Two news stories a few days before the candidate filing deadline prompted Daryl Lee Smith, 58, to throw his hat in the ring to become a state senator for District 2.
Those stories focused on $16 million in cuts to school bus funding and the state borrowing $26 million for school repairs, said Smith, the only Republican in the race.
He will automatically advance from the Aug. 11 primary to the November general election.
At the same time the Department of Education is cutting bus services and borrowing so much money for classroom work, it has hundreds of administrators, he said, noting 840 in just one division of administration.
“Last year or the year before, the Board of Education gave the responsibility of curriculum to the principals,” Smith said.
But even after the duties were handed down to the school level, the Department of Education had more than 200 people whose job it was to develop curriculum.
Smith asked what is left for higher-level administrators to do “if (the DOE) gives the principals the budget, the curriculum, the staff responsibilities.”
He advocates a full audit of the entire DOE. That, he said, hasn’t been done in 40 years.
An audit will lay out a framework for restructuring the DOE, he said, and that can result in less money needed for schools, while still getting better results.
If the schools need less money, the state can lower the general excise tax, Smith said.
“If you could get rid of some administrators, the buses would be no problem,” he added.
Smith said geothermal is the “smart way” to get the state to use less fossil fuels. He supported expansion in areas such as Maui and Hualalai.
But he would like to see the use of geothermal energy reduce residents’ electricity rates.
“The money for the royalties should be going to the people,” Smith said.
Geothermal development companies do not need more incentives to expand geothermal production in Hawaii.
Smith said one measure he would introduce that he said would benefit the entire island would be to allow artificial reefs off the islands’ coasts.
“All they do is help fish and divers,” Smith said. “We’re talking about aquarium fish becoming rare. Well, help them. I think they’re effective almost everywhere.”
Smith was critical of Hawaii’s state highways, particularly in areas that have high traffic, like Puna, that are just two-lane roads.
He pointed to a highway on Kauai that has a center lane that can be used for traffic in either direction, depending on the time of day and the direction of the heaviest commuting traffic as an example of better traffic management.
He noted his history as a volunteer member of a Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs commission, to which he was appointed by former Gov. George Ariyoshi in the early 1980s. He said the Republican Party doesn’t need a lot of representatives to become effective.
“Either this election or the next election, we will have a caucus large enough to help the children,” Smith said. “I have to start somewhere.”