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 Sam Kong, Democratic candidate for state House District 33, which includes Halawa, Aiea and Waimalu. The other Democratic candidate is Tracy Arakaki.

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 33

Sam Kong
Party Democratic
Age 63
Occupation Former business owner, computer technician, Air Force
Residence Aiea, 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?

The biggest issue facing my district is road safety. Since January of this year, there have been at least eight car accidents on my street alone. Speeding is a big issue in Aiea, with numerous complaints being submitted to my office every week. I started a “Please, No Speed,” campaign in Aiea through mailers and by placing banners throughout the district.

I have partnered with the Department of Transportation to utilize mobile speed-trackers to encourage drivers to adhere to the speed limit. I have also worked with the Honolulu Police Department to identify drivers exceeding the speed limit in high-traffic areas.

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?

There have been a lot of plans about diversifying the economy, however, we need to actually fund those plans. We need to invest more money in local farming and agriculture, and create more diverse programs that our youth can tap into.

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?

One way that we can help our residents is by eliminating the income tax for low-income earners. Raising the minimum wage may help to a degree, however, we need to address the root cause, which is the cost of living and lack of diversity in our economy.

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?

We need to encourage open debate and discussion across all parties. I encourage voters to research issues and political candidates, and to vote in their best interest regardless of the political party.

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

Yes, I would definitely support a citizen initiative process because it will “give power back to the people” and allow Hawaii residents to bring important issues to the Legislature.

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, in fact, I introduced legislation in 2016 and 2020 to implement term limits for state legislators. In the absence of term limits, voters can exercise their choices by voting.

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?

It is unfortunate that there have been so many corruption cases in Hawaii, however, that is what happens when there is no accountability and transparency from the government. I have and will always support legislation to implement more accountability measures from government officials and state agencies.

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?

The Legislature needs to revise its internal rules so more access and transparency is given to the public. We need to take advantage of the technology available to us and create a streamlined electronic process that can greatly improve public access.

I would support legislation to eliminate excessive fees and would consider imposing fines for excessive delays in the release of requested information.

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?

A lot of this growing division comes from misunderstanding. We need to work on informing and educating the general public about government processes and procedures, government policies, and community issues.

When there is a lack of understanding, it usually creates a lack of trust between the government and the people it serves. Improved communication all around would help bridge these gaps.

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.

The wake of the pandemic has spotlighted the housing crisis in Hawaii. Currently the state and city have many parcels of unused land. I would like to see this land utilized to help the housing situation.

If lands are donated, state funding could be utilized to develop temporary housing, shelters and single-family dwellings, depending on the size and location of the land.

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