There are two Democrats running for the 11th District state representative seat. One of them is Kaniela Ing, the incumbent, and the other is Deidre Tegarden. When Neil Abercrombie was governor, Tegarden was his administration’s point-person on Maui. Now she wants Ing’s job. And judging by the thousands of dollars in campaign contributions she’s taken so far from big development firms and construction worker unions, she certainly poses a tough challenge Ing.
In other news, the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) rejected the big NextEra/Hawaiian Electric merger last week, which makes that portion of the following questionnaire rather dated. That being said, Tegarden does use the question to talk about her overall energy proposals, which is certainly of value to voters.
MAUITIME: What is your top priority if elected?
DEIDRE TEGARDEN: To do the job entrusted to me by my South Maui community, namely: attend legislative sessions on time; be accountable by being informed; introduce and/or support legislation to benefit South Maui and the larger community; and vote in the interest of South Maui on issues relating to, for example, building affordable housing, creating jobs, improving education and protecting our environment, including our beaches, reefs and marine life.
MT: What event in your life best prepared you for public office?
DT: No one single event has prepared me for public office but rather a series of experiences and accomplishments have led me toward this goal. I was raised in a family where service to one’s community was stressed and expected and through the years I have achieved a successful record in public service in which I’ve held positions of leadership, for example: Executive Director of the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Maui; Director of the Office of Economic Development for Maui County, and Chief Protocol Officer for the State of Hawaii.
MT: Who should be the next President of the United States?
DT: I will support and vote for the nominee of the Democratic Party.
MT: Which person who previously held the office you’re seeking do you hold up as a model?
DT: Rather than single out any one person, I applaud all who choose to go through the arduous process of seeking elected office and when elected perform their duties in the best interest of the communities they serve.
We have many people on Maui who have taken their oath of office seriously and who have given so much back to our community. They are my role models.
MT: Do you support or oppose the current law that exempts police officer misconduct records from public disclosure?
DT: I believe in responsible transparency at all levels of government and public service.
MT: Right now Hawaii has two minimum wages–one for workers, and one for restaurant workers who receive tips (which is lower than the first minimum wage). Do you support this?
DT: In a perfect world it seems to me there’d be one minimum wage that would apply to all hourly workers. The two-tier system should ensure fairness for employees, not only in the restaurant industry, but also in other jobs where tipping is customary.
Tipping, which is such a part of our culture, makes a one-tier system unfair, in my opinion, and since I don’t see the practice of tipping changing, at this time I support the two-tier minimum wage system.
MT: What should Hawaii’s minimum wage be?
DT: In 2014, our legislature passed and Governor Neil Abercrombie signed into law a bill increasing the minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $7.75 an hour beginning in 2015; $8.50 an hour beginning in 2016; $9.25 an hour beginning in 2017; and finally to $10.10 an hour beginning in 2017.
While these incremental increases are an improvement, they still do not provide a living wage in Hawaii where the cost of living is so much higher than many other states. This is not a “one size fits all” situation. Urban centers may require a higher minimum wage than rural areas. That being said, I believe Hawaii’s minimum wage should be higher, but along with raising the minimum wage, we must find ways to mitigate the financial burden of increased wages on businesses. The effect to the “bottom line” can be substantial, especially for small businesses. Generally, any increase in the cost of doing business is passed on to the consumer. We need to look at ways to balance employee wages with employers’ expenses and the costs to the consumer. When I’m elected, one of my goals is to work with my colleagues on finding that balance.
MT: The proposed merger between Hawaiian Electric and NextEra–will this be good or bad for Hawaii? Why?
DT: This issue is in the hands of the Public Utilities Commission which has devoted countless hours and meetings discussing, reviewing, researching, probing, analyzing and receiving public testimony about the proposed merger.
I support measures and programs that drive Hawaii’s efforts to have 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, as mandated by a law signed by Governor David Ige last year. My personal concern is that Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is an alternative fuel and not a renewable one. I believe that to achieve the state’s goal, transitional fuels, i.e. LNG, should be considered but I would like to see a more comprehensive plan where transitional fuels are only one phase of the movement towards renewable fuels. Hawaii is in a most unique position with the availability of a variety of renewable energy sources, for example: wind, solar, wave, thermal and biofuels. There is not one “perfect” answer. I will diligently work with my colleagues and the community toward achieving freedom from fossil fuels; it is going to take all of us–our community and private sector as well as federal, state and county governments to get us where we want and need to be.
Photo courtesy Deidre Tegarden