comscore 2022 Election: Bertrand (Bert) Kobayashi | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Election

2022 Election: Bertrand (Bert) Kobayashi

  • Bert Kobayashi
Name on ballot:

Bertrand (Bert) Kobayashi

Running for:

State House – District 20

Political party:

Democratic

Campaign website:

No answer submitted

Current occupation:

Full-time legislator

Age:

Age 78

Previous job history:

Political science professor, government researcher/analyst, hospital administrator, grant writer

Previous elected office, if any:

State Representative, State Senator

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.

1. In-depth knowledge and deep community roots in my district and State of Hawaii. My family has lived in the same Kaimuki location for over 100 years
2. Good understanding of how the Legislature works from both an academic and practitioner perspective. I have a deep understanding of the issues affecting our state and the proposed solutions and policies to fix these issues.
3. Proven effectiveness in helping to improve legislation and the legislative process, plus mentoring freshman House members.

What is the most pressing issue facing residents in your district and how would you address the problem?

Cost of living is a pressing issue for some district residents with the caveat that district #20 has great disparity in economic well-being [which is above average for many]. Nonetheless, some people in the district are property-rich and cash-poor.
I’d like to see elimination of the tax on medical services and on food, in that order. This would require a) tightening spending, b) improving collections and audits of existing taxes, and c) possible changes to make taxes more progressive, particularly personal income and corporate taxes.

Rising inflation has significantly worsened Hawaii’s already high cost of living. What can be done at the state level to help Hawaii residents cope with high consumer prices?

High housing costs is a prime factor in our high cost of living. Increasing taxes for out-of-state owners, especially on housing which is empty for much of the year, and for non-primary residences should be considered. ADU/accessory dwelling units but not ‘monster’ homes should be encouraged.
Billions of dollars to import fuel to Hawaii can be reduced with more renewable energy. For instance, Kauai has double the renewable energy, percentage-wise, to that of Oahu.

Hawaii’s rising gasoline prices are among the highest in the nation. Should Hawaii lower or temporarily suspend state taxes on gasoline to help ease the pain at the pump?

Yes, a temporary moratorium of the State gasoline tax should be enacted if and only if the tax saving passes on to the consumer. Federal highway construction assistance totaling $2.5 billion over 5 years has been approved, which will provide a revenue offset to no State gasoline taxes. This relief will be limited because the State gasoline tax is 16 cents/gallon.

Do you support or oppose efforts to slow or limit the number of tourists to Hawaii? Please explain.

This is a three-fold matter: I support 1) slowing and limiting the number of tourists but also 2) reducing the impact of tourists, particularly at popular attractions, and 3) making tourists share in the cost of enjoying Hawaii.
1) Over the past year, Hawaii has seen fewer tourists but an increase in daily per person tourist expenditure from mainland tourists. Continuing this trend getting higher spending tourists should be re-doubled.
2) Reducing the impact of tourists has begun in reservation requirements to some tourist attractions, as well as reducing short-term tourist stays in residential areas.
3) Higher taxes/fees for tourists are good overall. E.g, the hotel room tax has doubled since its inception at 5%, with little apparent impact on tourism growth.

Can Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy be diversified, and, if so, what can state government do to support the effort?


Hawaii’s economy can be diversified, at least partly, beginning with ‘low-hanging fruit’/easier options such as more locally produced food and more renewable energy. Both these areas of diversification have double benefits of keeping Hawaii money in Hawaii and also increasing Hawaii employment.

What is your plan to increase affordable housing in Hawaii, and to help the counties deal with homelessness?

All permitting and zoning for residential areas are with county government, not State government, so many of these ideas are county-related. Consideration for higher building permit fees for higher cost housing should be considered. I.e., a building permit for a luxury residence, single family or high rise, should be higher than that of a moderately priced residence. More attention and quicker approvals should be given to ‘in-fill’ housing projects.
[‘In-fill’ projects are in current residential zones and do not require changes in land-use zoning.]
For homeless, more funding for court-appointed guardians ad litem for homeless with mental health and substance abuse problems. More outreach social workers replacing police dealing with homeless.

What would you propose to help protect Hawaii residents’ health during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?

Continue safe practices like masks, social distancing, sneeze shields, etc. Promote vaccinations and boosters, especially for children.

Hawaii isn’t likely to see a repeat of this year’s $2 billion revenue surplus which allowed higher-than-normal spending on state programs and projects. If elected, what will your top spending priorities be?

Before spending priorities, saving priorities must be considered. An estimated, record-high $1.77 billion carry-over savings is expected for fiscal year 2022, which ends 6-30-22. In addition, the State’s ‘rainy day’ funds are now at record-high $1 billion [$997 million, to be precise].
Two spending priorities: 1) More teachers should be produced by UH, in accord with its role as a public university serving a public purpose. Retention of teachers is also essential and involves multiple factors, including salary, working conditions, teacher aides and support staff, etc. 2) More funding for court appointed guardians at litem for homeless with mental health and substance abuse problems 3) more tax auditors and auditing have proven to be a good investment, bringing in more revenues than expenditures, while not changing tax rates and laws.

What, if anything, should state government do in response to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade?

I would support whatever can be done to moderate the impact of the expected overturing of Roe vs Wade.

What should state government do to support and improve public education in Hawaii?

See above: More teachers should be produced by UH, in accord with its role as a public university serving a public purpose. Retention of teachers is also essential and involves multiple factors, including salary, working conditions, teacher aides and support staff, etc.
I’m also a believer in early pre-kindergarten education. This year $200 million was approved for construction of early education facilities; a follow-up step is needed to ‘operationalize’ these future facilities.

What reforms, if any, would you propose to make local government more transparent to the public?

1. Transparency at the election level should be enhanced, including changes in campaign spending and reporting requirements and developing a voter information guide [which I have proposed and available in many mainland areas]. More information will help elect better people.
2. More staffing for the State Office of Information Practices, which decides which government records should be made public.
3. Internal legislative decision-making should be made more transparent.

Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?

I support the TMT because Mauna Kea is and will remain the best ground telescope platform for millions of years to come. Hawaii should use that fundamental advantage.

Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?

For more information, see video on Olelo public TV, Democratic Party of Hawaii, or contact me at bkobay@gmail.com


View more candidate questionnaires or see more 2022 Hawaii elections coverage.
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