What do you think are the most important issues for your district, and what would you do about them?
What do you think are the most important issues for the Island of Hawaii as a whole, and what would you do about them?
Jobs: Encourage small businesses such as bed and breakfasts, farm stays, and vacation rentals in agricultural/rural districts. Increase the minimum wage. Sustain unions.
District 5 is perhaps the most diverse district in the state, with urban areas, small villages, tourism, farming, grazing, fishing and national parks. To create and maintain quality jobs for my constituents without sacrificing a high quality of life or degrading the environment is my highest priority. For instance, I helped obtain over $60 million for various construction projects in Kona and Ka’u and we raised the minimum wage in Hawaii by almost 40% over the next four years. Working together as a team our Big Island legislators brought over $400 million in CIP to our island this past session.
Healthcare: Support the primary care residency and support the community health centers. Help with the transition to the Affordable Care Act – I am on the Health Committee and will have an important voice there. Do something about the hospitals – a new hospital needed in Kona – is public-private partnership the right solution? It isn’t clear to me that it is.
Agriculture: Increase local food production in a responsible way. Make more land and water available to the small/homestead farmer. Avoid herbicide dependent GMOs.
The family farm is the heart of the Big Island agricultural system. That heart has been neglected. I support the emerging role of the Farmers Union United as a strong voice for the small farms and family farms of Hawaii. The Farmers Union supports the small farmer in competing for land and water with the GMO seed companies who contribute very little to the food needs of Hawaii, while causing potentially great harm. The Union supports the diversified use of the family farm in agritourism, farm-stays, and the farmer’s markets emerging all over Hawaii.
Housing: Minimize barriers to housing on rural/agricultural land. Simplify building codes for residential construction and adapt those codes to a semi-tropical environment.
Energy: Support renewable energy as much as possible. Figure out how to do geothermal in a safe and acceptable way. Expand geothermal carefully if at all. Figure out how to modify the structure of Helco/the grid to accept more solar power and wind power and develop storage means such as pumped-hydro and hydrogen production. This might mean giving tax credits etc. for batteries as well as for grid-tied solar. We need to lower our energy use and costs.
Education: we need to improve our public schools and more funding for facilities should be provided, particularly when as now we can borrow at relatively low interest rates.
I strongly support public charter schools as they provide an alternative that may be better suited to some students and a way to explore new methods and curricula. I was a strong supporter for the Ka’u Learning Academy, the only charter school to be approved this year. One of the target populations for this school is the struggling Marshallese student population in Hawaiian Ocean View Estates.
We need to decrease the cost of higher education and not put our students in such huge debt.
We need a four year campus at Palamanui ASAP.
Elderly: In part because of my age I have a very strong interest in senior citizens. I am a member of the Kupuna Caucus in the Legislature. I will work hard to preserve and expand the safety net for seniors. This past session my resolution to promote free tuition for senior citizens auditing classes at all UH campuses was passed.
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?
a) Keep the pressure up on Helco. Possibly stand up a separate power system for Hawaii Island. Provide appropriate tax incentives.
2. Do you believe that Big Island farmland should be used to produce biofuels for the military?
a) I have not seen a way that that could be done responsibly without severely impacting our food production potential or disrupting the environment, so I do NOT feel that Big Island farmland should be used to produce biofuels for the military.
3. Do you believe biofuel production for civilian electricity and transportation should be expanded on the Big Island?
a) No. I think that ways to produce hydrogen for fuel cell powered cars and electric cars should be promoted. This is not a short term solution however. The increased use of wind and solar is essential and both of these could be used to produce hydrogen. Pumped-hydro could solve a lot of the energy and agricultural water problems but would take a large investment and would be a long-term not short term solution.
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?
a) I would like to think that geothermal could be expanded safely. I would not support “fracking” to do so. The state could help by making land available that had geothermal potential far from residential areas. Fairly compensating the indigenous Hawaiian people would be an important piece of that puzzle.
5. Do you believe the state should invest in an undersea power cable to transport Big Island-generated energy to O`ahu?
A No. That would require a massive expansion of geothermal. If one wanted to use wind power then Lanai is more appropriate for that.
6. What can be done to make the state, as a whole, use less energy?
a. Reduce the power costs for pumping water by using off-peak wind power and pumped-hydro. Push LEDS. Require and support solar hot water. Strongly support home-based solar including supporting home battery backup until the grid can be modified. Modernize the grid i.e. “smart-grid”. Increase power storage. Push for hydrogen for fuel cells for cars and energy storage back-up.
7. Do you accept campaign contributions from HECO, HELCO, petroleum companies or other companies with a commercial interest in energy?
a. I have not to date, and would not approach those companies. I will strongly support public funding of elections to help avoid that being done for anyone.
1. What can the state do to encourage more local food production for local markets?
a. Provide more land and water. Provide tax incentives e.g remove excise tax for small farmers and farmers’ markets. Encourage the schools to source local food.
2. Do you support the labeling of genetically modified foods?
a. Yes. Labelling is done in Europe and many other nations. It would of course be perhaps beneficial to have a national labeling system, but I think Hawaii should lead, not follow on this issue.
3. Do you support increased regulation, at the state level, of genetically modified seed production?
a) Yes. In particular with regard to herbicide-dependent seed production.
4. Do you support increased regulation, at the state level, of pesticides?
a) Yes. Atrazine is only one of the herbicides used that has potentially disastrous consequences.
5. Do support regulation of pesticides and/or gm crops at the county level?
a) Yes. There is little willingness at the federal or state level to deal with a problem that is well dealt with in Europe. Monitoring of herbicides has to be done at the county level if there is no willingness of the state or federal government to do it. The same is true of GM crops, especially herbicide-dependent seed production.
Housing, employment and homelessness
1. How can the state encourage the building of affordable housing?
a. Simplify planning and permitting. Simplify building codes. I will not address Oahu, but on the Big Island I think expansion of housing on rural/agricultural land would be extremely helpful. Much of our agricultural land is too steep or too rocky for optimal food production and the footprint of housing could be kept quite small.
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?
a) While there should be continuation of efforts to provide lower-cost work-force housing near the hotels, better transportation could be provided e.g comfortable busses powered by hydrogen crossing the Saddle Road from Hilo allowing a productive and comfortable commute, much like the trains from Long Island and Connecticut to New York. Tourism that focused more on agro-tourism, bed and breakfasts, farm stays, and camp-grounds would stand up small businesses all over the island. Increasing the bus service and making that hydrogen powered could help with a disseminated housing/employment situation.
3. How can the state get more homeless people into housing without taking their things or putting them in prison?
a) There will probably be an irreducible homeless problem in Hawaii because of the attractive climate which allows people to live homeless. Many of the homeless will not comply with even the minimum requirements of shelters. As a large percentage of the homeless are also mentally ill, having day/treatment programs coupled with feeding and optional shelter could help. I think that having housing in rural areas e.g. group homes with farming/gardening/animal activities could be useful for some of the homeless perhaps a “foster homes for the homeless” approach. Save places to store their possessions would help as well. Prison should be the absolute last resort and expanding while drastically improving the Hawaii State Hospital might help rehabilitate some of the homeless. Providing flights home is also a very partial solution. Being part of a family is one of the most powerful aids and some of the homeless would want to go home to the mainland if they were welcome there and had a way to go.
Crime and prison reform
1. What’s the best way to relieve the overcrowding of Hawaii’s prison system?
a) The most powerful and fairest immediate solution would be to release anyone convicted of a non-violent marijuana related offense with appropriate follow-up but with no risk of reincarceration for a marijuana related offense (except selling or possessing more than a substantial amount). Many of the current prisoners are mentally ill individuals who with appropriate treatment and support would be able to stay out of prison if released. Public safety concerns have to be honored and a history of violent crime would make prisoners even if mentally ill likely ineligible for such programs with possible rare exceptions. As I become more familiar with the prison system other possible solutions might present themselves.
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?
a) I would prefer a local privately funded prison in Hawaii rather than the current system of exporting our prisoners to the mainland. I think that a very carefully selected company with great emphasis on rehabilitation and ideally a rural location with a farm and animal based rehabilitation program with allowance for frequent family interactions would be acceptable. Unfortunately, there appear to be considerable difficulties with the current staffing of the public state prisons, with frequent sick-calls of correctional officers and massive sick-calls during the Super Bowl with has caused major disruptions in family visitations that are critical for rehabilitation. I empathize with the tremendous pressures that correctional officers work under but the current system does not provide an optimal rehabilitative environment for prisoners.
I do not support the industrialization of imprisonment as has occurred on the mainland. I think that there are many areas of the Big Island that would be suitable for such a prison. An expansion of Kulani if the water problems there are resolved would be a possibility. I will be visiting Kulani July 1 and will be looking at that facility as a possible local site for expansion of a minimum security facility.
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?
a) The Hawaiian people are an indigenous people who should be treated as such and if such a system could be constructed for non-violent offenders who pose little safety risk to the public I could support that. The devil is always in the details.
4. Do you favor the legalization of marijuana? Why or why not?
a) The marijuana question is multi-factorial.
1. There is no doubt in my mind that medical marijuana should be expanded, dispensaries set up, and amounts permissible increased. I have spoken with the Dean of the College of Pharmacy and a senior professor and they want to become involved in that solution.
2. Decriminalization of marijuana should go hand in hand with the expansion of medical marijuana. There is no justification for considering marijuana as a Schedule I drug and that needs to be overturned. I am hoping that Obama will do that after the midterm elections. Our state should recognize that the demonization of marijuana has caused major societal disruptions that need to be reversed and atoned for. Once decriminalization has been achieved mass pardons for possession or sale of small amounts with no violence or gang related activities would help relieve our prison systems.
3. Legalization is the last step and while on balance I do favor legalization that last step has to be taken deliberately. I do not think legalization should be viewed as a cash bonanza. I think that marijuana as used by most people is not a “recreational drug” but rather a self-medication intervention. The relatively new field of positive psychology recognizes that much of our past efforts in regard to psychology and psychiatry has been to as Seligman has said “to make miserable people less miserable”. While that is a commendable goal, the vast majority of people could stand to have their “happiness” set-point elevated. I believe that marijuana is a substance that can at least temporarily raise individuals’ happiness and contentment with minimal risk. It encourages socialization, trust (if the paranoia instilled by criminalization was removed), and non-violence. I do agree that some studies, however flawed, that suggest negative impacts on the brains of adolescents should mandate careful controls, much as we control alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs such as opiates and stimulants.
In the short time I have been in the legislature I have read widely about this subject (marijuana) and started a resource lending library for my fellow legislators. I have been invited to a legislative training course in Colorado, where marijuana has been legalized and plan to extend my stay there to talk with their legislators and to look closely at their system there for guidance in setting up our own system.
1. Do you support the current house leadership, or would you favor a change?
a) I do support the current house leadership. Speaker Souki and his team have been very effective and fair.
2. Do you accept campaign contributions from outside your district?
3. Do you support publicly funded elections?
a) Absolutely. I saw how beneficial the public financing system was for the Hawaii County Council races and think that system should be expanded. The current system allows well financed groups to have inordinate access and in some instances marked influence over the legislative process.
4. If elected, on which committees would you most want to serve?
a) In this past session I served on the Health Bracket in the morning which included the Committees on Health, Human Services, and Housing.
b) In the afternoon I served on the Judiciary and the Consumer Protection and Commerce (CPC) committees.
If elected I would want to continue to serve on the Health Committee where my experience as a physician is invaluable.
I would also want to serve on the Agriculture Committee. While there may be some minor scheduling conflicts between the Health and Agriculture committees, one legislator served on both in the past session. One reason for my being on the Agriculture Committee is that I would be one of only a handful of legislators who have any agriculture experience. I have had a wealth of agricultural experiences:
As a teenager I picked apples and strawberries and worked three summers in the shade tobacco fields of the Connecticut River Valley.
I experienced and participated in subsistence agriculture as a Peace Corps Volunteer on the remote atoll of Namdik in the Marshall Islands.
I was an avid horticulturist and gardener in California for 10 years on ½ acre of orchards (100 fruit trees) and vegetable gardens.
I was the Planning Director and Medical Director for a biotech firm (AGRI) that was developing animal vaccines for agriculture and veterinary medicine and learned about many diseases and vaccines for farm animals.
My wife and I have lived in Ka’u on a 100 acre farm for over twenty years. That farm has allowed us to grow food for ourselves, our neighbors and the community. It has functioned in many ways an experimental agricultural enterprise. Over the years I have been a member of organizations focusing on Avocados, Macadamia Nuts, and Tropical Fruit, and Bamboo. As President of Naalehu Main Street I and others initiated the Naalehu Farmers’ Market. In addition to avocados and macadamia nuts we grow over twenty types of citrus and over 70 species and varieties of bamboo. We also grow bananas, papayas, dragon fruit, breadfruit, and many other fruits and vegetables.
We also grow and process Arabica coffee and are familiar with the coffee berry borer, although fortunately our farm has so far been unaffected.
I took a number of agricultural and horticultural courses at UH Hilo and took 21 credits in the Plant Tissue Culture Certificate Course receiving a Certificate in 2005. I also studied soil science, fruits and nuts, entomology, sheep and goats and plant biotechnology.
In addition to our plants we raise or have raised Irish Dexter and other cattle, Nigerian Dwarf goats, sheep, pigs, chickens and Muscovy ducks.
I have enjoyed serving on the Judiciary and Consumer Protection and Commerce Committees and would like to remain on those committees for the next session.