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 Sheila Walker, Republican candidate for state Senate District 6, which includes Waikapu, Makena, Wailea, Kihei, Maalaea, Olowalu, Wainee, Lahaina, Puunoa, Lahainaluna, Kaanapali, Kahana and Honokohau. The other Republican candidate is Philip Raya.

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 6

Sheila Walker
Party Republican
Age 58
Occupation Retired, former business owner
Residence Kihei, Maui

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

Kihei Community Association; Maui Meadows Neighborhood Association; Lahaina Town Action Committee; Calvary Chapel South Kihei; NextDoor, moderator; Mandate Free Maui, events coordinator; Global Covid Summit, Maui, executive assistant to Dr. Kim Milhoan.

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

Since I will represent the West Side and the South Side, these communities each have their own set of issues. One factor facing the entire district is the lack of affordable housing.

This issue needs to be addressed immediately, tax cuts are needed along with an expedited permitting process for building, and a rent moratorium preventing landlords from raising rents more than 1% per year or ending leases for unfair reasons.

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? 

Tourism isn’t a problem as long as we manage it responsibly and take into account the needs of both local residents, larger resorts and tourist-driven businesses.

A lack of diversity, however, leaves us vulnerable to economic conditions, as evidenced during the recent pandemic. Therefore, we need to rely more on our natural resource of farmland to grow sustainable crops like hemp and breadfruit. Our economy could thrive on these two commodities alone.

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? 

We must deregulate our system, streamline our permit and licensing process, and give tax breaks to locally owned businesses. Many small businesses saw very little or no Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) money from the government relief package, therefore closing their doors forever.

Supporting small businesses creates jobs, cultivates ohana and strengthens our community. We must buy local and live within our own ecosystem.

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? 

The establishment has overpowered and dominated the Legislature for too long. Now is the time to vote in fresh faces and introduce term limits to help ensure a broader perspective that represents and includes a larger cross section of the population. I would also support legislation that encourages elected officials instead of mostly appointed officials.

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

Absolutely, especially because we are basically a one-party state. A citizens initiative process would allow for more voices to be heard.

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?

Absolutely. This would also encourage more active participation in the legislative process. More everyday citizens need to be involved. “Government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

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? 

Absolutely! The days of lining the pockets of corrupt career politicians are over. We (the people) demand honesty, integrity and transparency from our leadership.

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 more public access via livestream. I would also report immediately after each session, either town hall-style or livestream with access to recorded video via my website. The public needs more access to remain informed and stay engaged.

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 must find common ground, issues that we can all agree will improve our lives. Living aloha is not only a saying, it’s a way of life. That means we care for the aina, we protect our keiki, we honor the kapuna and cultivate our kuleana by being pono.

There are more ways that we are similar than we are different. I would encourage a media campaign that celebrates our common interests and not focus on the differences.

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. 

As the most isolated state in the union, Hawaii (especially Maui) has a unique opportunity to become a laboratory for innovation.  We could create the model of “sustainable tiny towns” and teach other communities to do the same by doing the following:

— Produce our own energy;

— Process our own trash;

— Grow our own food;

— Restructure our education;

— Expand our medical system;

— Filter our waste water; and

— Develop a tiny home model community.

These seven steps will propel Hawaii as an innovative leader in sustainable tiny town living and pave the way into an economically secure future. We should be known as the “Off Grid — Tiny Town” state providing a working model for other states to copy. In this way, we could be a destination training center, thus creating an alternative stream of revenue.

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