Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 Primary 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 Paul Morgan, Republican candidate for governor. The other Republican candidates are Duke Aiona, Gary Cordery, George Hawat, Keline Kahau, Lynn Mariano, Moses Paskowitz, BJ Penn, Heidi Tsuneyoshi and Walter Woods.
1. What is the biggest issue facing Hawaii, and what would you do about it?
I feel the biggest issue facing Hawaii is the broken system of government. For years the government and their departments have been littered with corruption and inefficient systems and processes. These inefficiencies play a big part in the other issues we face like homelessness, high cost of living, trust obligations to Hawaiians and the health care system.
My immediate plan of action once elected is to begin an audit process for each department to fully understand how it functions and how it can be improved. We will identify discrepancies in procedures, ensure the budgets for each department are accounted for and prepare exit interviews for current department heads and deputies; all while considering the best practices that are already in place.
Fraudulent activity will be reported and offenders prosecuted. Department functions will be improved with updated policies, procedures and training. This infrastructure update will dramatically improve the output of services to the community and then the real work begins, tackling the other issues.
For example, building permits can be passed in a more timely manner for developers to build the needed housing, outreach services for homeless can be more effective, and DHHL can begin placing families on the land.
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?
Our platform of Hawaii First is the driving force behind a diversified economy. After traveling the state we have met hundreds of farmers, artisans, builders and small business owners in all industries. We listened, and learned that we have everything we need here to sustain our economy.
We will import technical assistance and export Hawaii made and Hawaii grown goods and services. HTA dollars will be repurposed to promote “Hawaiʻi Made” nationally and internationally. Our economy will begin to thrive once again with balance.
Tourism will still be a part of the economy, with an improved function. We will incorporate cultural education and etiquette into the visitor industry, empowering tourists to be more respectful and considerate. We will better manage access to beaches, parks and other natural resources, creating a better environment for all.
3. The Legislature this session approved spending $600 million for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands plus another $300 million for other housing programs. What specifically would you try to do to create more housing for middle- and low-income residents?
An immediate review of current projects in the planning phase at the state and county level will reveal all of the government red tape. Our administration will work with developers, lawyers and the county’s mayors to streamline these projects to get them in motion.
We will explore the new building technologies and products that have been proven to work. We will exhaust federal resources and programs to lower the overhead of the projects. We will explore ways to create a housing market that truly is affordable, through bifurcation.
4. 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?
To solve this we need to attack it from several angles. We can work to reduce cost of living expenses with an immediate reform of the Jones Act, exempting medicine and food from GE tax and working on legislation to lower the state income tax.
We will then work with nonprofits and other organizations to utilize schools on nights and weekends for family and social services like child care, continuing education and mentoring programs. Programs like entrepreneurship and financial literacy are highlighted to teach working families how to better manage and reach their financial goals.
5. The pandemic was particularly difficult for Hawaii’s public schools. Should there be a change in the way schools are administered? Would you support more local control including breaking the single school district into subregions?
Yes, I fully support breaking the school district into subregions. The focus of the Department and the Board of Education will be shifted back to what’s in the best interest of the children. We will look at the areas of living skills, career development, secondary education and trade skills, all of what we understand to be the foundational start to life. We will go back to the basics of positive, collaborative experiences between parents and teachers, all in the best interest of the keiki.
6. 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?
Absolutely. True transparency is inclusive of all elected officials. I am in favor of a government that openly communicates with their fellow elected officials and their constituency on a regular basis.
To ensure accountability at the Legislature I will request bi-weekly updates during the open Legislative session and encourage those same updates to be shared with the public.
7. Recently a house on the North Shore of Oahu fell into the ocean. Climate change is real and will force us to make tough decisions. What is the first thing Hawaii should do to get in front of climate change rather than just reacting to it?
Hawaii is home to 10 of the world’s 14 climates. The first thing I will do is to work with Hawaii-based businesses to create an industry in research and development to determine the causes and effects of climate change, from the ocean to the air. Partnerships with the universities, nonprofits and other organizations will increase this effort.
8. Hawaii has seen a growing division when it comes to politics, development, health mandates and other issues. A governor represents all the people of the state. What would you do to bridge those gaps and bring people together in spite of their differences?
First and foremost I will listen. I will continue to listen to the people and remain available. My practice of business consulting and our platform of Hawaii First is all about bringing people together.
Hawaii as a whole has been diverse socially for over a hundred years now. All that has been possible through respectful conversation. I will bring that dialogue back to government and work closely with other elected officials, businesses, nonprofits and citizens regardless of party affiliation and/or other differences. Decisions will be made in the best interest of all the people of Hawaii, all things considered.
9. Historically, governors and lieutenant governors have sometimes publicly clashed. How do you envision the relationship between the state’s top elected officials?
I envision the state’s top elected officials working together in the best interests of Hawaii. Our platform of Hawaii First can be a guide for everyone. We exemplify this by front-loading the work now and reaching out to share and work with other candidates in all the current races.
The collective goal, for everyone it seems, is to create a better Hawaii. By putting Hawaii First and truly working together we can all achieve that.
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.
My big idea is simple. Let’s go back to basics and put Hawaii First. Let’s look back and review what has worked and what hasn’t. I would take it all the way to the beginning of the Hawaiian Kingdom Constitution, to the intent of that document and the integrity of those who wrote it. I commit to putting Hawaii First.
Leading by example as the next governor of Hawaii, I will move with the energy and enthusiasm to choose a cabinet, directors and deputy directors, boards and commissions to follow suit and utilize what we already have in resources. Simply following these guides and executing the duties and responsibilities in our roles as leaders and employees to show how grateful we are to be chosen to work for the people in our professions and volunteer roles.
Our plan of Hawaii First transitions us to economic recovery, sustainable solutions and ends corruption. Hawaii will thrive and I will lead by example and with you. Enough blame has been placed, excuses made, and corruption done. Remember to think differently and vote Republican Paul Morgan for Governor on Saturday, August 13, 2022, and Tuesday, November 8, 2022.