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 Rosebella Martinez, Democratic candidate for state House District 40, which includes Lower Village, Iroquois Point and Ewa Beach. The other Democratic candidates are Wayne Kaululaau and Julie Reyes Oda.

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 40

Rosebella Martinez
Party Democratic
Occupation Self-employed, independent contractor
Residence Ewa Beach, 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?

Ewa continues to be one of the fastest-growing populations on Oahu. I would seek funding to improve infrastructure in the district such as improving Fort Weaver Road, expedite the repairs and facilities improvements to our public schools, and also find ways to alleviate the high cost of living that continues to remain a burden for our working families.

I support increasing funding levels for our public school system, to help give our keiki the best chance at success academically and beyond their public education. I would be open to expanding low-income and drug tax credits for those in need, to help those that are most struggling.

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?

I support diversifying Hawaii’s economy. Too much dependence on one industry can create a fragile economy. The past two years have shown us that all it takes is one crisis to shut down the entire economy.

I support investing into industries that we currently have but lack capacity to encourage significant commercial growth. For example, we can continue to invest in agricultural technology and work with existing farmers and ranchers to help establish a more robust industry.

Another area that can be invested in is health care. Even before the pandemic, we were in dire need of health care professionals. I believe that we can do better at recruiting, training and licensing more local students into these industries.

3. An estimated 60% of Hawaii residents are struggling to get bya 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?

A lot of our Ewa families are struggling. Not only do they have to deal with high prices of housing and food, but also have to travel great lengths to get to jobs that provide decent wages and benefits. I would support a living wage so that our struggling families can survive and continue to remain in Hawaii.

I also believe that increasing the affordable housing inventory is of utmost importance in any long-term planning for the state. I would also support improving our food security by strengthening our local farming and manufacturing industries so that buying imported goods would no longer be the most economically viable option.

Improving the economic positions of local families will require decisive action in the present by our leaders.

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?

As I meet voters going door to door and throughout the community, the conversations barely include questions about party. Rather, most of our district is concerned about the same issues of the cost of milk, the cost of housing, and access to health care.

If elected, I will be an active listener that tries to understand both sides before voting. My door will always be open for discussion and civic engagement.

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

Yes, I support a statewide citizens initiative process. The contribution of the people directly can only serve to strengthen our democracy.

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 term limits. It encourages fresh perspectives and new ideas, and helps new first-time candidates wage campaigns based on issues, rather than funding.

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 support ethics reforms that help improve accountability and good government at the Capitol. I also support limiting donations during the session, and would support expanding Sunshine Law requirements.

This past year especially has shown us how important public visibility and accountability is in our elected 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?

I support keeping all committee and session activities open to the public. I also support a more digital approach to elected office, and would be sure to establish an online presence as well as in the community personally. The Capitol is the people’s building and should remain as such.

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?

Fostering opening communication regardless of political affiliations is important to bringing the community together. As a public servant, part of my task will be to seek as diverse and dissenting opinions as possible, to gauge the sentiment of my constituents. You can only do this by listening to people, hearing them and mutual understanding. I hope that we can all move forward together to work on the solutions of our society’s problems.

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.

One of the biggest challenges we faced across state government was responding to a huge amount of people needing help and services. We could have improved the outcomes by having a more modern technology in place.

We could have also advised the workforce a little quicker and more decisively at the onset of the pandemic, where many were confused as to any potential shutdowns and precautions that needed to be taken. I would also have immediately shifted government employees into a crisis response center to deal with things like unemployment claims and contact tracing.

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