Last night, I participated a candidate forum sponsored by the North Hilo Community Association at the Laupahoehoe High School band room. The forum provided attendees the opportunity to ask questions of myself and my republican opponent Steve Offenbaker. Topics covered included: Jobs and the Economy; Education; Health Care; and Con-Con.
Jobs and the Economy
Because of our desire to maintain the rural character of the First House District, it is incumbent on us to promote agricultural industries and diversified agriculture ventures. Toward this end I propose a change in public policy that would give preference to locally produced agricultural products by state departments and agencies creating a viable market for a sustained agricultural sector. I would also explore the opportunity to create a excise tax exemption for the purchase of locally grown agricultural produce.
The issue of industrial zoning existing near residential areas is a result of our rich plantation history in which worker camps were built in close proximity to the sugar mills. As these areas are seeing revitalization for the first time in decades, new industries such as bio-mass energy plants and timber processing ventures are moving into these industrial-zoned lands next to unsuspecting neighbors. It is critical that these industries work to be good neighbors with the residents of the area and work to alleviate fears and adequately address concerns if they are to garner necessary the goodwill to succeed.
The Department of Education is not responsive or accountable to the concerns of local school communities -- students, parents and teachers. I would propose to eliminate the statewide management of the schools replacing this with district superintendents in each county -- appointed by the Board of Education -- who are directly responsible and accountable for the schools under their direction. This would replace the currently system of political appointment of Complex Area Superintendents by the state superintendent.
I also propose empowering School Community Councils to allow them to hire and evaluate principals as well as provide community oversight of school budgeting and expenditure.
The Legislature must address the concerns of the medical community with regard to medical liability and tort reform. Many doctors have identified this as the single greatest factor in opening or maintaining a practice in Hawaii.
We must pursue the release of funds to allow for the creating of a medical residency program through the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine to allow for a neighbor island setting in which doctors may begin their careers and begin a practice.
The issues of timeliness and adequacy of medical insurance reimbursements would seem to cut across both the public and private sector. As such, a legislative work group including representatives of the public and private sector, insurance providers, federal regulators and other stakeholders must be convened to address these problems and propose appropriate legislation to resolve them.
The voters will ultimately decide if a constitutional convention should be held. Once that is done, the legislature will have to determine the timeline and logistics for this to occur with delegates being selected no later than the general election in 2010. Any amendments to the constitution would then appear on the next general election ballot, most likely in 2012.
This covers the highlights of issues brought forward. Please let me know if there are other concerns you would like me to address.