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 Janie Gueso, Republican candidate for state House District 40, which includes Lower Village, Iroquois Point and Ewa Beach. Her opponent is Democrat Rosebella Martinez.

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

Candidate for State House District 40

Janie Gueso
Party Republican
Age 46
Occupation Substitute schoolteacher
Residence Ewa Beach

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

Member, Ewa Beach Lions Club.

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

There are many big issues facing our District 40 community. One issue that is clearly visible to our community is homelessness. We have seen a steady increase in the homeless population in our community, especially over the past few years.

This issue is concerning to our community, of course in a humanitarian sense, but as well as the concern for the toll it is taking on our public facilities including our parks, playgrounds and public restrooms.

Many of the new members of the homeless community are newcomers to this area and newcomers to the island. I will continue to work with our local homeless outreach programs and seek to implement programs to provide triage services. This would better help us to know what the best ways would be to provide services for remedying their homeless situation.

I am interested in looking into working with agencies that have successfully helped to reunify members of the homeless community with family on the mainland and elsewhere.

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?

We should explore ways in which we can utilize the tourism industry itself to help provide for diversification of the state economy. I think the initiative to work with the hotel industry to commit to using locally grown produce is an effective way to promote the local agriculture industry.

Tourist impact fees are an effective way to allow for tourists to participate in the state’s efforts to upkeep our most visited natural attractions; and this also gives tourists a personal stake in the perpetuation of these places.

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?

I have seen this happen firsthand with my son and his young family. They initially qualified to rent a home in one of the state-subsidized low-income housing projects in Kapolei. Determined to better provide for his family, my son worked diligently to gain skills and certifications such as attaining his CDL license to qualify for promotions at his job. With each promotion and pay raise, there was an increase in his rent.

At his most recent housing recertification interview, he was told by property management that because of the increase in his income, he no longer qualifies to live at this property. He was given only two months’ time to find someplace else to live. This type of state-subsidized housing incentivizes families to stay within the low-income level and punishes the middle class. I am interested in investigating opportunities for state-subsidized affordable home-buying programs for middle class families.

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?

I am willing to work with all my colleagues both Republican and Democrat, in the House and in the Senate to create a positive environment where we can all feel safe to openly share our knowledge and ideas. My office will have an open-door policy, which will be welcoming to all my legislative colleagues. Communication is key and I will be open to discussions on all matters with careful consideration of the viewpoints of others. I will always be willing to explain the thought process behind my decision-making.

We are seeing the consequences of one-party control with the recent arrests of multiple state officials. It is apparent that the majority is finding it difficult to address its colleagues when it comes to noticing behaviors of concern. The lack of self-regulation fosters an environment of accepted unethical behaviors. Either colleagues just do not want to be associated at all, or by the time they realize they should have called out a colleague on a behavior they felt would lead to negative consequences, their colleague is already engulfed by the repercussions of his or her actions.

I would address this by demonstrating exemplary ethical and transparent behavior for myself; and by holding all my colleagues both in the majority and in the minority accountable for their actions.

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

This is something that we would need to look at more in-depth. I am interested to learn more about the states that have enacted this process, why they came to the decision to do so and what benefits or impacts it has had on its communities.

As a society, we would want to be sure to practice due diligence and conduct proper research before implementing any process relating to constitutional amendments. It is the responsibility of the elected officials throughout the districts to bring to the attention of community members all information relating to constitutional amendment initiatives; and of course, community input must always be considered in these types of initiatives.

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?

Term limits are appropriate for some positions within the government system. I would be interested in being a part of a deeper discussion on this topic and receiving public input regarding what positions should be evaluated and what the term limits should be.

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 understand that, as a state legislator, it would be in my best interest to remain transparent in all my works as an elected official. I would be willing to provide the reasoning in my decision-making processes regarding all matters concerning the public.

I am open to discuss all ideas that will allow for better transparency in the state government system. I look forward to collaborating with all legislators who are concerned with upholding honor in the roles of elected officials and restoring public 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?

As for myself, I would be willing to explain my reasoning in all my decision-making processes. I would be committed to being accountable, accessible and approachable, not only to the constituents of my district, but to the public in general.

Conference committee meetings could be made accessible to the public using an internet platform such as Zoom, with a time reserved for public input. I am interested in learning more about the Legislature’s internal rules regarding public access to all practices within the state Capitol.

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 look forward to working with both my Republican and Democratic colleagues in the House and the Senate to bring our ideas together to create the solutions needed to provide relief for all the state’s communal social issues.

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.

Still dealing with supply chain issues, I think one of the most important lessons learned from the pandemic is that we need to ensure our self-sustainability.

Hawaii’s weather and climate provides for optimal conditions for year-round agricultural harvests. Providing for access to land and subsidizing small local business with incentives in agricultural activity come to my mind.

Also, we can investigate ways in which we can find diversification within the dominant economic industries such as tourism and film.

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