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 Jessica Caiazzo, Republican candidate for state House District 20, which includes Kahala, Kaalawai, Waialae, Kaimuki and Kapahulu. The other Republican candidate is Consuelo Anderson.
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?
Our first priority is election integrity. Americans must have trust that their vote will count and that the person in office is the person who won the most votes. I would try to institute Steve Keshel’s 10 steps to true election integrity:
— Clean out the voter rolls.
— Ban all electronic elections equipment.
— Voter ID with paper ballots only.
— Ban mail-in voting (military, overseas, disabled excepted).
— Ban early voting (this should happen after Election Day is recognized as a holiday).
— Drastically smaller districts.
— Ban ballot harvesting.
— Election Day is a holiday.
— New reporting requirements for transparency.
— Prison for those who commit fraud.
Exceptions for military, out of the country and permanently disabled only.
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?
Hawaii must become food-independent. Our reliance on outside food supply lines puts Hawaii in a precarious position. If there was a problem with the shipping lanes we would be in big trouble. We should ask why we are losing our ranches and farms. Why is local produce more expensive than produce shipped in from around the world? We should encourage agriculture and encourage farming and ranching throughout Hawaii.
I will fight to reduce bureaucratic impediments to small businesses. Reduce the paperwork required for residents and small business owners when they wish to build something. The government should encourage businesses and people to flourish, not meddle in every little thing they do.
We have a unique opportunity in Hawaii. We are near the Great Garbage Patch. We can create a concentrated, joint government/private effort to clean it up, creating a multitude of jobs and recycling opportunities.
We should also encourage the high-end engineering and clean-room manufacturing out here. Companies would appreciate the security of being on an island, which makes specialized manufacturing less vulnerable to corporate espionage.
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?
First off, real estate is becoming less and less affordable for Hawaii residents. I would start by reducing foreign and corporate investment into houses and individual condo units (as opposed to a corporation building/buying a condominium and then selling/renting like a proper business).
I would also attempt to reduce CCP commercial investment in Hawaii, thus opening up opportunities for residents and American companies.
This question ties into question No. 2 very nicely. If we can bring higher-paying jobs and industry to the islands then we can solve a lot of the middle class crisis we are facing.
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?
This one-party dominance gives de facto authority to one party and creates situations where Hawaii’s best interests may not be taken into account by the Legislature (the interisland ferry being a prime example of this). It also hampers robust public debate about legislation that is being considered.
We need to encourage civic engagement and education to show voters that there are alternatives. Not only Democrat and Republican, but independent parties. This would lead to a flourishing of ideas, debate and would drive legislators to actually solve problems if they want to keep their jobs.
An important part of this process will be codifying a citizens initiative process.
5. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Yes. It is an important tool for citizens to enact nonpartisan reforms and hold to account the de facto one-party system we are under at the moment.
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 don’t know if term limits are an answer. They sound good on the campaign trail. You can hear it and immediately grasp it. The truth of the matter is, every job needs veterans who know the system and can get things done. So, what you need to do is create an environment where civic-minded, honest people want to run.
There should be a focus on reducing third-party and extracurricular financial incentives. Conflict of interest paperwork should be submitted with every bill the Legislature passes. Stocks, book royalties and other sneaky ways of earning money through legislation/legalized kickbacks should be open to examination or available to the public via FOIA.
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?
Yes, there should be robust and expanded Sunshine laws in Hawaii. There should be open records. I think if we have open records, robust Sunshine and conflict of interest paperwork for every law that passes you won’t necessarily need to ban campaign contributions during session. In fact, with these back stops in place, not banning contributions during the session might make it easier to track potential corruption, or financial chicanery in the Legislature.
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?
There needs to be an open door policy. The legislators have staffs. The public should have access to their representatives and shouldn’t be stonewalled for the simple crime of wanting to ask questions of the person the public elected.
There should be regular district town hall meetings with real question-and-answer periods with the public. Committees should hold town halls when there are important matters being discussed by that committee.
Yes, there should be stricter disclosure requirements on lobbying and lobbyists. As much vilification as lobbyists get they do serve a purpose in our process. That doesn’t mean that they should be allowed to ply legislators without disclosing what they are doing and who they represent (no hiding behind super-PACs and such).
As far as being more open, every vote should be recorded, no voice votes, no absentee votes (unless the person is sick, or has an emergency). If a legislator wishes to vote for something it must be in person and recorded for the public to see.
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 would remind everyone that we are Americans. We are a civic-minded country that values public debate, disagreement and government transparency. We have inalienable rights that the government can’t take from us. We also have duties and responsibilities. It is up to us to make sure that our elected officials are honest, and working in our best interests. It is up to us to ensure that all sides of an issue are heard. That the government doesn’t use your hatred and division against your ideological opponents for the crime of disagreeing with the government. Because one day the shoe may be on the other foot and your opponent may be even more implacable than you were.
Just because you honestly disagree with someone on how to solve a problem, it doesn’t make them an enemy. If you call someone a name it may feel good, that dopamine rush is addictive, but it means that you may have lost a potential ally when something comes along that you would both agree on (e.g., prosecuting a corrupt official).
Certain gaps will never be bridged, but the tolerance of those competing ideas is enough. We should seek tolerance, vigorous debate, understanding, and, ideally, truth.
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 would create a subcommittee that would coexist with the Board of Education. We would make sure that there is complete transparency with the public about the curriculum and programs being instituted.
I would eliminate SEL (social emotional learning) and the common core standards in favor of a classic, merit-based education: math, English, civics, practical skills (remember shop class?), classic philosophical texts, a second language, etc.
SEL, especially, victimizes students, creates division among classmates, and takes the merit out of scholastic achievement.
To reiterate, we need open and transparent programs and curriculum that parents can easily check. We need to emphasize equality of opportunity within schools and between schools, and oppose equity within those same institutions. Equality of outcome (which is what equity advocates mean when they call for equity) victimizes students by holding them to no standards, and equality of outcome (equity) eliminates the incentives for the students who do excel, strive to excel, or wish to improve themselves through hard work.
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