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 Maile Shimabukuro, Democratic candidate for state Senate District 22, which includes Honokai Hale, Nanakuli, Maili, Waianae and Makaha. Her opponent is Republican Samantha DeCorte.
State senator, 2011-present; state representative, 2003-2010; Women of Waianae member; Landshark Invitational Surf Meet planner and participant; HI Food Bank supporter; Women's Legislative Caucus and Native Hawaiian Caucus member.
1. What is the biggest issue facing your district, and what would you do about it?
Traffic. Fortunately, this session I worked with my colleagues Rep. Cedric Gates, Rep. Stacelynn Eli, and others, to obtain $31 million to extend the fifth lane on Farrington Highway, work on a parallel route, improve sidewalks and implement other traffic calming and safety measures.
Earlier this year at the suggestion of constituent Ryan Tolentino of Tolentino Honey, I worked with the Department of Transportation to alter the afternoon contraflow in Nanakuli so that the eastbound merge could be eliminated. This change vastly improved traffic flow for the many teachers, medical staff, social workers, parents, and others heading eastbound out of the Waianae Coast in the afternoons, without significantly delaying traffic for westbound commuters.
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?
As far as diversifying the economy, I am proud to say that I fought for $40 million in special purpose revenue bonds for DIBSHawaii to engage in a carbon capture project via SB2865. DIBSHawaii is owned by Keoni Ford, a Hawaiian from Waianae. Ford and his colleagues plan to build a net-zero carbon capture storage utilization platform that will recover vented carbon dioxide emissions and scrub and liquify the emissions into food grade liquid carbon dioxide. The recovered carbon dioxide may be placed in pressurized storage tanks, creating a virtual terminal for food grade carbon dioxide to be utilized across the state.
This product will be utilized for agriculture, energy, and carbon storage in support of the food security and resilience goals of the state. The intent is for 75% of the repurposed carbon dioxide to be dedicated to agriculture and energy. The other 25% is projected to be dedicated to the DOD to be used as critical process input to create renewable jet fuel and further advanced dry ice cleaning efforts, as well as for carbon dioxide mineralization in concrete for state government projects.
Other intended uses include hemp carbon sequestration, hemp soil remediation, hemp building material, hemp wellness, the farming of hops and other crops.
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 made huge strides toward helping the middle class and working families by finally making the Earned Income Tax Credit refundable and permanent. In addition, we increased the minimum wage to $18 per hour by 2028.
Further, we tackled the housing crisis by allocating $5 million toward affordable homeownership, $10 million to public housing, $15 million to Ohana Zones, $23 million to housing subsidies for TANF recipients, $9.8 million to teacher housing, over $600 million to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and many more low-income and affordable housing initiatives.
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?
Although we are dominated by the Democratic Party, the diversity within the party is vast. We have everything from social conservatives to progressives; churchgoers to atheists; pro-business to socialists; developers to environmentalists; employers to union members, and more, within the Democratic Party.
If you don’t believe me, join the Democratic Party to see for yourself — there’s something for everyone!
5. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
The indirect initiative could be a starting point worth considering. My understanding is that in the indirect process, the initiative proposal is submitted to the Legislature. The Legislature can approve the proposed measure, or a substantially similar one, in which case it is unnecessary for the measure to go on the ballot for voters to consider.
Procedures vary from state to state, but in general if the Legislature has not adopted the proposal, the initiative question goes on the ballot. In some states with the indirect process, the Legislature may submit a competing measure that appears on the ballot along with the original proposal.
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 do not believe so. It takes a long time to form an understanding of the legislative process, build relationships, and advocate for needed change.
It is often difficult and frustrating to start from scratch with new department heads and government officials when a new governor, mayor or City Council member is elected. I believe there is great value in continuity and experience.
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?
This session we passed a measure that bans campaign fundraisers during the legislative session. We also passed HB2416, which requires 501(c)(4) noncandidate committees to disclose the name and address of donors who make a donation individually or in an aggregate of more than $10,000.
Further, we passed HB1475, which requires state legislators and employees to complete mandatory ethics training courses every four years.
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?
My understanding is that conference committees are already open to the public. The Legislature made big strides toward increasing transparency and accessibility by opting to continue allowing the public to participate remotely in legislative hearings, even after the Capitol reopened.
Further, the Legislature continued the practice started during the pandemic to provide live YouTube broadcasts of hearings, and archive the videos on YouTube.
Compared to pre-pandemic, these practices have vastly improved public access and transparency for all citizens.
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?
Keep an open door policy and meet face to face with opponents to try and understand each other. I believe in the hooponopono system of trying to settle differences through compromise, instead of battling it out until there is a winner and a loser.
In the end, we are all basically the same. There is more we have in common with each other than what separates us.
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 in our youth by investing in our teachers, and paying them higher salaries! It is shameful that teachers are struggling to get by, and our public schools are plagued by high turnover, repair and maintenance backlogs and a lack of support.
I am proud to say that this session we made monumental strides toward increasing teacher salaries. We allocated $130 million toward the teacher salary compression fix and modernization. We also continued to fund salary differentials for teachers in hard-to-fill, Hawaiian immersion, and special education, to the tune of $34.5 million.
We should continue to fund these critically needed items to support our teachers, and to foster the future human capital of our state.
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