Maile Responds to Questions from The Hawaii Independent

On 30 Oct. 2010, The Hawaii Independent published this interview with Rep. Maile Shimabukuro. Click here for the original article.

Q. Who is your largest campaign contributor?

A. Unions and plaintiff’s attorneys

Q. Where do you stand on civil unions? Would you have voted for House Bill 444? Do you think that the debate over gay marriage contributes to gay bashing in our schools?

A. I support civil unions, and I voted in favor of HB444. Yes.

Q. How, as an elected official, will you support and enforce the existing State laws that protect and nurture the rights of Native Hawaiians?

A. One of my top priorities if re-elected is to renew efforts to place a moratorium on the sale and transfer of ceded and public land. I believe that all public lands should be treated like a trust, similar to how DHHL handles their lands. Long-term leases are fine, but the state should not be allowed to sell/transfer our most precious and finite resource – land.

Q. What kind of tax relief do you support and how else do we lower the cost of living for full time residents?

A. I support establishing a state earned income tax credit for low-income families and individuals.

Q. How do you limit bureaucracy in government and manage civil work for efficiency?

A. Continue to improve government services for our most vulnerable populations. I have authored measures which improve the general assistance program by allowing the disabled to claim both physical and mental disabilities when applying, and to claim good cause for failing to pursue medical treatment. I also authored a measure allowing people 3 months to find a rental after being approved for the state’s rent supplement program. I will continue to push for these types of changes.

Q. What ideas do you have for improving our education system? Do you support a governor-appointed Board of Education?

A. Cooling schools off! So many schools on the Wai`anae Coast and throughout the state lack air conditioning and other cooling mechanisms. The classrooms, portables, and other buildings are miserably hot, and make learning practically unbearable. I am encouraged by the DOE’s recent move to install photo-voltaic panels at Wai`anae Elementary. So far, I have obtained power upgrades/air conditioning for Wai`anae High, Wai`anae Intermediate, and Kamaile Academy, and also held a fan drive which put some fans in all the schools in my district. I will continue to make this a top priority. Yes.

Q. What’s going to be your input in addressing Hawaii’s homeless crisis?

A. We need pet-friendly homeless shelters. Many of the homeless are on the beach because pets are not allowed in the shelters/rentals. Many of them need their pets for emotional comfort/therapeutic reasons. There are numerous organizations who provide “animal rescue” services to the homeless, e.g., taking the pets to the veterinarian, feeding and caring for the pets, etc. We should form public/private partnerships with these animal rescue groups to create pet-friendly homeless shelters.

Q. How would you improve accountability in government?

A. I would love to require all HI citizens to register to vote like they do in countries like New Zealand. Maybe here we could require it if you’re going to utilize a government service, like apply for a driver’s license, government benefits, etc. If only people realized how easy it is to vote, especially now that we have permanent absentee voting (where a ballot is mailed to your doorstep along with a postage-paid envelope)! As an elected official you are keenly aware of the percentage of voters in your district, and turnout in many areas is very low, e.g., 20% or less. Think about it: it’s like having a job where your boss is only around to oversee your work 20% of the time, or 1 out of every 5 days. We need to educate the public about how much power they have in a democratic society, and that the first step to exercise that power is to vote. The more voters we have, and the more participation, the more accountability there will be in government.

Q. What is your opinion on Hawaii’s current approach to renewable energy?

A. Hawai`i has the unique environment and natural resources to make us the ideal place for technologies like ocean thermal and wave/solar/wind energy, etc. We should encourage the development of these alternative energies so that we can power not only ourselves, but export energy and bring in revenue to our state.

Q. Do you support legislation that would establish clear definitions and penalties for human trafficking in Hawaii?

A. Yes.

Q. Are you aware of concerns Hawaii residents have with the lack of enforcement of child support laws, and do you see a way you could address it if elected?

A. Yes. Fund the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) adequately. I was pleasantly surprised to recently discover that you can actually get through to a human being who will answer questions now when you call CSEA. At least that’s a step in the right direction. In balancing the State budget, what specific government programs or services would you cut?Our state and city governments should be completely paperless. I think I heard the Senate saved a million dollars by going paperless. Imagine if all other government entities followed suit – it would be wonderful.

Q. Do you have a modern economic plan that takes into account local agriculture, businesses, and traditions? What about high tech jobs such as film and TV training?

A. I want to continue to make higher education a top priority. My proudest achievement this past session was obtaining $3m to help Leeward Community College-Wai`anae (LCCW) pursue their goal of purchasing their own building and expanding. I also supported UH West O`ahu’s (UHWO) efforts to obtain $48m by being part of a “hui” of legislators who requested these funds.

Making higher education more accessible for those in rural communities like the Wai`anae Coast will go a long way toward addressing our high teacher turnover, lack of medical professionals, lack of social workers, lack of entrepeneurialism, etc. on this Coast. Encouraging high tech jobs such as film and TV training is the perfect fit for an area like the Wai`anae Coast, where Searider Productions and Makaha Studios were born. I would definitely encourage LCCW and UHWO to continue to promote these areas of study. Stopping the “brain drain” will help our economy overall.

In terms of promoting agriculture, I believe we should provide more state lands to local farmers, like we have done with dairy farmers on Hawai`i island. We should go back to requiring businesses who sell in Hawai`i to buy local, e.g., Meadow Gold’s “Island Fresh” milk should trully be from Hawai`i, and not the mainland the way it is now. We should legalize traditional poi preparation, eg, provide DOH licenses to those who prepare poi by hand (right now DOH will not approve of this). We should continue to fund DLNR’s Legacy Lands fund and the City’s Clean Water and Natural Lands fund. We should require the military to go back to allowing neighboring farmers to use their “buffer zone” lands for cattle grazing. We should restore natural stream flows.

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