Candidate Q&A: State House District 40 – Rosebella Martinez
Editor’s note: For the August 13 primary elections in Hawaii, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer a few questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities would be if elected.
The next people came from Rosebella Martinez, Democratic candidate for State House District 40, which includes Lower Village, Iroquois Point and Ewa Beach. The other Democratic candidates are Wayne Kaululaau and Julie Reyes Oda.
See Civil Beat’s election guide for general information and learn about the other candidates in the primary ballot.
1. What is the biggest problem facing your district and what would you do about it?
Ewa continues to be one of the fastest growing populations on Oahu. I would seek funds to improve infrastructure in the district, such as upgrading Fort Weaver Road, expedite repairs and upgrades to our public school facilities, and also find ways to alleviate the high cost of living that continues to be a burden on our working families.
I support increasing the funding levels of our public school system, to help give our keiki the best chance of success academically and beyond their public education. I would be open to expanding tax credits for low-income people and drugs for those in need, to help those who are most in need.
2. Many people have been talking about diversifying the local economy for many years now, and yet Hawaii still relies heavily on tourism. What, if anything, should be done differently regarding tourism and the economy?
I support the diversification of Hawaii’s economy. Too much dependence on one industry can create a fragile economy. The last two years have shown us that all it takes is one crisis to paralyze the entire economy.
I support investment in industries that we currently have but lack the capacity to encourage meaningful business growth. For example, we can continue to invest in agricultural technology and work with existing farmers and ranchers to help establish a more robust industry.
Another area to invest in is health care. Even before the pandemic, we badly needed medical professionals. I believe we can better recruit, train and fire more local students in these industries.
3. An estimated 60% of Hawaii residents are struggling to overcome a problem that goes far beyond low income and into the disappearing middle class. What ideas do you have for helping middle class and working class families struggling to continue living here?
Many of our Ewa families are struggling. Not only do they face high housing and food prices, but they also have to travel long distances to access jobs with decent wages and benefits. I would support a living wage so that our struggling families can survive and continue to stay in Hawaii.
I also believe that increasing the inventory of affordable housing is of the utmost importance in any long-term planning for the state. I would also support improving our food security by strengthening our local agricultural and manufacturing industries so that buying imported products is no longer the most economically viable option.
Improving the economic positions of local families will require decisive action in the present by our leaders.
4. Hawaii has the most lopsided legislature in the country, with only one Republican in the Senate and only four in the House. How would you ensure an open exchange of ideas, transparency and accountability of decisions? What do you think are the consequences of single-party control, and how would you address them?
When I meet voters who go door to door and throughout the community, the conversations barely include questions about the party. On the contrary, most of our district is preoccupied with the same issues of cost of milk, cost of housing and access to health care.
If elected, I will be an active listener trying to understand both sides before voting. My door will always be open for discussion and civic engagement.
5. Hawaii is the only western state without a statewide citizens’ initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Yes, I support a statewide citizens’ initiative process. The direct contribution of the people can only serve to strengthen our democracy.
6. Thanks to their campaign war chests and name familiarity, incumbents are almost always re-elected in legislative races in Hawaii. Should there be term limits for state legislators, like there are for the governor’s office and county councils? Why or why not?
Yes, I support term limits. It encourages new perspectives and ideas, and helps new candidates run issue-based campaigns rather than fundraising.
7. Hawaii has recently experienced a number of significant corruption scandals, prompting the state’s House of Representatives to appoint a commission to improve government transparency through ethics and lobbying reforms. What will you do to ensure accountability in the Legislative Assembly? Are you open to ideas such as requiring enforcement of the Sunshine Law and open documents laws in the Legislative Assembly or banning campaign contributions during the session?
I support ethical reforms that help improve accountability and good government on Capitol Hill. I also support limiting in-session donations and would support expanding Sunshine Law requirements.
The past year has shown us in particular how important public visibility and accountability are to our elected government.
8. How would you make the legislature more transparent and accessible to the public? Opening of conference committees to the public? Stricter disclosure requirements on lobbying and lobbyists? How could the Legislature change its own internal rules to be more open?
I support keeping all committee activities and sessions open to the public. I also support a more digital approach to elective office and would be sure to establish a presence online as well as in the community personally. The Capitol is the building of the people and must remain so.
9. Hawaii has seen growing division on politics, development, health mandates and other issues. What would you do to bridge these gaps and bring people together despite their differences?
Fostering open communication regardless of political affiliations is important for bringing the community together. As a public servant, part of my job will be to seek out as diverse and dissenting opinions as possible, in order to gauge the sentiment of my constituents. You can only do this by listening to people, listening to them and understanding each other. I hope that we can all move forward together to work on solutions to the problems of our society.
10. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed many flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, ranging 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 a great idea you have for Hawaii. Be innovative, but be specific.
One of the biggest challenges we have faced in state government has been responding to a large number of people in need of help and services. We could have improved the results by implementing more modern technology.
We could also have advised the workforce a little quicker and more decisively at the start of the pandemic, when many were confused about potential closures and what precautions to take. I would also have immediately transferred government employees to a crisis response center to process things like unemployment claims and contact tracing.
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