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 Anthony Makana Paris, Democratic candidate for state House District 42, which includes Varona Village, Ewa, Kapolei and Fernandez Village. The other Democratic candidates are Lori Goeas and Sharon Har.

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 42

Anthony Makana Paris
Party Democratic
Age 42
Occupation Research analyst
Residence Kapolei, Oahu

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

Chair, Makakilo/Kapolei/Honokai Hale Neighborhood Board No. 34; president, of PKHCC-Scholarship Fund; treasurer, Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs; board member, Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center; board member, ‘Elepaio Social Services; board member, Alohacare; immediate past president, Prince Kūhiō Hawaiian Civic Club.

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

Hawaii is at a crisis point in our history with high cost of living, lack of affordable housing, grueling traffic, rising crime, a shortage of good jobs and low wages, food insecurity, aging and insufficient infrastructure, increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters, rising sea levels, and a public educational system desperately in need of improvement. The foundation for solutions to all of these problems is adequate, affordable housing for Hawaii’s families.

Hawaii’s average home price is over $1 million and our kamaaina families are being pushed out. I will work toward a Hawaii where those born and raised or who have grown roots here can live and thrive for this generation and the next.

Our state and counties must work together to ensure zoning regulations help support development for residential housing. We need streamlined regulation, subsidized affordable housing development through leveraging state land, including fully funding DHHL as a critical part of our statewide affordable housing solution, and housing our people in public affordable rental housing. We need to contemplate innovative revenue generation opportunities, including potential green taxes, to create more funding. We need to find creative ways to provide direct assistance to Hawaii’s struggling families.

2. Many people have talked about diversifying the local economy for many years now, and yet Hawai‘i is still heavily reliant on tourism. What, if anything, should be done differently about tourism and the economy?

If we invest in our aina and our people first, everything else will follow. I support the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s movement to huliau or transform toward a kamaaina-driven visitor model, focused on bringing the right visitors that are respectful and mindful of their impact on the local community.

We need policies that shift us closer toward sustainable tourism. Hawaii needs to encourage tourism which is place-based and culturally sensitive, that provides distinct experiences that are only found in Hawaii like farm, ranch, brewery and vineyard-to-table restaurants and arts and crafts that are produced and manufactured in Hawaii, as well as an emphasis on providing high quality public facilities for recreation of visitors and locals alike.

Economically, we need to improve Hawaii through investing in history’s greatest economic drivers – home construction, agriculture, education, and firm and renewable energy. I support creativity and innovation. Our communities have ancestral wisdom and are skilled with formal education, street smarts, and ingenuity. I can see innovative policies that address food security by supporting vertical farming to maximize growing crops in vertically stacked layers on our scarce land base as a part of that solution, as well as potentially exporting specialty crops using the empty freight hulls of our airplanes.

3. An estimated 60% of Hawai‘i 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?

The Legislature should look at establishing a true living wage and paid family leave; truly universal health care; tax reform to balance the burden for those most at risk, and proactively improving our public resource management to make the state more efficient.

The state has a strong foundation of programs and laws supporting families, but in the current economic environment in Hawaii, the Hawaii Temporary Disability Insurance Law, Hawaii Family Leave Law, Hawaii Prepaid Healthcare Act, and Hawaii Kupuna Caregivers Act are not enough. We must find new policy solutions that work well for our island home.

We need increased revenue, and that means increasing taxes and developing more efficient systems by which we deploy taxpayer dollars. I support tax reform where local families’ taxes are decreased and taxes are increased on the wealthy and tourists to ensure that they pay their fair share.

Further, efficient public resource management starts with a more modern, transparent procurement process that is integrated across the various state jurisdictions (like the Department of Education and the University System) as well as the counties.

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?

While Hawaii’s Legislature is certainly lopsided on its face, the legislative paralysis on major legislation over the last decade has clearly shown that there is healthy disagreement and factionalism within each chamber of the Legislature and between the Legislature, the courts and the governor. These disagreements provide a lot of opportunity for different voices to be heard and diverse solutions to be proposed.

That said, the consequence of single-party control is that those voices all still approach Hawaii’s problems from a relatively similar playbook of potential policy solutions. This narrows the range of potential ideas and solutions considered by the legislature for any specific problem.

One solution to this issue is for the Legislature to engage in further solicitation of public and expert ideas to expand the horizons of what is possible in Hawaii, especially during the early parts of the legislative session before legislation is introduced. It will be interesting to see if this year’s legislative redistricting will change the balance between the two parties.

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

Since the U.S. Supreme Court has defined money as free speech, I do not believe that a citizens initiative process in today’s day and age would be truly democratic because of unfettered corporate and out-of-state funding. We have seen this play out in California, where millions of dollars are dished out in initiative campaigns. Unless we can guarantee the equitable distribution of initiative information to our fellow citizens, the wealthy and powerful will always have an advantage in getting their message across and will interfere with local democracy.

If we move forward with a citizens initiative process, I would support the creation of a Citizens Initiative Review Commission. We can model after best practices from other states, including Oregon, where the commission is made up of a random sampling of fellow citizens, similar to a jury, and listens to panels of experts on the pros and cons of the initiative, working in a nonpartisan manner to help voters understand the initiative by crafting an informational brief in plain language for voters.

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?

I can understand why people are calling for term limits given government corruption; lack of legislative transparency; and the mounting problems our island home faces. To address these concerns, I would support anti-corruption measures including banning donations during legislative sessions, championing initiatives to foster a more educated and engaged citizenry, expanding public financing for candidates, and limiting carryover funds between elections.

I believe that legislators should work full-time instead of part-time to reduce conflicts of interest and focus on the job of governing while being more available to their constituents. Everyone across the state should have a living wage – including lawmakers. One job should be enough to live in Hawaii. Constituents should be able to expect their legislators to focus on the public good and not be beholden to any special interest group because of their need to survive the high cost of living and campaigning in Hawaii. This would allow regular working people the opportunity to serve as a legislator without expecting them to have to make undue personal and financial sacrifices to be a public servant. An informed electorate will be able to “term limit” any legislator at the polls every election.

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?

We should strive to have a system where there is no link between how a legislator votes and financial campaign donations to that legislator, where each legislator is free to make decisions for the common good. I fully support efforts to stem corruption and the appearance of corruption in the state Legislature. I support prohibiting legislators from accepting campaign contributions while in session.

This could be done by adopting rules that restrict legislators from soliciting or accepting campaign contributions during the legislative session, fully funding the Hawaii Ethics Commission so that it can investigate all disclosures of financial conflicts of interest, adopting rules that no bill shall be deferred indefinitely without a recorded vote by the members of a committee, and requiring that if a majority of legislators sign on to a bill, then that bill should get at least one hearing. State legislators should be focused on doing the people’s work, not on fundraising.

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 legislative procedures that allow the public to hold legislators accountable and to increase legislative transparency. I would expand the Supreme Court’s ban on “gut and replace,” limit the use of conference committee hearings, and increase the length of the legislative session.

I also support stricter disclosure requirements on lobbying. Especially with the relatively low amount of money spent on political races in Hawaii compared to other states, it is important to know exactly where the money for any particular candidate is coming from. Many times only a few donations can constitute a significant part of a candidate’s war chest and these donations provide clear impetus for legislators to feel beholden to their supporting interests.

The more clearly those interests are disclosed, the more voters can hold their candidates accountable for the money they receive and the votes they make.

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?

We need to find common ground and practice civility and aloha as we determine the best path toward the common good. We should strive for win-win solutions where we find a workable compromise.

As the islands become increasingly unaffordable and middle class kamaaina families and younger Hawaii citizens move away, the inequality gap in the state grows. In our system, “haves” will always have a louder voice than the “have-nots” – just look at the way current homeowners advocate against accessible, affordable low- and middle-class housing across the state. Our increasing average population age creates a similar phenomenon, exacerbating our “brain drain” and “culture drain” and discouraging innovative solutions to our problems.

By focusing on our commonalities, envisioning what a flourishing Hawaii might look like, and remembering that we are all paddling in the same canoe, will we be able to leave Hawaii better for the next generation.

The affordable housing, family leave, tax, public administration, tourism and economic revitalization proposals I discussed above are all specific attempts to address and reverse these major demographic shifts. Only by bringing our families home will the islands heal these growing divides.

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 pandemic has shown us how vulnerable our island home is. We are at a crossroads filled with challenges and I believe our communities are ready to face them and turn them into opportunities.

Let’s address our food security and disaster preparedness; expand our shoreline parks and protect our watersheds; repair and reposition our highways, bridges, roads, and utilities; finish Honolulu Rail to Ala Moana and expand it out to UH Manoa and to West Kapolei; establish truly universal health care; create a Tax Reform task force to design a fairer tax code where local families’ burdens are lessened and the wealthy and tourist pay their fair share; ensure our keiki get the best public education possible; diversify our economy including shifting our visitor industry toward regenerative tourism in which our visitors, kamaaina, and aina mutually benefit; and fund OHA and DHHL because it’s the state’s kuleana and also a part of any statewide solution for affordable housing.

Only One Big Idea? Let’s prioritize housing our local families through developing public rentals and rent-to-own and fee-units with residency and resale stipulations that keep them from turning into more investment properties. Let’s build a better Hawaii through caring for our people. Mahalo.

We’re here to help Hawaii vote.

Our staff has spent months preparing for this election season. Now it’s your turn to vote on the leaders who will impact our community for years to come.

If you’ve relied on our daily analysis and reporting, Candidate Q&As, free events and online resources, please consider making a donation to your local nonprofit newsroom.

Every contribution, however big or small, powers our journalism.