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 Jillian Anderson, Republican candidate for state House District 24, which includes Waikiki.

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

Jillian Anderson
Party Republican
Age 25
Occupation Legislative analyst (2022 session)
Residence Waikiki, Oahu

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

None provided.

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

Waikiki is experiencing a rise in homelessness, with many in this population also suffering from mental illness and addiction. As a result, residents are feeling a decreased sense of public safety. I am disappointed to see the lack of an integrated plan that transitions our neighbors who have fallen on hard times from the streets back to a life of productivity.

I would address this growing concern with a top-to-bottom approach, rather than piecemeal initiatives.

First, we must put more resources into treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, as well as focus heavily on mental health.

Second, we need to invest more in transitional services. More shelters should be opened, not closed. Job placement and educational opportunities like trade schools should be readily accessible. We too must bolster food security and medical services, in order to reduce the connection that lacking these fundamentals creates when it comes to a rise in crime, particularly theft.

Finally, increasing our supply of truly affordable housing will provide all from our chronically homeless to those who simply can no longer bear the crushing weight of our high cost of living a fighting chance at finding a home they can call their very own.

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?

Living in Waikiki nearly all my life, I am constantly reminded of both the benefits and drawbacks of the tourism industry. With the advent of social media, there are few locations left sacred for locals, while global perceptions of Hawaii as a tropical playground has brought harm to our environment.

Tourism will always play a major role in our economy, though I would advocate strongly for diversifying to industries that bring more benefits to our islands beyond just income.

One sector vital for enhancing our self-sufficiency is food production and agriculture. With more than 80% of our food imported, we are substantially food-insecure. Encouraging entrepreneurship and enabling a prosperous business environment in food growing and production will do wonders for expanding our job market, providing more choices at the grocery store, thereby lowering prices, and even allow us to generate substantial revenue by exporting certain products.

In addition, I would also support the growth of industries such as film, astronomy/aerospace, and information technology to provide economic diversification and job opportunities in these fields with high potential.

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?

All my life, I have been blessed to consider myself middle class. My family worked hard and spent wisely, allowing us to feel comfortable with a little splurge every now and again. But these conditions are rapidly changing, with inflated prices causing many of our residents to forgo essential food products, let alone have wiggle room to enjoy the life they work tirelessly to create for themselves.

For most, the largest monthly expense is housing, and every day more and more residents sign on to a mortgage ensuring decades of substantial financial burden. By increasing housing supply through lighter regulations, zoning and land use reform, and exploring the prospects of a bifurcated market where affordable units are destined for local residents, we can reduce this great drain on our people’s economic futures.

For the day-to-day costs, we must foster a thriving small business environment. Doing so will expand product offerings with the potential competitive advantage of selling at lower prices than imported goods, benefiting local entrepreneurs and consumers alike.

We also must have a serious discussion regarding the impact of the Jones Act, and seek long overdue changes to reduce the widespread fiscal detriments its existence causes.

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?

Having served as a legislative analyst on behalf of our House Republicans, I witnessed firsthand the detriments caused by unvarying perspectives and a lack of sizable resistance. This experience greatly influenced my decision to run, as I simply did not see my beliefs being reflected in the actions of our Legislature.

To ensure greater balance, first we must elect a more ideologically diverse group of legislators. Then once in office, it is imperative that legislators do not fall prey to standing firm on their side of the political divide. If elected, I vow to vote solely on a bill’s merits and the benefits it could bring to our people, not based on its introducers.

In the past, measures brought forth by Republicans have not been offered even the respect of free and fair discussion. Yet, their proposals are clearly worthwhile, as some of these bills are reintroduced the following year, simply to the credit of a representative from the majority party. This is just one of the many consequences of one-party control, which sadly harms our people in the name of political capital.

I am eager to join a body that puts substance before politics – the way it should be.

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

A statewide citizens initiative process is one in which voters are provided the power of introducing and voting on laws or constitutional amendments. The only manner in which Hawaii voters are currently given such a direct say is when it comes to constitutional amendments. The statewide citizens initiative process appears to turn citizens into lawmakers, though when put in action, has been shown to be ripe for manipulation by big money and special interests, and functions as a method for the party not in control to circumvent the will of elected representatives.

If this was proposed, I would proceed with caution. One of numerous concerns is that with signature gathering. In some states, initiative circulators are paid per signature they attain, which can make those approached likely to be pushed into signing. On the other hand, paying circulators hourly to gather signatures (in many cases 8% or more of a previous election’s votes) can drive up costs substantially, thereby favoring the wealthiest interests.

I am in great favor of putting power in the hands of our citizens, though would like safeguards in place to make such initiatives true grassroots efforts, rather than a way to bypass the process of representative government.

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?

Although potentially controversial, I would not be in favor of term limits, as long as other variables are met. When elections are free and fair, the voting public should be able to select who they think is most qualified for the job. At what point do we say that one has too much experience, has been too dedicated, or has done too well for their people?

I understand the fear of electing “career politicians,” yet it is up to each community to make each race a survival of the fittest.

Instead of changing the composition of our Legislature through term limits, candidates should need to prove themselves against strong competitors in non-gerrymandered districts. Our district lines must be neatly drawn, with zero consideration for who lives within the bounds apart from population.

Most importantly, voters need an impressive lineup of candidates to select from. Sadly, out of 25 Senate races, just one will have at least two candidates running from both the Republican and Democratic parties, while out of 51 House races, only seven will give all voters an option.

This is the core problem with our elections – not providing voters with alternatives usually other than the incumbent.

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?

When deciding whether to run for office, I weighed numerous personal characteristics and assessed how they would be of aid in most effectively serving our people. Before ideas, or passion, or judgment, I ultimately determined my character to be my greatest asset. Being honest and moral has always been inherent within me and constitutes the foundation of my conduct. Though I am not naive, and know that my fellow legislators, and some I may even have voted for in the past, may not possess the same qualities. Without transparency, such truths are challenging, if not impossible, to uncover.

I would be fully committed to complete disclosure of legislative activities, as the body’s very reason for existence is to serve the people.

In the midst of session when partaking in the core responsibility of being an engaged legislator, the next campaign should be the last thing on one’s mind. To prevent legislative actions from becoming intertwined with future candidacy, it would only be right to freeze campaign contributions for the duration of session, while adopting the Sunshine Law and open records laws to ensure the utmost integrity and accountability.

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 attempting to understand the legislative process from the inside as an analyst and researcher, I summarized my thoughts with the following – if it was a board game, I would throw it out. The rules are complicated, you don’t know where the pieces go, and in the end, no one really wins.

Condensing the analysis of ~3,000 constantly changing bills into nearly 4 months with countless deadlines along the way, it is hard enough for representatives and their staff to keep track, let alone the media and the general public.

I am in favor of continuing the hybrid approach, as testimony on Zoom and live streams on YouTube are immensely beneficial in expanding civic engagement.

I believe the Hawaii State Capitol belongs to the people, and therefore should be open to all who wish to speak with legislators or attend committee hearings, floor sessions and conference committees.

If present with the intent of lobbying, one’s purpose should be documented and released on a public record. Furthermore, if bills are introduced “by request” or have a clear connection to a certain individual or entity, these specifics should be required to be disclosed in the measure’s preamble.

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?

I am a great supporter of an informed populace, and when armed with information, know that the average citizen will naturally find themselves in a place open to understanding and compromise. Once presented with objective information, one can critically think, generate opinions and lastly develop emotions toward an issue.

Instead, our people are often being subjected to a reverse process, where we are first told how we should feel about a topic, generally with intense emotions of outrage or elation. From these emotions, opinions are articulated, with many finding themselves quickly at one extreme of the spectrum. Only then, and unfortunately rarely, does one take time to think critically, and finally, be exposed to facts that may have guided them to a different perspective in the first place.

For the social stability of our communities, it is vital that we lead with our heads before our hearts. That objective and complete information is made available, and we trust those consuming it to form their own judgments. When we actually speak at length with one another about seemingly polarized views, it is eye-opening how much common ground we truly share once emotions and outside opinions are stripped away.

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.

Amid the pandemic, we lived in a world with limited consumerism, where only “essential” businesses were permitted to sell their goods offline. Concurrently, many found themselves with ample time surrounded by possessions they already own. Yet, despite the common excuse of not having the opportunity to get around to using such items, the majority of us can surely look back and see this wasn’t our problem after all.

A big idea I have for Hawaii is to shift in the direction of a sharing economy – a system that promotes access over ownership.

A classical example is the laundromat, with modern extensions including Uber and Biki bikes. By leveraging technology, thousands of haves can be matched with thousands of wants. Such a network would expand variety, accessibility, reduce risk, and save our residents money in the long run while also creating a new way to earn income.

State government can foster the growth of a sharing economy by owning, hosting, or investing in collaborative consumption initiatives.

Our islands are small, our landfills are overflowing, and our people seek diversity in how they live their lives, making the transition to a society where goods are not hoarded, but shared, ripe with opportunity.

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