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 Lorene Godrey, Republican candidate for state Senate District 15, which includes Sand Island, Ford Island, Keehi Lagoon, Kalihi Kai, Salt Lake, Aliamanu, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Pearl City and Waipahu.

Go to Civil Beat’s Election Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.

Candidate for State Senate District 15

Lorene Godfrey
Party Republican
Age 72
Occupation Administrative assistant
Residence Honolulu

Community organizations/prior offices held

Former member, Neighborhood Board 18 (Aliamanu/Salt Lake/Foster Village).

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

There are a lot of small crimes going on in our district. In areas like Foster Village and where I live there are burglaries and theft cases. I speak from personal experience as an intruder broke into my home and stole some things. This is an active investigation.

I would try to get a better understanding of what the police can do and I would send regular information out to the community regarding personal safety and security precautions. I could schedule some public events along these lines in addition to what the police representatives already do at the Neighborhood Board meetings.

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 appreciate that we have a robust tourism industry. Thank goodness that visitors continue to spend their time here. I would like to see an increase in tourist education about the Hawaiian culture. Understanding that these islands were an independent kingdom with the respect of other nations not so long ago, and some believe this still, I would want there to be some kind of interaction with visitors that gives them a sense of our history and respect for this land and its people.

It’s not enough for them to come here and take full advantage of our weather and the generous and humble nature of our people. I would like them to learn to respect Hawaii and its people with appreciation.

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?

First, I would like to see educational opportunities for people so that they can improve their lives with a good-paying job. I would like to see more short-term technical schools and the like where certifications are easy to apply for and receive. Perhaps there could be funding available just like the SNAP programs offer help with groceries and such.

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 are more than aware that there is a belief across the state that one party is superior to the other for whatever reasons. Some of that is just plain old historical loyalty without question. Some would also say that it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the weaker party has no possible chance of taking positions in the government by the choice of the voters or by lack of communication of purpose between both parties.

The answer to bringing the parties together to hash out their opinions so that both sides are heard has to do with having respect and trust that we all want what’s best for the citizens. We must come together with ha’aha’a, humility.

Too often people use their words boldly to intimidate and cause frustration.

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

Yes, I certainly do support a statewide citizens initiative process. I support any opportunity for the citizens to be heard in an orderly and respectful manner that serves the common good. I believe in this apparatus as a gift. I would agree to such a process here in Hawaii.

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 strongly agree that there should be term limits for state legislators and appointed positions such as the Board of Regents and other positions of power. Even beyond that, I would like to see the members of the Board of Regents elected, just like the members of OHA have to be elected.

I appreciate that the experience gained from participating for many years is invaluable. There seems to be some who begin to act like their power is real, even if their constituents have not called them in check for their positions.

This is a personal opinion that may apply to a small amount of legislators. Nevertheless, after so many terms, maybe three or four terms, a half-generation perhaps, they should complete their mission with pride and grace and let others come to serve.

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 am in favor of honesty and integrity. If we have come to the point of not trusting each other, then yes, it is time to put systems in place to guarantee open books, open conversations and open records. There should be no objection to doing things pono.

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?

Having never been a legislator before, I would first need to learn how it operates and what protocols and laws already exist that provide disclosure of activities. I understand that public records are available through the Campaign Spending Commission and tax reporting, and that is helpful. It might be necessary to give authority somewhere to have oversight of the details on a regular basis. Whether it’s lobbyists, donors, closed meetings, it is difficult to keep track of the volume of work that our legislators do.

One aspect that I recently heard of with the voting system in the Legislature is that members are allowed to vote on bills with reservations, rather than a decisive “yes” or “no” vote. I would want to eliminate that ability as it disguises the actual position of the legislator.

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?

The simplest thing that I can come up with to bridge the gap with people on opposite sides of a position is to create more social activities where people can be themselves and not be under the burden of their official capacity. If I were a legislator, I would make it the job of my office staff to routinely interact with others in a positive and helpful manner.

Again, we do not need to be enemies or rivals first, before we can sit down and talk about our families and hopes for our future. The nitty-gritty of lawmaking can be tedious and unfriendly. But we need to bring understanding, patience and compassion to the table at every moment.

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.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak of Hawaii’s best qualities, and they are in every person who lives here. As we remember growing up in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, it was a better time when neighbors got to talking about the weather and how their plants were growing. We would share food and good feelings because we all struggled with the same challenges of our time. We did our best to be polite and courteous to one another. We showed the children how to be understanding with people who were different than us. And children always respected their elders.

Fifty years later, everything is different in the world, but we still have a desire to see the same things are true, that our children are healthy and happy, our schools are a place of learning, the professional helpers in our lives (bankers, doctors, financial planners and so many others) are still looking out for us, and faith is still strong.

My one big idea is to bring prayer back into the schools. Bring faith and hope into the lives of every person and let the challenges of our lives be met with courage and brotherhood.

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