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 Cherie Oquendo, Republican candidate for state House District 45, which includes Waianae and Makaha. The other Republican candidates are Maysana Aldeguer and Tiana Wilbur.
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?
Crime is one of the biggest issues we face in Waianae. Currently, our police force has a maximum of five to six police officers per shift for a population of over 30,000 people. We need a larger presence of police officers in our community to help deter crime and provide security. We need to secure funding.
There is as of yet available, large sums of federal money provided to Hawaii for Covid-19 relief and assistance. In January 2022, Gov. Ige reported the following in response to federal monies allocated for Covid-19 and here is a portion of it:
— Visitor industry: $60 million, Hawaii Tourism Authority; $11 million, convention center, $41 million, Safe Travels Hawaii.
—Education: $28 million, University of Hawaii system; $1.3 million, financial need scholarships (HI Promise Program).
— Infrastructure: $1.5 million, broadband infrastructure planning; $2.7 million, modernize financial system.
The governor also said additional funds were expected.
To build a bigger and stronger police presence, we need a portion of the monies to be allocated for the Waianae district to protect our community, our ohana and friends. I will defend and fight for our rights for security and protection. We will no longer be ignored.
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 travel industry is our number one source of income. Tourists spend over $2 billion annually in Hawaii. While we are concerned of the negative impact to our land, education could play a key role to minimize and/or prevent it from happening.
Education should start on their flight with a video welcoming them into our islands and sharing our culture, one of which is to pick up your opala, do not take things from our beaches or parks, respect the land and the people. The informative video should continue to play as tourists wait for their bags, and an education brochure should be permanently placed in hotel rooms.
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?
Taxes and regulations are destroying the middle class working families. Our paychecks are taxed by federal and state governments. We are taxed again during the filing of our annual taxes if the government deems its citizens haven’t paid enough. We are taxed at the grocery store, retail stores, at the gas pumps, purchasing of new vehicles, purchasing a house, dining out and utilities, to name a few.
Hawaii has so many regulations that prevent housing development and cause difficulty in opening a small business and keeping existing businesses open. Small business is the backbone of our communities and it is here where a portion of the middle class are found and are heavily impacted. If we expect to keep our families in these islands, we need to reform and deregulate the laws that are negatively impacting our citizens.
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?
Unfortunately, there has been a one-party rule for nearly 40 years. The only way to have an open dialogue, transparency and accountability of decisions is by increasing the number of Republicans in the Legislature. This will promote nonpartisan ideas and set in motion bills that contribute to positive impact in our communities.
Voters need be made aware that every vote counts and not buy in to the old adage of, “I’m only one person and my vote doesn’t count.” We have the consequence of a one-party rule; big government, over-spending, high taxes, self-imposed regulations and with the rising inflation, our Hawaii citizens are moving mainly to red states.
5. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I am in favor of a statewide citizens initiative process. This would give each Hawaii citizen a stronger voice with the ability to propose and vote on constitutional amendments without referral of their legislators.
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 absolutely advocate for term limits. Corruption runs rampant when career politicians remain in office.
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?
When transparency is allowed, accountability always follows suit. Requiring the Sunshine Law enables Hawaii citizens the opportunity to observe and participate in the proceedings of discussion and decisions.
I support the banning of campaign contributions during session. I believe it is unnecessary and may be used to influence the decisions of lawmakers that will not benefit their constituents.
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?
Transparency should be the rule in government. The public should be allowed to review records of discussion and decisions, before, during and after each session.
Hawaii citizens are to be served first and foremost, and conference committees should be made open to the public.
Full disclosure should be required of lobbyists so the public is well-informed of their intent.
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?
Politics has become a game of division. It’s managed to pit the poor against the rich, Democrat against Republican, conservative against liberal, and the list goes on. We need to go back to the basics of human decency and stop the great division. Take responsibility for our own actions and remember that we are culturally connected.
The aloha spirit needs to be in action at all times and the influence of it needs to be perpetuated starting with government officials and flowing down through the public.
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.
In order for Hawaii to have a viable and sustainable future, we need to deregulate laws that make no sense such as the zoning laws that prevent the development of affordable housing, and promote local businesses by removing regulations that hinder good and honest progress.
We need to pass laws that are sensible and promote trust and security for Hawaii citizens. It’s sad how common sense is no longer common.
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