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 Joelle Seashell, Republican candidate for state House District 21, which includes Wilhelmina Rise, Maunalani Heights, Kaimuki and St. Louis Heights. The other Republican candidate is Julia Allen.
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?
There are several very serious issues facing our district. As I walk and talk to people the most consistent shared concern among my constituents seems to be crime. I would stand against bills like HB1567, recently vetoed, which would allow the suspects in smash-and-grab burglaries and many other Class C felonies, misdemeanors, and petty misdemeanors to be released without having to post bail.
I would introduce bills to have the opposite consequences, higher bail requirements, and would be especially tough on violent crime. That the suspects in the Thomas Square shooting were released almost immediately and one had to post bail for only $500 is serious cause for concern in our community.
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 used to be the agricultural powerhouse of the United States of America. Today we pay some of the highest prices in the nation for food and spend $3 billion annually to import 90% percent of the food we used to produce in the 70s. I want to see the irony of going to the store to buy a pineapple that was grown outside of the country to motivate everyone to get involved.
Unfortunately, I think the suffocation of inflation will help ignite people into action for change in ways that we have not seen before. In 2019, $100 million of our taxpayer money went to advertising for tourism. We need to make better decisions about how our money is spent. We need to reinvest into our agricultural potential which can help to offset inflation, keep us safe and self-sufficient in times of scarcity and provide more jobs for the local population.
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?
Everyone knows that small businesses and the middle class are the economic backbone of our country and our state. After the tragedy of so many of our beloved small businesses not surviving what the government has inflicted on them for the last three years we need to implement big changes immediately. The bill to raise the minimum wage that Ige signed is yet another nail in the coffin of our economy and our small businesses.
If legislators truly cared about the well-being of their residents, they would implement tax reductions and create economic incentives for people who start small businesses. Hawaii is one of the worst states to start a small business and it does not need to be this way.We are the second-highest-taxed state and our money is terribly mismanaged.
It is time for us to look at putting temporary freezes on taxes, a freeze on taxing gas for three months would be an excellent example.
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 consequences of this one-party state are now almost unbearable for the local lower- and middle-class residents to handle. Last year alone we saw 13,000 locals flee the island for a better life. Cost of living and the search for better jobs were the two top reasons cited for people leaving.
If you are struggling to get by, it can be exhausting to contemplate politics and what the Legislature is doing after a long day’s work. Government needs to provide a better system by which the people they represent can follow bills and give testimony. There needs to be more time given to the people to review proposed bills and submit testimony. There is a significant lack of transparency and disconnect between what the people want done and what the lawmakers decide to do.
5. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Yes, I support such a process.
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?
Yes, there should be term limits. This will help to weed out the corruption that is polluting the system.
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?
Firstly, and most important, we need to establish election integrity with these 10 steps:
— Clean out the voter roles.
— Ban electronic voting equipment.
— Voter ID and paper ballots only.
— Ban mail-in voting.
— Ban early voting.
— Create smaller precincts.
— Ban ballot harvesting.
— Make election day a holiday.
— Increase transparency.
— Heavy prison sentences for those who commit fraud.
Secondly, we need to establish and put into law that our governor does not have the authority to continue extending his emergency powers indefinitely as he did over the last three years. His actions were, in my opinion, unconstitutional. Our government was created with a separation of powers so that one man could not assume a dictatorship over the population. After the first 60-day emergency proclamation the decision of what action to take next should lie with the people via their representatives.
Of course, there should be a requirement for the Sunshine law, and I would love to see open record laws to apply to the legislation as well as banning campaign contributions during session and much more.
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?
Yes, conference committees should be open to the public. Taxpayers have the right to know exactly what the intentions of the Legislature are prior to them effectuating anything. The people have the right to be heard and their voice has weight when they speak, it is time to resurrect the people’s representation within the government.
Lobbyists should have very strict and complete disclosures in the public square made transparent for all 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?
We need to get back to the basics, which is that the government should not be overstepping its role. The purpose of the government of America is to protect our individual liberties. The smaller the government, the better off the people are.
In large part much of the division the people are feeling has been created and fanned by the government and corporate media. I believe that when people are free to live their lives as they see fit, without government intervention and control, without astronomical taxes and heavy regulations; then we have the best ability to find balance as a society and coexist in peace.
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.
If I could reinvent Hawaii, I would first have to point out that our governor has some of the most wide-reaching authority in comparison to other states in the union. All the power must go back to the people and be decentralized.
One example would be that we need to see an elected board by county. Additionally, we need to reestablish an elected, constitutional sheriff.
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