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 Darius Kila, Democratic candidate for state House District 44, which includes Honokai Hale, Nanakuli and Maili. The other Democratic candidate is Jonathan Lee.
Go to Civil Beat’s Election Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.
1. What is the biggest issue facing your district, and what would you do about it?
People are worried about their future. The high cost of living and the lack of housing is threatening to upend residents who have made their home on the Leeward side for generations. For far too long, our community has been the literal dumping ground for Oahu — and that must change.
If elected as state representative, I will start by making sure we get our fair share of infrastructure improvements that will expand the opportunity for better jobs, more housing and a higher quality of life. Expanding Farrington Highway is a good start. I will also work closely with the right developers to create mixed-use projects to build homes and rentals for Leeward residents.
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?
While tourism will likely remain a cornerstone of our economy for the near future, we need to do a better job of giving Native Hawaiians a voice in shaping the next iteration of tourism. It is Hawaii’s people and culture that make Hawaii a truly unique destination and we need to preserve that high-quality experience for visitors.
I support efforts to right-size the number of tourists to the state and to limit negative impacts on our natural resources. I would also like to see more access to vocational training and higher education so that we have a strong workforce to help us diversify our economy.
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?
It starts by lifting people up and giving them hope. For the district I seek to represent, increasing the competitiveness of Leeward residents to be hired for good-paying jobs is critical.
I want to be able to offer every Hawaii high school graduate the ability to attend a local vocational or community college — regardless of a person’s ability to pay. We should expand the Hawaii Promise Scholarship program that provides free tuition and “last dollar” support for UH community college students with financial need.
Education and skills training is the quickest way to earn better wages and move up the socio-economic scale.
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 believe in transparency in government decision-making. One way I intend to provide that transparency is through regular, open dialogue with my constituents. It is my responsibility as their representative to be their voice in the state Legislature.
My party affiliation does not dictate what I believe is right and the people I serve will always be my most important guide.
5. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
There are pros and cons to an initiative process, but it needs more deliberation. There are nightmare examples — like California — where the ballot initiative process oftentimes grinds government to a halt and serves as a boondoggle for political consultants.
If such a system is to work in Hawaii, we need clear guardrails to ensure special interest groups with the deep pockets do not hijack the agenda for their own purposes.
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 believe that voters deserve the right to choose their elected officials and term limits can impose restrictions on voter choice. Like any other job, it takes time for a legislator to gain the full knowledge and experience necessary to be an effective policymaker. It also takes time to see decisions through and obtain the desired results.
Research has shown that term limits can lead to short-term thinking, because eventually it will be “someone else’s problem.” Ultimately, I trust the voters to make the best decision on who is the right representative for them.
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?
My responsibility, first and foremost, is to my constituents. That means being accessible, listening and maintaining ongoing communication with the residents of House District 44. Accountability starts with talking to voters every day, real grassroots efforts.
To better address corruption in government, I believe we must empower our oversight agencies like the Campaign Spending and Ethics commissions with the full complement of tools and resources they need to properly do their job. That means adequate funding and tougher penalties — both of which I would support.
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?
Making the Legislature more accessible and transparent means offering the public the most convenient means to engage with their government. I support continued and expanded remote testifying and live streaming of hearings. I also support stricter disclosure requirements for lobbyists — including a requirement for listing every bill they intend to advocate for or against.
I look forward to the recommendations of the House Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct and how we can improve trust in government.
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 believe in the principal of Kapu Aloha – acting always with aloha — and the recognition that everyone is entitled to their own perspective. Respect and empathy are two traits that can help repair the breech often found in our political discourse — and that is how I will approach political disputes.
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 want to ensure that every Hawaii high school graduate has the opportunity to attend higher education or vocational training, regardless of ability to pay. We need to think beyond K-12 public education and start looking at K-20.
One of the biggest challenges during the pandemic and to today is the difficulty in finding employees. By keeping the doors to higher education open to our local students, we can grow our own and ensure we have the workforce we need to be competitive in a global economy.