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Former journalist takes his innovative ideas to the State Senate

By Paige L. Jinbo

This election season, Glenn Wakai (D), will attempt to take his creative methods of diversifying Hawaii’s economic revenue to the State Senate.

Glenn Wakai

After spending eight years as a representative in the State House, Wakai is now running for a seat in the State Senate.

Many remember Wakai as the charismatic court reporter for KHON-FOX2. However, in 2002 he decided that it was time to take his talents elsewhere — somewhere he could make a difference.

“Instead of just griping about all the problems in society, I wanted to be a part of the change,” Wakai said.

In 2002, the residents of Waimalu, Salt Lake and Moanalua elected Wakai to the State House. However, this year, he’s running against Ben Pascua (R) for the 15th District (Waimalu, Moanalua, Salt Lake) State Senate seat.

“I think it’s time for me to play in a different arena,” he said.

This article was written prior to the results of the general election, Nov. 8. Wakai won by more than 30 percent of the votes in the 15th District against Pascua.

FIXING THE ECONOMY

To diversify Hawaii’s source of revenue, Wakai has developed the Triple A Economic Plan. This plan focuses primarily on developing the aquaculture, aerospace and alternative energy industries.

“We need to stop crying about the price of paradise and start focusing on our islands’ strategic advantages,” Wakai said.

While he supports capital projects involving construction work, he said that the Triple A Economic Plan would sustain Hawaii’s economy in the long run.

A strong, vibrant aquaculture industry is not only ambitious, but also attainable, according to Wakai. In order to do this, money and resources must be shifted from agriculture to aquaculture.

“Hawaii’s mentality is slow to change,” Wakai said. “We think that because agriculture is a part of our history, it has to be a part of our future. The resources and possibilities for aquaculture are infinite ”

Hawaii continues to import more than 70 percent of the fish that’s consumed by residents and that’s not acceptable to Wakai. The goal is to develop a strong aquaculture where fish is exported from the islands versus imported into it.

In addition to realizing the potential of Hawaii’s aquaculture, Wakai said people should be aware of the $1.2 billion project that has already commenced on Mauna Kea.

“We talk about rail, a $5 billion to $6 billion project, and that may or may not happen in the future, but this (Mauna Kea) is the biggest project that’s in the works,” Wakai explained. “People don’t talk too much about it cause rail is much more sexy to talk about than a telescope, but this project will provide a lot of jobs.”

Last year, it was announced that Mauna Kea would be the site for the Thirty Meter Telescope. It will be the most advanced and capable telescope ever constructed.

Also, since the terrain of the Big Island is the closest place on Earth that we’ll get to a lunar Mars landscape, Wakai said NASA should start looking into establishing a test facility for lunar and outer space exploration there.

“People say, ‘Wakai, you’re a space cadet talking about stuff like that and let’s worry about stuff that’s on the ground.’ But, unless you’re thinking about where humanity and Hawaii can go, you’re never going to get off pineapple and tourism.”

Lastly, the third area of Wakai’s Triple A Economic Plan is alternative energy. Since Hawaii has learned to harness wind, wave and solar energy, there needs to be a new emphasis on researching how to control geothermal energy.

Wakai said that in its isolation, Hawaii has the advantage to research innovative energy conservancy methods.

“We can offer leadership to people in those particular three areas, but right now there’s not enough legislative political vision to see them through.”

TAXES

While Pascua opposes any form of raising taxes, Wakai is OK with increasing the tax for rich people.

“It’s about spreading the wealth around a little,” Wakai said. “I’m fine with focused tax increases that make sense.”

However, Pascua has said on his candidate forum that raising fiscal taxes will not solve anything. Lessening government spending is part of the solution.

Wakai used Hawaii’s business licensing fee to emphasize his stance on focused tax increases.

Currently, it cost $25 to register a business in Hawaii.

“I’m for increasing a fee to register your business; $25 is too low,” Wakai said. “In California, it’s $200. “If you’re going to be licensed by the state of Hawaii why don’t we charge you something that makes sense. I’m not talking an exuberant fee, maybe $100.”

HOMELESSNESS

“Society has to understand that we’re never going to get rid of every single homeless person,” Wakai said. “There’s always going to be a segment of our community that’s homeless.”

Wakai said the solution to the persistent homeless problem is upward movement in living situations.

“We need to get the affordable class of people into middle class housing and the homeless into government housing. We just need to move people up the food chain,” Wakai explained.

While Wakai plans to focus on getting the homeless into temporary government housing as a remedy to this perennial issue, Pascua said that the Sarah Domes Project is a great starting point.

The Sarah Domes Project is an attempt to provide durable, affordable and eco-friendly housing to everyone. Units built through the Sarah Domes Project will produce their own energy and leave no carbon footprint, in turn reducing homelessness.

Even though Wakai and Pascua have different approaches to this subject, they both said that changes to this issue wouldn’t come over night.

“Homelessness is just supposed to be a stage in life,” Wakai said. “We really shouldn’t have people who are perpetually homeless.”

GAMBLING

The heated debate of legalizing gambling in Hawaii looms on. Many are staunch believers that gambling has no place in our state and Pascua is one of them.

However, Wakai is in favor of limited gambling — allowing it on shipboards that dock in Hawaii and building a casino in Waikiki that permitted only hotel guests access. In these forms, Wakai said there are impediments for the local people to gamble making it less desirable for locals to gamble.

“So many of our neighbors go to Las Vegas, so you know that people have the gambling urge,” Wakai said. “Thinking that we live in a pristine society where gambling is such an evil vice, we’re just fooling ourselves. I’m always into reality checks…I look in the mirror and I admit that I like to go to Vegas as well.”

According to him, the revenue made off this type of limited gambling would come from tourists. This would not only help the state’s economy, but it’ll lure more people to come to Hawaii.

“I thought that gambling was the better avenue than raising taxes. Hawaii will embrace gambling again when we hit the toilet again. Everyone is looking for the silver bullet to fix everything.”

In looking at all the issues that Hawaii suffers from, Wakai said that his approach is one of common sense.

“We need to start looking at the things that make sense for Hawaii,” he said. “We got to look at ourselves in the mirror and get a reality check and look at who we are and what our strengths are.”