Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 General 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 Frederick Fogel, Libertarian candidate for state Senate District 2, which includes Keaau, Hawaiian Paradise Park, Ainaloa, Kapoho, Pahoa, Pohoiki, Leilani Estates, Opihikao, Kalapana, Volcano, Mountain View and Kurtistown. His opponents are Democrat Joy San Buenaventura and Republican Holly Osborn.
1. What is the biggest issue facing your district, and what would you do about it?
Governmental overreach (excessive regulations, fees and taxes). This applies to the whole state, not just my district.
Excessive governmental regulation of the visitor industry, agriculture, power generation, education (you could probably add a few more close to your heart), and taxes relating to food/medicine, an additive sales tax any time a product changes hands, income tax, and the utmost example of double taxation (inheritance tax) simply serve to take the personal discretion (how you want to spend your money) out of the hands of the average citizen.
I would work to change governmental processes for the betterment of the people.
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 overregulation of tourism drives up prices and decreases proceeds. Mom and pops depend on income generated by short-term rentals, but now they have to jump through hoops, or find themselves out of the business altogether.
Hawaii is in the bottom five states in the nation for small businesses. Excessive taxes and regulations limit the establishment of businesses that will tend to keep our keiki in Hawaii instead of heading for greener fields on the mainland. Time to decrease the government’s meddling “for our own good.”
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?
Hate to beat a dead horse, but if the government got out of people’s faces, the average citizen would have more say about what works best for him/her.
No taxes on food or medicine would help. No income tax on everything earned below the poverty level would go a long way to increasing personal freedom, as would no taxes on tips.
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?
As far as one-party control, change happens at the ballot box. Hawaii’s laws basically make it almost impossible for an independent (nonpartisan) candidate to get on the ballot, and third parties have to jump through hoops. There should be no restrictions on party candidates/independents getting on the ballot. The party candidate and independent with the most votes should make it through the primary to give the voter more choice in the general election.
As far as a lopsided Legislature, looks like we will lose another two Republicans in the House. As far as an open exchange of ideas, not much I can do to open the ears of the listener, but I can keep talking. As far as transparency, the public should know how all the legislators voted. Voice votes and bill cancellations by a committee chair’s refusal to hear it should not happen. As far as accountability, that is pretty much up to the voter and legal system.
5. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I see no problem with citizens recommending changes to the law or constitutional amendments without the approval of the Legislature or governor.
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?
There definitely should be term limits. If they are good for the governor, mayor and county council members, they are good for the Legislature.
However, term limits will not address war chests or name familiarity, nor should they. Campaign war chests and name familiarity come with the political turf. Anyone should be able to donate to whatever cause they see fit. It is relatively easy to circumvent campaign donation limits. However, the public should know the name (not just the organization) of every donor who donates over a certain amount.
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?
I can only ensure my own accountability. My office schedule, to include people met and a synopsis of the purpose of the meetings, will be available online. I do not take donations (or gifts) from anyone.
There are ways around the Sunshine Law and open records laws (emergency proclamations come immediately to mind). Don’t know how much good banning campaign contributions during the session will do, however, as stated before, we should know who contributed and when.
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?
I would have to know more about how the Legislature actually works to answer this question. Bottom line: Rules are one thing, following them is quite another.
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?
Compromise is the solution to differences of opinion.
First a common goal must be established. There are many paths toward that goal. Pick a common sub-goal that will get everyone closer to the main goal. Make changes as appropriate along the way.
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.
Wow, I have a lot of big ideas, probably none of which the Legislature will enact, but you have to plant the seeds. If enough people water them (and the water is not yellow) the trees will bear fruit over time.
As far as one of them, how about a flat income tax? Everything a person makes under the poverty level is tax-free. Everything made over the poverty level is taxed at the same flat rate – real equality. This could easily be made revenue-neutral. In other words, the revenue collected by the state would not change. Divide total taxes collected by total income.
People always talk about leveling the playing field, but there are so many exceptions that the field is anything but level. Doesn’t matter how much income you make over the poverty level, how many children you have, how much you contribute to nonprofits, how old you are, or anything else. Now that is equality.
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