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 Kurt Fevella, Republican candidate for state Senate District 20, which includes Iroquois Point, Ewa Beach and Ewa.

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 20

Kurt Fevella
Party Republican
Age 54
Occupation State senator
Residence Ewa Beach

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

State senator, 2018-present; Ewa Beach Neighborhood Board chair; Ewa Beach Lions Club president; ambassador to Weed & Seed Organization; member, JCHS Alumni Association; Neighborhood Security Watch block captain.

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

Connectivity as it relates to potential housing projects. The Keaunui Drive Extension needs to be built, as it relates to potential Holomua Teacher Housing project. The Pahika Street Extension needs to be built as it relates to the Haseko Ewa Villages Development Project, and the North Road/Fort Weaver Improvements needs to be built as it relates to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands – Ewa Beach Housing Development Project.

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 believe we have taken initial steps to revamp the tourist industry with successfully awarding the rebranding contract to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.

We must utilize the tourist industry to help diversify and expand our Hawaii agriculture industry.  I support the tourist industry’s commitment to buying local produce and using agriculture industry products primarily in Hawaii hotels and restaurants. I support private-public partnerships to help the agriculture industry expand local production for the tourist industry, local schools, and other local business.

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?

Relook at the Tax Code to determine if there are any potential changes that can be made to help the middle class save or provide incentives.

Similar to the Hawaii Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards having discounts for buying local produce, I would like to see a program expanding discounts to Hawaii residents buying local produce.

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 the Senate minority leader, I have worked across the aisle and have been successful to get the funding for badly needed projects for my district. I have used the aloha mutual respect concept to continue the good work for our people.

At the end of the day we are all united by aloha. We must remain steadfast to that type of conduct of treating people with aloha. I believe it must be expanded as a requirement for all visitors coming to our state. I hope to provide some ideas to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.

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

From what I understand, the statewide citizens initiative process allows citizens to propose and vote on constitutional amendments without the need for legislative referral.

I would need more information on this process, because right now my constituents rely on me to help the community vet all constitutional initiatives. I would be concerned that initiatives would not include the community.

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 understand the value in setting term limits. I would like to have a robust discussion on this issue, because the current limits may not be appropriate for all levels of government.

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? 

As legislators, accountability and transparency should be the basic standard for all leaders. I look forward to having robust discussions about individual proposals.

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 opening committee and floor meetings up to social media platforms and I support any measures expanding technology-type capabilities allowing the public to sign up to receive email blasts of committee meeting notices about legislation that is of interest to them.

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?

I turn to the aloha conduct to bridge the divide. There are differing opinions on personal freedoms, and at the end of the day I do not want government dictating our personal lives. But, I am confident the major mandates that were put in place saved Hawaii lives.

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.

We must invest and provide incentives to expand light industrial manufacturing and production of hemp products. This will help to expand the Hawaii agriculture industry and create jobs. Along the same lines, provide incentives/credits for those companies like Ko Hana Rum utilizing the old pineapple lands, which pivoted to produce hand sanitizer. Ko’olau Distillery-Old Pali Road Hawaiian Whiskey also pivoting to produce hand sanitizer. Other locally owned companies pivoted to make face masks and other products.

Hawaii has the talent to be self-sustaining with not just energy, but food production, and all the necessary primary products we may need.

What sets us apart.

Regardless of who or what you voted for, we hope we’ve distinguished ourselves from other news media through our election coverage as well as our commitment to strengthening the civic health of Hawaii.

Now, we’re asking you to consider becoming part of something larger than yourself by joining as a Civil Beat member.

Help kick-start Civil Beat’s summer fundraising campaign with a gift of $5+/month or one-time donation of $60+ and receive a limited edition “Truth Maze” beach towel.