Mariano for Governor

My Response to
the Civil Beat Questionnaire


1. What is the biggest issue facing Hawaii, and what would you do about it?

Affordable housing is the single biggest issue. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to solve Hawaii’s housing problem, it’s been an issue for six decades. I agree with everyone that we need more of it, but how? As I campaign across our beautiful state, a common theme emerges; locals can’t afford to live here and own a home! Our elected officials have passed legislation and established policies and procedures which amount to excessive red tape, drawing out the approval process to 8-10 years, and annual increases of inflation at the expense of homeowners. This issue is complex, but I have over 40-years of leadership and management experience to assess, identify root causes, and implement solutions across local, state, and federal lines. As governor, my short-term and long-term plan is to work with all our elected legislators, county mayors, developers, unions, OHA, state planners, banking industry representatives, and other stakeholders to reduce our over-regulated policies and laws, streamline the permit process, modify our state and county land-use, revisit zoning regulations, and return savings back to Hawaii’s taxpayers. I will have my administration report to me on the progress of this issue every 90 days until we have an acceptable solution.

2. Many people have talked about diversifying the local economy for many years now, and yet Hawaii is still heavily reliant on tourism. What, if anything, should be done differently about tourism and the economy?

As our state’s primary industry, tourism will continue to be the major source of income, but it does not have to be the only one. My plan is to give Hawaii’s families options by expanding our economic industries and providing tax incentives and credits to businesses focused on investing in our local economy. As governor, I’ll work with our congressional leaders to leverage federal funding to enhance economic growth. I’ll also work with county mayors, community organizers, local and national unions, business owners, and investors who are willing to work within our proposed revised business laws to diversify our economy with higher paying jobs. I will be pro-active in maximizing our island’s resources to self-sustain ourselves, and to establish food security mechanisms by reinvesting in agriculture, food production, farming, and fishing industries. I will bring back diversified transportation like the Super Ferry to enhance interisland connectivity. This will stimulate the economy by enabling streamlined interisland commerce for our local businesses, and ultimately end up increasing business-related infrastructure projects on each island

3. The Legislature this session approved spending $600 million for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands plus another $300 million for other housing programs. What specifically would you try to do to create more housing for middle- and low-income residents?

As governor, I will explore options which would take struggling existing hotels on the outskirts of Waikiki and convert them into affordable housing units for first time home buyers, or low-middle class renters earning up to $125,000. This would include teachers, medical professionals, high school graduates, and college students returning to the islands. To help our middle-class, I will collaborate with elected officials, developers, unions, OHA, state planners, banking industry representatives, and other stakeholders to reduce over-regulated policies and laws, streamline permit processes, modify our state and county land-use agreements, revisit zoning regulations, and return savings back to Hawaii’s taxpayers. Additionally, I will work hard with our congressional legislators to revise the Jones Act so Hawaii is recognized as the 50th state instead of a US territory. This alone would lower the overall cost of imported materials used to build new homes, because we would no longer need to ship goods by reflagged US vessels. The Jones Act currently costs Hawaii taxpayers 21% of all goods and services brought to our island

4. An estimated 60% of Hawaii residents are struggling to get by, a problem that reaches far beyond low income and into the middle class, which is disappearing. What ideas do you have to help the middle class and working families who are finding it hard to continue to live here?

My solution is a multi-faceted approach that is integrated across Hawaii’s economic enterprise. As Governor, I will explore tax credits for renters, limit foreign investors, and revise current laws that neglect local taxpayers. I will cut or abolish the General Excise Tax, especially on food items and medicine, and increase tax credits for small businesses and homeowners. Our state government is too big and as the third largest industry in the islands, is a major tax burden on residents and taxpayers. The size of our state government has grown twice as fast as revenue is able to come in. I will appoint a special committee comprised of inhouse expertise at our universities and local businesses to assess the problem and backwards plan towards a realistic solution. I will modernize and streamline processes to reduce bureaucracy and long wait times that cost Hawaii’s residents thousands of dollars annually. If necessary, I will work with my Attorney General and state leaders to possibly declare a state of emergency to impose price gauging regulations and ensure that the limited resources on our islands get to those who need them most.

5. The pandemic was particularly difficult for Hawaii’s public schools. Should there be a change in the way schools are administered? Would you support more local control including breaking the single school district into subregions?

Yes, I would fully support breaking up the single school district into subregions where feasible. While the state should maintain overarching regulatory oversight, counties are better suited to address and manage the needs of students, teachers, and families. A decentralized education administration will permit the counties, located across rural and urban areas, and across the full spectrum of economic conditions, to better support education needs. As governor, I will work with DOE and HSTA to find solutions to best serve our communities and provide quality education across the state. I feel strongly about programs that help children and their families. This includes promoting childcare, education for both parents and their children, behavioral health resources to deal with increasingly “normal” stressors, support to families and children with disabilities, and programs that can leverage the experience and expertise of our kupuna community. 

6. Hawaii has recently experienced a number of prominent corruption scandals, prompting the state House of Representatives to appoint a commission tasked with improving government transparency through ethics and lobbying reforms. What will you do to ensure accountability at the Legislature? Are you open to ideas such as requiring the Sunshine Law and open records laws to apply to the Legislature?

Yes, I am extremely supportive of the sunshine law and other open records laws. We are a government for the people by the people, and the people deserve transparency. Voters elect officials to represent their interests, and they have a right to know that officials continue to represent their interest, especially once elected. Moreover, I’m an advocate for annual audits for all state budgets to reveal exactly how our taxpayer money is spent. As a former soldier, I was held accountable for my conduct and performance annually to ensure I was meeting the intent of my supervisors. I believe it should be no different for our elected officials.

7. Recently a house on the North Shore of Oahu fell into the ocean. Climate change is real and will force us to make tough decisions. What is the first thing Hawaii should do to get in front of climate change rather than just reacting to it?

As governor, I will work with experts from our universities, and federal agencies like NOAA, to identify the risks to Hawaii’s infrastructure, including private residences along the shorelines. Where feasible, I will explore options to relocate private residences, commercial businesses, and other infrastructure further inland while working on solutions to mitigate the effects of rising tides and stronger storms. I will proactively work with my Attorney General to enforce laws that protect people, property, our shorelines and green spaces.

8. Hawaii has seen a growing division when it comes to politics, development, health mandates and other issues. A governor represents all the people of the state. What would you do to bridge those gaps and bring people together in spite of their differences?

In my many years of experience working for the Department of Defense, the federal government, and local neighborhood boards, I had the opportunity to work with people from all walks of life, with opinions as varied as the states in our union. These differences are what made me a strong leader because I learned to listen to differing opinions, remove my personal biases and work towards common goals. I am fully aware of the division in our state, and our country, but I do not let that define me, nor my position that I will represent all the people of Hawaii. I will govern with a steady hand and want to work across the aisle, to better understand opposing views, and find realistic and common-sense solutions that benefit everyone. I have no tolerance for bigotry or hate and will work hard to restore civility in local politics and serve as an example for our mainland counterparts by living the Aloha Spirit.

9. Historically, governors and lieutenant governors have sometimes publicly clashed. How do you envision the relationship between the state’s top elected officials?

The relationship between the state’s top elected officials should be defined by mutual respect and understanding. In my experience in the military, particularly in leadership positions while serving in combat, the relationship between a commander and his immediate staff was critical to success and survival. There were times when we disagreed on specific details, but we never lost sight of our duty and obligations. I believe the relationship between a governor and lieutenant governor should be the same. Although disagreements can happen, we cannot forget our responsibility to the people of Hawaii.

10. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, 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 One Big Idea you have for Hawaii. Be innovative, but be specific.

I would diversify the economy. I will work with our congressional representatives to modify the Jones Act and reintroduce industries that have been cast aside, such as diversified agriculture, farming, and fishing. I would also modernize and streamline our state processes and find a way to break the status quo. I will bring back the Super Ferry. By modifying the Jones Act, I would ensure Hawaii is recognized as the 50th State, which would lower shipping costs to the islands and result in driving open market competition. It would also reduce prices of goods for local consumers, increase maritime trade, and increase higher paying jobs in the islands. This would give us greater freedom to import goods from around the world and each neighbor island would benefit from international maritime trade and commerce. Hawaii would be able to fully embrace its role as a conduit between east and west in the middle of the Pacific.


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