Democratic Candidate Mark Hashem speaks passionately about education and business. The two issues are the focus of the entrepreneur’s campaign for state representative of the 18th District.
“Hawaii is ranked one of the worst states to do business in, and we are ranked one of the lowest in the nation in education,” Hashem said. “We need to change that.”
On the issue of an elected school board versus an appointed board, Hashem says he is for an appointed school board.
“We had an elected board for what, almost 20/30 years now, and it’s not successful,” he said. “It’s time to try something new.”
Hashem is a graduate of McKinley High School where he currently coaches wrestling.
“I was a kid that got into college because of a scholarship and I try to tell these kids that they can use sports to get ahead,” he said.
Hashem said that while it is rewarding to him when someone he coached maintains his or her grades and goes on to college, it is difficult to see students leave Hawai`i for better-paying jobs on the Mainland.
“The brain drain of young, local talent leaving Hawai`i is happening because there’s no high-paying jobs here,” he said.
Hashem said the only way you can bring jobs to Hawai`i is to bring companies; but Hawai`i has to become more business-friendly.
“Without companies, you don’t have jobs,” he said.
Hashem said the University of Hawai`i’s proposed incentive-based budget request, tied to enrollment and graduation levels, is better than just giving money to the university. He said he would also like to consider whether there are any other types of outcomes he would like to see in the budget request.
Hashem was the winner of the Sept. 18 Democratic primary for state Legislature. He will face Republican Chris Baron in the Nov. 2 general election. Although the district leans Republican, Democratic Lyla Berg served for six years before vacating the seat to run for Lieutenant Governor.
Hashem said tax incentives are a great way to make Hawaii more business-friendly.
“A great example is the solar industry because without the tax incentives solar technology costs is not feasible [for most people] to implement,” he said. “But when you have the tax credits from the federal government and the state government all of a sudden, now it’s a viable investment.”
He stresses to opponents of tax incentives to look at the film industry, where millions of dollars in revenue can be realized from sales and income tax.
“Without these tax credits, these jobs won’t come to Hawai`i, he said.
Hashem is also focused on neighborhood issues like Wailupe Stream.
While being interviewed on this warm Fall evening, he is relaxed and wearing his signature aloha shirt, this time with shorts and slippers instead of slacks.
“They’ve been arguing about how to resolve Wailupe Stream for 40 years, and they still haven’t resolved the problem,” he said. “If I’m the person who’s finally able to put all the pieces together and get the people to stop fighting, that’s a very rewarding path.”
Hashem said there is an ongoing fight between homeowners who fear property loss caused by erosion and flooding, and conservationists who want to see the stream restored.
Hashem said he realizes he represents only 1 out of 51 of the legislative votes, and he cannot change education or turn the economy around alone, but he wants to be the voice of neighborhood issues in the Legislature.
Where the 18th District Candidates Stand on 4 Issues
On Oct. 6, residents in Aina Haina had an opportunity to hear where the candidates stand on issues. The Aina Haina Community Association hosted the Candidates’ Night after their association meeting. Questions included those posed by the association and those gathered from the audience.
Gambling or lottery to support government spending:
Hashem said no to gambling, but yes to a lottery similar to the Oregon Lottery, where proceeds fund education.
“Gambling costs is like a tumor on the economy,” Baron said. He says he is completely against all forms of gambling.
Baron said civil unions and same sex marriage are the same. “Such an important issue should be taken to all of the people of Hawai`i,” he said. Baron also said the people of Hawaii already voted on this issue in 1998 and they voted no to same sex marriage.
“Civil union and same sex marriage are two separate issues,” Hashem said. He said HB444 does not give same sex partners the same rights that married individuals have, such as the tax benefits given to married couples. He said he supports civil unions, but he does not support same sex marriage.
Assistance to Aina Haina on issues specific to its community such as the expansion of Adult Residential Care Homes (ARCH) in Aina Haina, and the Wailupe Stream issue:
o “The way to control that [ARCH] is through zoning, and that’s a city issue,” Hashem said.
o Baron responded that from his door-to-door canvassing, people say they do not want ARCH expanded in Aina Haina.
o “Houses in the flood zone have had to increase costs by $2,000 – $3,000 per year,” Baron said. He said something needs to be done.
o Hashem said he would gather all of the stakeholders and put them in a room until the issue was resolved.