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 John Mizuno, Democratic candidate for state House District 29, which includes Kamehameha Heights and Kalihi.

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 29

John Mizuno
Party Democratic
Age 58
Occupation State legislator
Residence Kalihi Valley, Oahu

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

State representative, 2006-present; member, Legislature's Keiki Caucus and Kupuna Caucus.

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

Public safety: Crime is our top priority. I worked to establish the first Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ) in the state to reserve parking for area residents, which significantly reduced crime. I will work to establish more RPZ areas in Kalihi to ensure residents’ parking while reducing crime and continue to partner with HPD to better address crime in the district.

Economy: Affordable housing (we provided $1 billion for affordable housing this year along with $1 billion for DHHL to get the wait-listed Native Hawaiian families into homes). Nonetheless, the rising costs of living remains a big issue affecting our district. I co-authored the minimum wage bill, which passed the Legislature to provide higher pay for all employees. We also provided a $300 tax refund to all workers earning under $100,000 per year. I worked to secure an $18 million pay enhancement for all caregivers who care for Medicaid patients. I plan to work on securing more federal funding to help decrease state expenses.

Health care, education, environment, and diversifying our economy are all important issues for our district and I will listen to the constituents and partner with them to introduce sound policy to best address these important issues.

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?

Simple — invest in smart-growth tourism, slightly reducing masses of tourists to ensure a world class experience for the select tourists that come to Hawaii. This will improve the tourist experience, reducing overuse and damage to our infrastructure and environment and ensure a greater return rate for these tourists. Hawaii is not a junket vacation destination thus we need to reduce the cheap vacation packages to Hawaii and we must reinvest in our top economic driver for the state while protecting our resources and environment for our local families.

We must diversify our economy (agriculture, aquaculture and technology) and market our products better. We need greater investment in agriculture. Kona coffee and Maui onions sell for a premium price, which is why we need to invest in more diversified crops, fruits, even hemp. Aquaculture can be an economic boom for Hawaii if we invest in more shrimp farms, fish and shell fish, while also reinvesting in dairy farms, which we have lost over the years.

The Hawaii products label is favored worldwide and we must capitalize on what is unique to Hawaii. Diversification will lead to a stronger and more stable economy for Hawaii.

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?

I co-wrote HB2510, the minimum wage bill, which we passed this year to provide higher hourly pay for our workers. Minimum wage will go up to $12 per hour starting Oct. 1, 2022, $14 per hour Jan. 1, 2024, $16 per hour Jan. 1, 2026, and $18 per hour starting Jan. 1, 2028. We also passed bills to provide a $300 tax refund (along with a $300 tax refund per child, which could amount to a tax refund of $1,200 for a household of four). This is the first major tax refund by the Legislature since 2007.

We provided $1 billion for more affordable housing and another $1 billion for DHHL to get our Native Hawaiian families off the wait list and into housing along with making the Earned Income Tax Credit permanent for 99,000 families — this will boost their income by $425 on average. The focus must be to support a diversified economy and allow our working families to excel in a career they will enjoy. I plan to introduce policy to have government partner with businesses (small, medium and large corporations) to build a robust economy for a solid state foundation of our people.

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 continue to work with our GOP members at the Capitol and we even had a Republican bill pass this year. I will continue to support our Republican members to participate in caucus bill packages for such caucuses as the keiki, kupuna and womens’ caucus where a GOP member may sign as the lead author along with the caucus members also signing as co-authors.

This type of partnership has been very successful to moving many GOP ideas and policy, which still have to go through the legislative process before becoming a bill.

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

No, if the citizens want direct democracy they can secure this by partnering with the legislative branch. The senators and representatives are public servants and we must serve our employer, the people of Hawaii. Once citizens establish a movement like the minimum wage bill or working to finally address the thousands of Native Hawaiian families on the DHHL wait list for a home, the Legislature is responsive and will introduce and pass such important policy.

The 2022 Legislature is a perfect example as we listened to the people and responded by passing landmark legislation for affordable housing, Native Hawaiian issues, economy, first major tax refund since 2007, health, education, environment and public safety.

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?

No. We already have built-in term limits. Once the district no longer has confidence in their senator or representative they can vote them out.

Moreover, I believe the people of Hawaii have appreciated the great benefit both U.S. Senators Akaka and Inouye provided to Hawaii during their numerous years serving in Washington, D.C. Both Senators worked together and with GOP members to bring much-needed federal funding for the building of Hawaii’s infrastructure, airports, harbors, military, jobs, federal health centers and social programs to help the people of Hawaii.

Compassionate and effective lawmakers who continue to listen to their constituents and pass major policy for the betterment of the people should remain while lawmakers who fail to listen to their district and state, are ineffective, appear not to care for their district, should be voted out. That is why your vote is so important, because you collectively will decide who will represent you in government.

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 House leadership team worked to pass SB555 to prohibit all state or county elected officials from holding any fundraiser during the regular or special session. I supported that bill and worked to ensure it passed the Legislature, because I believe no fundraisers should be held while we are voting on bills.

Another bill we worked on was HB1475 to mandate ethics training for all government employees, which is good policy to ensure all government employees know the ethics laws.

Finally, I would support policy to make all donations and campaign contributions transparent in addition to any hate or negative campaign ads to fully disclose the donors of the PAC. Complete openness and transparency ensures laws are followed and provides the public with greater confidence in government.

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, definitely I would support policy to provide greater transparency and accessibility to the public from regular hearings, conference committee hearings, to all legislative proceedings. Why not, the public has the right to know everything.

The Legislature will be reviewing the recommendations by the Special House Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct (formed by the House leadership team) headed by retired Judge Dan Foley. This commission will have recommendations to improve the ethical behavior at the Legislature and their report is due Dec. 1, 2022.

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 believe in listening to many voices and issues, through respect and relationships, cultural sensitivity, partnerships and unity working together to craft a rock solid foundation of state policy, where our people can achieve prosperity and security.

I will continue to hold town hall meetings as well as legislative briefings to inform both my district and the people of Hawaii about the most current issues facing the state. I will do this with compassion and respect knowing many issues have significant divides, but working on listening to the various voices and issues, partnering with the group seeking some common ground.

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.

First, Lt. Gov. Green and I were the only elected officials fighting the administration for its failure to timely establish extreme Covid-19 testing protocol followed by robust contact tracing during the onset of Covid-19 in Hawaii. Had we provided immediate care and isolated our covid-positive patients, we could have reduced the spread and saved lives.

I was the first elected official to hold a Legislative briefing on the Covid-19 pandemic with all media attending the briefing to better understand what the impact of the pandemic would be to Hawaii.

My big idea would be to hold a major health care conference in Hawaii, focused on:

— The Covid-19 pandemic.

— The failures to address the pandemic.

— Listen to the top experts on a mitigation plan for any future pandemic, which can be a template for the world to follow.

This big idea could save millions of lives.

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