Name on ballot:
State Senate – District 13
Previous job history:
Lawyer, Congressional aide, small business associate, farmhand, dishwasher, mowed lawns, worked construction.
Previous elected office, if any:
House of Representatives, Neighborhood Board
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.
First, I have the experience to hit the ground running. Second, my varied work background has given me empathy and sympathy for people from all walks of life. In a body where you represent all of your constituents, that is an important qualification.
What is the most pressing issue facing residents in your district and how would you address the problem?
The high cost of living. This was the case even before gas prices went up. Building affordable housing has been a high priority for me since I entered office because most people’s biggest expense is housing. I have had some important wins on affordable housing (Kukui Gardens, Senior Residence at Iwilei, the new School Street senior project) and I will keep pushing for more.
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?
We need to be sure the minimum wage keeps up with inflation. We need to communicate to those who are poor enough to be eligible the help that is already available. We need to be sure unionizing is not unfairly impeded. Union jobs pay better and we need more of them.
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?
Unless a gas tax holiday stipulates that the reduction be passed on to the consumer or includes a windfall tax, the oil companies will likely just pocket the difference. What would likely work better is a return to the gas price cap law we had in the early ’00’s.
Do you support or oppose efforts to slow or limit the number of tourists to Hawaii? Please explain.
I support making visitors pay their fair share for the wear & tear they cause and the increase in prices we all suffer because of their presence. I don’t blame anyone for wanting to be here, but because the State picks up the tab for schools (which is generally paid by local government with real property tax in other jurisdictions) wealthy out-of-staters pay very low taxes relative to the resources they consume.
Can Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy be diversified, and, if so, what can state government do to support the effort?
Hawaii is already a leader in renewable energy and we have all the natural advantages: wind, solar, geothermal, fallow ag land and wave energy resources. We should strive to become world leaders in all the technologies involved. This is going to be a growth industry for decades and one with huge potential markets. Government can support this with laws promoting renewable energy, tax breaks for promising technologies and research cooperation with new industries.
What is your plan to increase affordable housing in Hawaii, and to help the counties deal with homelessness?
Over the last two years the Legislature has appropriated $1 billion to address affordable housing. The private sector has not kept up with demand largely because building luxury dwellings is so lucrative. The State and the counties will have to continue to fund affordable housing if we want to make a dent in the current shortfall. I wouldn’t say homelessness is purely a county issue. The State and the private sector have roles to play too. Bills of mine have made it easier to address mental health issues which often is a precursor to homelessness. To reduce homelessness significantly, we need more transition beds for people trying to leave homelessness and we need more substance abuse treatment.
What would you propose to help protect Hawaii residents’ health during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?
I urge everyone to stay up to date on their covid shots and to wear N-95 masks indoors even though you don’t have to. When numbers are going up avoid large indoor gatherings too.
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?
Affordable housing will continue to be my #1 priority followed closely by funding to address the many changes that are being required by climate change, for example moving highways mauka and relocating airports.
What, if anything, should state government do in response to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade?
As the chair of the Judiciary Committee, where civil rights and constitutional issues are referred, I plan to review our statute that protects abortion rights if I’m reelected. In 1970, Hawaii was the first state to legalize abortion and we do have a specific privacy right in the State constitution that has been interpreted to protect abortion.
What should state government do to support and improve public education in Hawaii?
I have supported better pay for teachers, smaller classroom sizes and better physical plant for years. If more middle class parents trusted our public school system, they could save 10’s of thousands every year by sending their keiki to public schools.
What reforms, if any, would you propose to make local government more transparent to the public?
I have been a strong proponent for years of campaign finance, election, and open records reform. This year I passed a bill to make public records less expensive to obtain and a bill to institute ranked choice voting for certain elections.
Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?
I support it because it’s the best place in the Northern Hemisphere, and maybe the world, to observe the stars.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
There is much more information about me and the initiatives I have supported on my website, www.karlrhoads.org.
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