State Representative District 5 Questionnaire: Randy Ruiz

What do you think are the most important issues for your district, and what would you do about them?
Many residents of Representative District 5 earn a living directly or indirectly from Tourism and Hospitality. Our residents commute long distances to the resorts in Kona and Kohala. We need rest stations with modern, clean sanitary facilities to serve our residents and visitors alike.
Once past Manuka State Wayside there is not another public restroom for 30 miles (at Kealakekua Ranch Center in Captain Cook, if it is OPEN) and 16 miles to Waiohinu Park, which although a blessing for local residents, is not really up to standards for our tourists.
Medical services are sparse, with Kona Community Hospital servicing both North and South Kona and Ka’u. Our CMHC (Community Mental Health Center) remains unstaffed by a psychiatrist. My constituents worry that if a new hospital is developed for North Kona that vital services at the Kealakekua location may be lost. It is important to preserve these services so that our residents are not forced to drive to Hilo, or fly to Oahu.

What do you think are the most important issues for the Island of Hawaii as a whole, and what would you do about them?
Quality educations for our children, along with viable career opportunities, are of paramount importance. As a DOE high school teacher I have seen firsthand what is referred to as a “brain drain”. Our keiki, after graduating from university are not inclined to return to our district but opt rather to live in more inviting and exciting locations that offer opportunities not found here. In the next few years many of our local doctors will have retired. We are already desperately short of these professionals.
Even though our state senator and our state representative are M.D.s, I do not believe that they have done enough to procure doctors for our district.

If not covered above, what are your views on:

1. What can the state do to make the island’s power grid more compatible with solar energy?
Solar is very important as a source of alternative renewable energy and a source of employment. The state should require HELCO to work with residents so that everyone is treated fairly. Owners of solar panels that provide HELCO with energy should be paid a fair rate for the electricity they provide to the grid and not be taken advantage of by the “monopoly”. It seems as if our “monopoly” electric company is reluctant facilitate solar and work with its customers. They already charge some of the highest KW rates in the nation.

2. Do you believe that Big Island farmland should be used to produce biofuels for the military?
NO. When I moved here in 1987 I wrote letters to the Editor of West Hawaii Today opposing the proposed rocket launching facility (supported by Mufi Hanneman, Bob Herkes, and Malama Solomon) as incompatible with our local lifestyles and our tourist industry. I feel the same way about biofuels.
Our farmland should be put into the production of food for the residents of the State of Hawaii. We already import massive quantities of food and fuel, but perishable items like fruits and vegetables would be fresher and healthier than those that spend many days being shipped for all over the world. “Freshness” is not a factor that affects fuels at all.

3. Do you believe biofuel production for civilian electricity and transportation should be expanded on the Big Island?
I do not support the $400 million Biofuel plant proposed by Dr. Chiogiogi’s consortium. It is incompatible with our local lifestyles, tourism and ecotourism, and would be located in the middle of Volcanoes National Park, the #1 visitor destination in the state. However, I do believe that we should recycle the massive amounts of cooking oil used commercially by restaurants and hotels and blend it into biodiesel for use in transportation.

4. Do you believe geothermal production should be expanded on the Big Island? If it is expanded, what can the state to do make geothermal production safer?
Expansion of geothermal would lessen our dependence on imported oil, diesel, which HELCO currently burns to generate electricity. Geothermal does not produce the pollution now being emitted by HELCO’s diesel generators.
Although some groups are opposed to geothermal it is a viable and renewable source of energy that lessens our dependence on imported petroleum products. Buffer safety zones need to be maintained so that no neighbors are not in close proximity. The state needs to have regulations in place mandating safe practices, and then follow this up with meaningful inspections by qualified professionals. (I once worked for James Pflueger, whose dam broke on Kauai. I feel that the state was negligent in inspecting that dam. If they had done their jobs correctly lives would not have been lost.)

5. Do you believe the state should invest in an undersea power cable to transport Big Island-generated energy to O`ahu?
NO. It does not seem practical or cost effective. Until we stop all burning of fossil fuels on the Big Island we will need as much alternative energy as possible here on the Big Island.
O’ahu’s H-Power plant (garbage to energy) produces 8% of O’ahu’s electricity. Instead of sending them electricity, we should consider shipping them our garbage to fuel their H-Power plant and thus reduce what we have to now haul to our landfills.

6. What can be done to make the state, as a whole, use less energy?
The state should ban or tax heavily inefficient technologies that waste energy. I have heard that halogen lamps are very wasteful, to the point where they have actually cancelled out any gains made from the use of efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs.
7. Do you accept campaign contributions from HECO, HELCO, petroleum companies or other companies with a commercial interest in energy?
No. I would consider accepting contributions from alternative renewable energy producers. In District 5 we have a wind farm near South Point. I believe solar electricity farms could provide us with additional electricity for our homes and businesses.
1. What can the state do to encourage more local food production for local markets?
Small businesses are the engine that propels our economy. My next-door neighbor has an organic aquaponic farm that runs efficiently while conserving water. Establishing tax credits for farmers who invest in the necessary infrastructure would help to develop this type of operation. We should discourage “mono-crop” production and encourage diversity. My family in Waimea raises heirloom tomatoes and peppers which they sell at local farmers’ markets.

2. Do you support the labeling of genetically modified foods?
Yes. And I vote with my wallet by purchasing foods that are labeled “Non-GMO”. But many foods certainly contain GMO’s without our knowledge. For instance, we all love Best Foods Mayonnaise, but I am fairly certain that the soybean and other oils used in its production are GMO. Without labelling, who knows?

3. Do you support increased regulation, at the state level, of genetically modified seed production?
Yes. Monsanto and other huge corporations can afford to pay any price for farmland thus pricing our local farmers out of the market. In addition, on the mainland and in Canada these corporations have been very heavy-handed when their GMO pollen has “infected” neighboring farmland and they have vast resources to sue small farmers and effectively drive them out of business.

4. Do you support increased regulation, at the state level, of pesticides?
Yes. Pesticide, insecticide and herbicide application has increased dramatically in past decades, along with overall cancer rates. These new classes of chemicals are now water-soluble and much more concentrated than previous products. Honeybee populations have been decimated by the use of neonicotinoids which are concentrated in the pollens that they collect and consume.

5. Do support regulation of pesticides and/or gm crops at the county level?

Housing, employment and homelessness
1. How can the state encourage the building of affordable housing?
The state was in the “subdivision” business and that was deemed illegal (the state turned over their development in Kona to the DHHL). The state should encourage the development of small, comfortable, energy efficient homes. This is an issue that is quite important. I myself would like to purchase an affordable house with county water! There certainly is no shortage of million dollar homes but there is definitely a shortage of homes for the average working resident.
I believe that the county is the driving force and that they should develop some formula that would create attractive affordable housing for our ohana and not just developments for billionaires…
2. Historically, planning for housing and jobs on this island has not been conducted with energy sustainability in mind, as evidenced by the long commute between more affordable housing in East Hawaii and jobs at the resort nodes in West Hawaii. What can the state do to put people and jobs closer together?
I worked at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel in 1987 and I was one of the first employees to live at La’ilani, a large apartment complex that the developer of the hotel agreed to build as a condition when they developed the resort. Although it was still 30 miles from the resort, this affordable housing was in a desirable area, close to stores and recreational activities in Kailua-Kona. More agreements like that one would help employees live closer to their jobs.

3. How can the state get more homeless people into housing without taking their things or putting them in prison?
It is true that the homeless in Hawaii are treated quite badly and rather than receiving help they are often the subjects of laws and regulations that seek to make them “disappear”. I believe this to be more of an issue at the county level, and mainly on Oahu. The state could do more to find these people housing and do more to address the mental illness and drug addiction that many suffer from. I mentioned previously that Mental Health Services in District 5 are nearly non-existent due to a lack of doctors.
Crime and prison reform…

1. What’s the best way to relieve the overcrowding of Hawaii’s prison system?
Non-violent offenders who committed victimless crimes should, whether through parole or probation, be released to their `ohana if possible, or to some other community based program. Rehabilitation and re-entry into society should take priority over our current strategy of merely punishing offenders and then turning them loose on our streets.

2. Do you favor the building of a privately-owned prison in Hawaii? Would you support the building of such a prison on the Big Island?
This has been proposed before and my constituents in District 5 have opposed any such facility. They do not want prisoners from the other islands incarcerated here.

3. Do you favor the establishment of a Pu`uhonua with a program based on ho`oponopono within the state correctional system? If so, should that program be limited only to kanaka maoli or open to all prisoners?
This seems to be an excellent way to rehabilitate prisoners and prepare them to be productive members of society. More prisoners would be served if it were open to all offenders since Kanaka Maoli account for only a fraction of those incarcerated.

4. Do you favor the legalization of marijuana? Why or why not?
I do favor the legalization of marijuana and recognize it as a potential for state revenue akin to beer and wine.
I believe that countless lives have been ruined due to the criminalization of marijuana. Precious resources have been squandered prosecuting and imprisoning our citizens for what is a victimless crime, not to mention the costs associated with helicopter-based eradication efforts. Prior to 1933 marijuana was legal, and the push to criminalize marijuana was actually a form of racism directed at Mexicans residing in Arizona.

1. Do you support the current house leadership, or would you favor a change?
I am running as a non-partisan. Although I do favor change, given the Democratic “super-majority”, I am not optimistic that any meaningful change is forthcoming.

2. Do you accept campaign contributions from outside your district?
I have not yet accepted a contribution from outside of my district.
I will accept contributions from Residents of Hawaii outside of my district, especially from my ohana here on the Big Island. I asked my cousins in Waimea, who raise heirloom tomatoes, to support me. I am from an old kama’aina family. My grandfather had 9 brothers and sisters, and my grandmother had 9 brothers and sisters. So, I have hundreds of cousins from my 18 great aunts and uncles who I hope will contribute to my campaign.

3. Do you support publicly funded elections?
Yes. If I can raise $1500 from residents of Hawaii the state will contribute $2712 to my campaign. This will help me to purchase signs and other campaign materials. In order to receive those funds I have agreed to campaign spending limits, which for District 5 is just over $18,000.00.

4. If elected, on which committees would you most want to serve?
The committees of most importance to District 5, in my opinion, are:
Tourism Committee
Agriculture Committee
Ocean, Marine Resources, Hawaiian Affairs Committee
Water & Land Committee.
I would be honored to serve on any one of them


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