay. This also translates to pushing for policies to protect many of our islands’ attractions from overuse, like we see at Hanauma Bay.

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?

It’s no secret that Hawaii is expensive. It has been our sad reality for decades. Having worked with struggling individuals and families for the last six years, I can genuinely say that we need more affordable housing. While every politician out there is saying this right now, I may be the only one running with actual experience navigating Hawaii’s affordable housing crisis. We can address affordable housing from two angles: by building more public housing and by allowing more private development to build affordable housing.

As Hawaii has moved to increase its minimum wage, it is also vital that we continue to push for higher education for our keiki. While I fully support our graduates going on to pursue their college degrees, I also think it is important to expose our high school students to the various trade schools out there. There are many blue-collar jobs here in Hawaii that pay well and need workers. Building interest in trades can help our graduates make more money and help to keep Hawaii’s economy rolling.

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 Democratic Party has held a firm control of Hawaii politics for many decades. While the nature of the party may have changed since the Hawaii Democratic Revolution of 1954, based on Hawaii voting records over the last 68 years, it’s clear that running as a Democrat for local office will give you an edge in most districts. So what we see today is a Hawaii Democratic Party with a blend of liberals, moderates and small “c” conservatives all running with “D” after their name. This may actually be beneficial as you may get a blend of liberal, moderate or conservative Democratic candidates during the Hawaii primary, which is what is happening in my district.

Personally, I believe that it shouldn’t be about what party a politician belongs to, but rather what they bring to the table. What are their values, beliefs, principles and positions on certain subjects? That is more important than their party affiliation. All politicians should be less concerned about party-politicking and more concerned about doing what’s right for our constituents and our state.

If elected, I would apply that mentality to engaging my fellow representatives. We need to work together to make Hawaii safer and stronger.

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

I absolutely believe that the people of Hawaii should have more political power and I fully support a statewide citizens initiative process.

We have heard more and more of Hawaii’s citizens crying out for this and I believe it’s time we make it a reality. Let the people take back their government and their power!

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?

If elected, I would propose two major changes to the state Legislature. The first would be term limits. Hawaii has a sad history of allowing legislators to sit in office for 20-plus years. These individuals are able to accumulate too much power and influence, in and out of the Legislature. They have the power to make a bill pass or die at their command. This undermines the entire political process and is toxic for a healthy democracy.

The second change I would propose would limit campaign contributions and spending. I would place a cap on how much money candidates can raise and spend during an election. This cap would be based on the expenditure limits put in place for those wanting access to our state’s public funding programs. For example, in my district, the public funding expenditure limit is $21,014. My proposal would put a cap for all candidates running in my race to $21,014. This ensures an even playing field and limits the influence of special interest groups.

Putting a cap on how much campaign money you can collect/spend would not only make it fair for political challengers, but may also address the corruption we have seen from our elected officials.

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 100% agree to requiring the Sunshine Law and opening the records to the public. If the House of Representatives has nothing to hide, then the public should have easy access to all the workings going on at the Capitol.

As I mentioned previously regarding campaign contributions and putting a cap on how much a candidate can raise and spend, I absolutely believe that campaign contributions should be banned during session. This is common sense and I really don’t understand how it has never been addressed. Politicians need to stop focusing on campaign contributions for re-election and focus on doing what’s right for their constituents.

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 believe public oversight is absolutely essential. As an elected official, you should be under the microscope and fully exposed to the people. I believe that if the people are not allowed to be in the room for a conference committee, then a live feed of the committee must be accessible to the public. But this access should not be limited to the chamber floor or in committee meeting rooms, but should also extend to the personal offices of the senators and representatives.

At a minimum, logs should be kept of everyone who visits their offices and made public. I would go so far as to put cameras in every office that include sound.

As I mentioned earlier, everything that goes on there should be accessible and accountable. We put a lot of trust and faith into our Legislature and no honest politician should be against more public oversight. If they don’t welcome it, that’s a huge red flag.

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? 

Hawaii is in need of leadership that can connect to the people. We have all been through a lot these last few years and the people’s trust in Hawaii’s elected leadership is teetering. That means we need people who can show understanding and empathy for both sides of an issue and try to find common ground. That requires our politicians to be out there, in public, engaging with their constituents.

Most people just want to be acknowledged and know that they are being heard by their elected officials. It may be impossible to make everyone happy on some issues, but providing that extra effort to connect with the people, empathizing with their beliefs, allowing discussion and brainstorming for potential compromise can help bridge the gaps we see today.

It certainly doesn’t hurt to provide the people with some hope and alleviate some of their daily stress. Strengthen our economy, build more affordable housing and make our communities safer by getting a grip on crime and homelessness. That’s moving in the right direction.

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.

Covid-19 has shown that we have extraordinary resilience here in Hawaii. We sacrificed so much to protect ourselves and others by staying home, wearing masks, and not seeing our family and friends. We did incredible things and that showed just how much aloha we still have.

Among many of the failures that we saw during the pandemic, our children’s education definitely suffered. My One Big Idea is to better support Hawaii’s public schools, especially teachers.

As we were all caught off-guard, the DOE was not ready to move to 100% distance learning. We didn’t have the computers, we didn’t have the learning platforms and we didn’t have a plan on how to put it all together. Teachers had to find a way and they did it the best they could.

Moving forward, I would ensure that students have access to the technology needed to optimize learning in the 21st century. I would also like to see better retention of our teachers by improving their work environment, schedule and compensation. Hawaii loses 49% of its teachers after their first five years. Investing in our keiki is investing in the future of Hawaii and we can do that by investing in our schools and teachers.

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