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 Shirley Templo, Democratic candidate for state House District 30, which includes Kalihi, Kalihi Kai, Keehi Lagoon, Hickam Air Force Base and Hickam Village. The other Democratic candidates are Romy Cachola and Sonny Ganaden.
1. What is the biggest issue facing your district, and what would you do about it?
On a community base input level, the difficulty of financial hardship is still one of the most prevalent issues within my district.
After talking to individuals and families in my community, they have expressed their concerns about not affording rent, the general increase of rising costs for goods and services, inflation, and the relative issue of crime – more so, crimes against property and crimes against persons.
To help with my neighbors’ concerns, I redirected them to the State of Hawaii Department of Human Services and the Honolulu City and County’s One Oahu, where there are resources for financial assistance programs.
In my district there are a lot of people wanting help and a lot of people who are able to help, yet there is a gap in connecting those seeking help and the service provider.
As your next state representative, it is one of my top priorities to ensure that our community is aware of the resources available to the public and have the resources be accessible for them.
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?
Diversification is one of the most effective ways to increase long-term economic resilience.
The State of Hawaii, in particular the Hawaii Technology Development Corporation (HTDC), is doing a great job in improving our economic growth and diversification. In particular, it’s wonderful news that HTDC was able to approve up to $62 million in federal funding to expand access to capital for small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs. In general, HTDC has focused its efforts in redeveloping high-tech, knowledge-based and other emerging industries including biotechnology, non-fossil fuel energy alternatives, ocean sciences, astronomy, and film and performing arts products.
Tourism is the largest single source of capital for Hawaii’s economy. I support responsible and sustainable tourism. However, tourism should not be our only relied-upon revenue. As an island state, it would be worthy to look into an ocean economy and ocean-based industries such as fisheries, aquaculture and ocean recreation/sport.
In addition to our efforts to be more competitive in our economy, it is also important that we look into our state becoming more self-sustainable.
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 is essential to factor all the moving parts that boost productivity and investment of a successful economy.
The government must act to strengthen and expand the middle class. A strong middle class is the backbone to a prosperous economy and healthy society. Hands-down, the middle class is highly important. Yet, the growth of the middle class and working families is slow-growing.
Recently, lawmakers have passed legislation to have $18 an hour by 2028, which will stimulate the earnings for low- and middle-wage jobs.
On a fundamental level, it is important to invest in public goods, education, health and infrastructure, which is the base of the private sector. The private sector is critical to economic growth and poverty reduction.
Some policy ideas to focus on the economic stimulation of the middle class are supplementing worker’s income, providing paid family leave and investing in education.
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?
There are both pros and cons to having one-party control governance. Having a one-party system in governance can lead to dictatorship, weak democracy/undemocratic nature, rubber stamp politics and corruption.
We collectively need to ensure that all checks and balances are in place and being practiced for our democracy to be efficient. Conversations of diversity and transparency result in legislation grounded in an agreed-upon consensus of truth and justice working toward the highest good of the people.
On an individual note, I will take responsibility for my own behavior and ensure that I am following proper protocols when engaging in conversation. In addition, I will be an effective communicator, humble and objective, and respectful to all. Also, I will be diligent in my oversight, and courageous by speaking up when exposing wrong doings.
On all levels of governance we need equitable conversations. We need to encourage engagement. We need to release barriers of communication.
5. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
At its theoretical core, the intention of the statewide citizens initiative process (CIP) is to progress and increase democracy and participation on an individual level, through empowering its citizens to propose/create/vote/veto legislation directly/indirectly (dependent on agreed-upon use and design of citizen initiative process).
However, the actual implementation of a citizens initiative can be troublesome. California had issues with determining whether a citizens initiative belonged to the citizen or was influenced by special interest groups. Also, oftentimes citizens cast votes without a solid understanding of the measures and their potential impact.
It’s worth considering having a statewide citizens initiative process (CIP) with a citizens initiative review (CIR) process. A CIR is a resource to ensure citizens are more knowledgeable about the subject.
I support a study of the implementation of a CIP and CIR in Hawaii, so we are able to understand more our local advantages and disadvantages of generating tools for our citizens exercising their political voice.
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?
Yes, I support some form of term limit for state legislators. Limiting the term of our state legislators will ensure that authority is being circulated, and new people with fresh ideas, and the drive and passion to do the job right, have the chance to be elected.
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?
With measures like SB555 SD1 HD1, relating to campaign funding, and the establishment and progression of the Open Government Commission (OGC), the state is moving in a positive direction toward improving government transparency.
Public officials and employees need to act with prudence, integrity and high ethical judgment; and public records must be accessible while balancing personal privacy.
Personally, I would hold myself accountable to our citizens, by the people, for the people. Trust is fundamental for democracy to flourish. Our citizens deserve an honest and open government on all governing levels. I support legislation to ensure accountability and I look forward to hearing the OGC’s recommendations to improve open governance in their final report at the end of this year.
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?
Public participation and meaningful inputs into the decision-making process are important.
Elected officials need to take responsibility in informing their communities of legislative and community matters and ensure that they are always being kept in the loop.
I would make the Legislature more transparent and accessible by creating an online virtual Public Access Room (PAR), with an online virtual attendant. With the expansion and accessibility of technology, it is necessary that we utilize these tools to be a resource for our people.
Expanding our PARs in community spaces within each neighborhood that could offer beneficial public resources. Shared spaces with other government buildings like the public library could be an option to hold a PAR. Another idea is to have a mobile rotating PAR, that can visit each community periodically.
Also, we should upgrade our Hawaii State Legislature website to a more user-friendly and engaging system. I had a discussion with my good friend Lloyd, and we both agreed that looking up bills can be difficult and confusing. Through an improved legislative search engine, there could be an option where bills are searchable and organized by topic and subtopic, kind of like how Reddit has their conversations laid out.
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?
Creating and maintaining an environment for a fair and democratic arena is essential. This means at the very least building professional bonds with our colleagues despite our differences in opinions.
Effective communication and sharing common goals are the keys to bridge gaps and bring people together.
It is virtuous that our elected officials/leaders show humility in a world full of conflict. Finding compromise after having a fair discussion (hearing and acknowledging everyone’s inputs) results in better solutions and legislation.
Personal duty/agenda should not be at the forefront of the discussion. Respecting everyone’s thoughts and feelings and where they stand on the issue, will result in a more comprehensively formed decision. It’s frustrating when we don’t meet eye-to-eye.
Sometimes, all we need is acknowledgement; like saying, “I hear you” goes a long way. Also, if mistakes are made, saying, “I’m sorry,” takes us even further.
Healthy, productive communication and action is the foundation of building bridges so gaps can be filled by parties on every side of the crack.
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.
To an extent, we as people do not have to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes, all the answers to our problems are right behind our own backyard.
As a people of Hawaii, we should look back into our Hawaiian values (which go through all cultures) and we should revisit the “aloha spirit” law (HRS [§5-7.5]). Having these core values and principles in mind, body and spirit would allow us all to move in the foundation of humility and altruistic service.
It is given territory that the coronavirus pandemic shook all of us up and will continue to do so. Yet, in any conflict there is a silver lining, and the pandemic has given us the opportunity to learn and grow.
There are always going to be many challenges that lie ahead, and if we are grounded in our shared values and act with purposeful good intentions, then we can be resilient and thrive in fairness and justice together.
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