Full Name: Karlen Ross
Name on Ballot: Karlen Ross
Political Party: Democrat
Running For: State House
Email Address: KarlenRossDistrict17@gmail.com
Current Job: Restaurant manager
Place of birth: Honolulu
Campaign website: www.KarlenRossDistrict17.com
Job history past 10 years:
In Tucson, I co-owned a diner and worked as a restaurant manager. Here in Hawaii I also work as a restaurant manager.
Ever run for public office? If so, when? Outcome?
This is my first time running for office.
Other civic experience or community service?
In Tucson, when I co-owned a local diner I was a member of the Downtown Tucson Merchants Council. Also, while in college I was the philanthropy chairman of the University of Arizona Economics Society and co-managed one of the school’s largest microfinance projects.
Anything else you’d like voters to know about you?
When my daughter was born, I knew I had to return home to raise her in Hawaii. Thinking about my daughter’s future here is part of what inspired me to run for office.
What makes you qualified to be a state senator or representative?
Hawaii and the Democratic Party, in many ways, is undergoing a generational transition. With my small business experience and deep respect for our local customs and traditions, I am someone who can help bridge the gap. Most importantly, I am a committed problem-solver who cares about our community.
Gov. Ige says he will once again propose increases to the state gas tax, vehicle weight tax and state registration fees to help pay for state road projects. Do you support his proposal?
We must maintain our infrastructure. These taxes place the burden on those who use the roads most, while providing an incentive for carpooling and alternative transportation. However, any tax increase should be modest and proportional to budgetary need because local families are already squeezed by our high cost of living.
If the Legislature is again asked to extend Oahu’s half-percent excise tax surcharge to finance construction or operation of the rail system, would you support such an extension?
Because HART has made efforts to be more transparent and accountable with the project, I would seriously consider measured continuations of funding. This is not a blank check. While the rail is controversial, I believe this project will benefit everyone on Oahu when completed.
Should the state play a role in cracking down on illegal vacation rentals in Hawaii?
We should enforce the laws we have on the books. Moving forward, we need to carefully consider how vacations rentals impact the cost and availability of long-term housing for our permanent residents and craft policy accordingly. This is an ongoing conversation that the public should be involved in.
Should the Legislature require that police officers in Hawaii use “body cameras,” and help to fund the use of those cameras?
Most police officers are honest public servants tasked with the difficult job of keeping us safe. Still, bad actors erode public trust. I would support a pilot program supervised by a task force consisting of experts, the public and law enforcement to assess results and make recommendations.
Dozens of police officers in Hawaii are disciplined each year for committing crimes or violating departmental policies, but little information is released about the officers or their cases. Do you think there needs to be greater public disclosure?
I support full disclosure to a civilian review board, but policies governing disclosure to the general public should consider privacy concerns of all parties involved—including those who report misconduct. The public has a right to complete information regarding serious infractions, which would include both sides of the story.