Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Beth Fukumoto Chang, a Republican candidate for the state House, District 36, which includes Mililani Mauka and Mililani. There is one other candidate, Democrat Marilyn Lee.
Name: Beth Fukumoto Chang
Office seeking: State Representative, District 36
Occupation: State representative, minority leader
Community organizations/prior offices held: House of Representatives minority research director
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 33
Place of residence: Mililani
Campaign website: www.bethfukumoto.com
1. This year has seen an outsized influence from people who want big changes in how government is run. What would you do to change how the Legislature is run?
First, I think politics in general is overly partisan. I have colleagues that are very willing to work across the aisle, but others — sometimes in my own caucus — don’t think people should be working outside of their own parties. I don’t think that serves the people of Hawaii well, and I think placing a greater emphasis on the value of ideas and dialogue would be beneficial. It would be a very big change, but awarding committee chairmanships and vice chairmanships based on merit as well as allowing the minority or dissenting members to produce official minority reports on measures would go a long way toward ensuring that every member of the Legislature has the opportunity to be a productive participant.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizen’s initiative process. Do you support such a process?
3. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
I ran as a Republican because I thought that one-party control wasn’t a good thing for our state. It doesn’t matter which party it is. No one group should have control of over 90 percect of the political power. However, the Republican Party hasn’t provided a viable alternative in most cases. Either the Republican Party needs to look more closely at the needs of the people of Hawaii and figure out how to fill those needs, or anti-establishment groups in both parties need to start looking at how we can make room for more voices in the political process.
4. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
The Legislature should move to a system where we have to file paperwork for conflicts or potential conflicts including on measures where a member’s donors are the proponents.
5. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
6. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I’ve made a significant effort to communicate with constituents at a level that wasn’t done in the past. Besides going door to door about legislative or community issues (right now I’m talking to people about how to reduce mosquitoes in their yards), I have an appointment function on my website where people can set up meetings with me around Mililani at their convenience. Additionally, I do a yearly survey, send a lot of mail and use social media. I think there’s room for more interaction – possibly through digital town halls.
7. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Traffic is the most immediate concern for my community, especially with the number of new projects approved in Central and Leeward Oahu. We’re working on funding to provide a widened on-ramp for Mililani Mauka residents. We’re also working on widening our highways. Most importantly, I think my job is to remain an advocate for Central Oahu at the Legislature whenever issues of infrastructure improvements arise. Most of our state’s most powerful voices aren’t from Central or Leeward Oahu so it’s very important that we be able to explain our area’s issues and come up with reasonable solutions. Focusing growth on the urban core will also help.
8. There is a desire to grow the economy through new development, yet also a need to protect our limited environmental resources. How would you balance these competing interests?
I think focusing growth on the urban core is the clearest way to balance these interests. It’s often easier and cheaper to build on agricultural lands. But, it would be best for our environment and our economy if we invested the funds necessary to responsibly redevelop areas like Kapalama with affordable housing.
9. What should the Legislature do to improve police accountability?
A standards board is a good start.
10. Hawaii is the fastest-aging state. What would you do to ensure we’re taking care of our kupuna?
Continuing to fund kupuna care is key. But, we also need to start educating people about the importance of long-term care as well as provide benefits for caregivers.
11. What would you do to improve Hawaii’s public education system?
Our procurement system needs massive reform. The most recent issue with the bids for cooling our schools is one problem on a long list of problems with the Department of Educaiton and the construction projects it manages. If we could improve our facilities at a reasonable cost, we could give students better places to learn while providing more money directly to classrooms, students and teachers.
I was very proud this year that we were able to secure funding for Mililani Middle School so it can start taking the steps necessary to become a single-track school. Additionally, we’ve seen a couple of our school in Mililani make significant progress in the one-to-one pilot programs, and while I think we’ve learned some important lessons on costs, privacy, etc., we should start moving more of our students into digital programs.