Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 General 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 Rachele Lamosao, Democratic candidate for state House District 36, which includes Waipahu. Her opponent is Republican Veamoniti Lautaha.
1. What is the biggest issue facing your district, and what would you do about it?
While the issue of affordability in Hawaii is multifaceted, I believe affordable housing and tax relief for working families are the most impactful ways to ease the burden on our Waipahu families. Many residents of our district live in multi-generational households and share the sentiment with other working families across the islands about the cost of living and whether their children and grandchildren will be able to afford to live and raise their families here too.
If elected, I would be committed to working with the counties and private sectors to find appropriate spaces within our neighborhoods to provide affordable housing for our local families while maintaining the character of our district. Moreover, I would look for additional ways to provide tax relief to our working families to provide them with more money for basic necessities such as food, clothing and child care.
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?
Our district has many who work in tourism and rely on it as a financial means to provide for our families. However, those who choose to visit our islands need to pay their fair share in using our natural resources. I am open to additional fees on tourists for the use of our resources and using that revenue for the maintenance of our state parks, forests and beaches.
One way to help diversify our economy is to tap into our agricultural industry. Hawaii-grown products are unique and well-desired all across the world. We need to capitalize on that demand by working alongside local farmers to expand exports of their products worldwide to bring in additional revenue to our state.
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?
As previously stated, we need to prioritize increasing the supply of affordable housing and working to provide additional tax relief for working families to have additional income for basic necessities.
As a young single mother, I empathize with many families who have to wake up every day and try to balance work and family life with the high cost of living. It is not an easy balance. One way the Legislature can make that balance easier is to pass paid family leave. Paid family leave will allow many parents like me not to be in the unfortunate position of choosing to spend time with their children or go to work to make ends meet.
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 people of my district will decide whether to elect me as their representative, and I am accountable to them and them alone. If elected, I am committed to a community-based approach as a legislator. This means any vote I take, any decision I make, and any platform I sign onto will be in consultation with my community.
As a legislator, I will have an open-door policy and will freely respond and be in dialogue with my constituents about any concerns they may have.
5. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I support the intent of the statewide citizens initiative process because it allows an opportunity for citizens to be more civically engaged. However, such a process must ensure that special interest groups do not take advantage of it for their political gain.
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?
Democracy allows us to decide who represents us in the Legislature every two to four years. If an incumbent does not satisfy the needs of their constituency, they have the power to change their elected official on the ballot.
Building institutional knowledge of how government works and the relationships you develop with various stakeholders is crucial in delivering for your community, which requires time. I am committed to being that legislator that builds institutional knowledge and the relationships needed to be impactful for Waipahu.
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 in 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 sessions?
Like many residents, I am disappointed with the recent corruption scandals that have plagued our Legislature and created more mistrust within our government. I am open to considering open records law that allows the public to know how each legislator voted on a bill and the reason behind their vote. Easy access to a legislator’s voting record and why they voted this way will allow the public to feel more engaged in the process.
If elected, I am also committed to speaking with my constituents and answering any questions they may have about my voting record and why I decided to vote a certain way. I believe having an open and honest dialogue with your constituents is the most effective way to gain and retain the public’s trust.
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 am pleased that at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Legislature transitioned to hybrid hearings where the public has the option to attend and testify at hearings in person or on Zoom. Such a process has allowed for greater accessibility, especially for our neighbor island residents to engage in the political process. I am committed to maintaining and expanding that program.
I pledge not to accept political contributions during the legislative session. I believe that practice will increase public confidence that legislators are not making decisions based on who donates to their campaign.
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?
In my community, I believe the issue wasn’t the division between the support or opposition to the mandates but rather how the government communicated it and the practicality for them to abide by them.
With the first lockdown orders, cultural and language barriers impacted how my community could follow it. For some in my district, English is not their first language, and they live in large, multi-generational households, making it difficult to socially distance and isolate themselves if they catch the virus. Moreover, many in my community were essential workers and did not have the privilege to work remotely, putting themselves and their families at greater risk of exposure.
Before the government takes action on enforcements or orders, we need to work alongside organizations rooted in these communities to ensure our policies are practical to execute and communicated in a way that is easy to understand.
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.
This pandemic has revealed to us that we need a more resilient food system that can feed our islands if there are shocks or disruptions in shipping operations.
As someone who worked in the agriculture industry, I believe that creating a more resilient food system requires technology investments that increase greenhouses. Greenhouses will ensure that we keep all the operations of providing food here at home. In the long run, I believe such a system will save us more money, create jobs for local families, and move us into a more diversified economy that we have all sought for decades.
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