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 Ana Mo Des, Republican candidate for state Senate District 8, which includes Kauai, Niihau, Lehua and Kaula. Her opponents are Democrat Ron Kouchi and Kapana Thronas-Kaho’onei of the Aloha Aina Party.
1. What is the biggest issue facing your district, and what would you do about it?
The biggest issue facing our island (Kauai) is the increasing number of off-island buyers/investors able to pay the rising cost of real estate, thus displacing local families previously here for generations. The lack of opportunities locally to earn the income that allows for these real estate purchases are driving families off-island in order to pursue higher-grossing employment and lower cost of living.
The culture and family lifestyle of Kauai shows that having our children need to leave the island in order to make something of themselves is heartbreaking since if they were to stay it is nearly impossible to make it with minimal employment opportunities.
I would ensure that elected and appointed officials are steadfast in the desire to hold developers accountable that are not following regulations, especially in the visitor destination areas, and focus attention on developers that are creating attainable housing solutions for the local population combined with efforts to decrease limitations set on small businesses so that local people may thrive and fulfill their purpose and desire in the pursuit of happiness through a business of their own if they want another choice besides government work or the hospitality industry.
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?
The economy most certainly needs to be diversified but tourism, the largest profit-generating machine, most certainly should not be solely at the ownership of the state. It has been revealed time and time again that there are major discrepancies when the government controls the high-profit industries and the situation with tourism in Hawaii is a clear example of this. The TAT being kept in totality now for the state is unjust especially now that the counties have increased TAT on visitors to create their own in order to supplement their budgets showing the pure dependency on tourists.
After Covid-19 lockdown we see how detrimental it is to rely solely on a business that requires others to be prosperous in order to be able to travel and spend money. We need to shift efforts so that our local people are provided better access to opportunities to enhance our own prosperity and increase self dependance, shifting from depending on the government. There is so much more production possible by individuals when the government steps out of the way.
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 appreciate this question and since it’s such a huge problem it is one I have already discussed above. I will add that the lockdown did not create the economic disparity, it only exacerbated it to the point that it could no longer be ignored.
Now that light is being shed on the subject we have no choice but to step forward with the solutions and completely change the situation starting with changing out those that have made the decisions that have led us to this point.
I am so grateful that so many Republicans are running for office with the desire to keep corruption out, keep government small and enhance access to opportunities for locals to prosper.
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 fact that candidates are being asked this question (thank you Civil Beat) proves that we are fed up with the one-party domination since the inception of statehood.
It is time to say thank you to the Democrats for bringing in the unions during a time of plantation-era abuses, but since absolute power corrupts absolutely, in order to ensure the sentiment of the original intention of bringing dignity to those working hard to survive, it is time to elect Republicans so we may show how our way of operating governance can overhaul the economic disparity due to the stronghold of one-party dictates that have limited the expansion of the individual to rise from wherever they’re at and elevate themselves to provide for their families and live healthy and prosperous lives.
Exchanging ideas, having transparency and accountability is standard in the role of being elected to serve. We are in the service industry and it is not a one-man show, we must listen to the alternate way of doing things with an open mind in order to bring forward the solutions for every individual no matter the party.
5. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I’m not comfortable with this process as it seems it is the job of the Legislature to be doing this work, investigating the strengths and weaknesses of ballot measures and reaching out to the public they represent to gauge how to best vote for what will ultimately affect their constituents. Seems like a very large salary to take home when others are doing your job for you.
That being said, those in elected office must be in transparent communication with their constituents, constantly sharing what bills are on the floor being voted on and how they are impactful and why they are voting for or against any measure. This I feel has major room for improvement.
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?
There should most definitely be term limits for all the aforementioned reasons and most especially because absolute power corrupts absolutely, even if it’s not the intention. Another reason is to keep ideas fresh with passionate individuals feeling inspired to step forward and serve the community we so love.
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?
Corruption runs at all levels sadly and I’m grateful to the Republicans running with an end to corruption platform. Having Sunshine Law and open records is the very least we can do as elected officials, the fact that it is even a question shows how deeply we need to change out those seated in positions of power.
We have to once again remember that we are elected to serve those we represent and at the bare minimum they should be aware of what is happening at every level. What has been uncovered is the tip of the iceberg and we need representation willing to make right all that has gone wrong. I don’t believe anyone involved in politics for a decade or more would be willing to change anything and is most probably part of the problem. The rule of law should be respected and upheld with ethics as our backbone.
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?
The Legislature needs to realize that we are a representative democracy, a republic, it is the job of those elected to represent what is best for their community which may very well include stepping back and allowing the natural unfolding of events, businesses, etc., without their total control. Having easier access for the community to step forward with what concerns them is prominent and these concerns should always be a priority when making decisions.
When individuals take time to deliver testimony it should be held with more weight since it usually means they needed to take time off of work vs. those that are paid to testify like lobbyists. Stricter disclosure reports should definitely be a requirement when it comes to those influencing the way elected officials vote.
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?
This is by far the toughest question, there isn’t a reality where everyone will just agree and come together. I fall back to the motto of the Libertarian that states, “my freedom ends where yours begins,” and it’s a good mark to show government overreach and its effects.
Government mandating anything regarding an individual’s right to choose our health care practices is an overreach and causes division. We should remember to respect everyone’s choice when it comes to themselves as individuals.
The only thing I can do is hear all sides of an argument and show the respect that is inherent for every individual to experience. We mostly want to feel heard and understood and have our boundaries respected and honored. No one should be forced into anything, this is our right. The Constitution of the United States doesn’t grant us these rights but instead recognizes our indivisible God-given birthrights, there is no question when it comes to this and it should always be upheld.
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.
I’ll repeat what I have shared since 2017 because as I’ve previously stated the pandemic did not create the economic disparity, it has existed for quite some time. I believe in capitalism as it is the only proven working road to true liberty and independence. By rule, one is not allowed to profit off exploitation, that would be totalitarianism.
The economic disparity caused by exploitation resulting in drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, crime, homelessness, survival trafficking and eventual suicide can be stabilized by implementing a solution that is in effect in Alaska. The permanent fund created from oil profits gets distributed to each resident as dividends paid (money owed) as it is a natural resource.
We must consider the profits from the land, air, sea, spring, river, etc., as the same. It does not belong to the state, but to everyone. Instead of the business profiting off such sending their income tax to the state they should stay on the island where they are generated and be dispersed as dividends paid to all residents. This will stabilize the increase in the cost of living and begin to balance out the disparity.
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