Name on ballot:
State House – District 5
Owner/farmer of Kanalani Ohana Farm, a certified organic, diversified crop farm with educational programs for young aspiring farmers.
Previous job history:
Rodale Institute, International Projects Manager for Guatemala /Senegal programs.
University of California, Research Assistant for agro-ecological research of wetland and agricultural rotational management. Tulelake, CA.
Los Niños, Project Assistant with urban gardening groups in Mexicali and Tijuana, Mexico.
Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Research and Information Services Assistant.
Previous elected office, if any:
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.
I would sum it up as education and volunteer leadership experience. Education: Bachelor of Arts, University of Oregon (International Studies – Latin American Community Development); Master of Science, University of California-Davis (International Agricultural Development) and Master of Education (Adult Farmer Education). Volunteer leadership experience: Kona Coffee Farmers Association, 16 years of service, co-founder, current president; Kona County Farm Bureau, board member, founding vendor of Keauhou Farmers Market with 15 years sales;
American Origin Products Association, co-founder, and current president, advocates for truth-in-labeling for Kona coffee on the national stage;
Beyond Pesticides. board member, national organization leading the transition to a world free of toxic pesticides; National Organic Standards Board, former Board member, sets standards for national policies for farmers, communities, and the environment related to products and ingredients that can be used in organic foods;
North American representative, oriGIn, international organization representing products such as Kona coffee, Maui onions, and Hawaiian cacao.
What will be your top priority if elected?
Feed Hawai’i First, a comprehensive program to create a sustainable food-secure local agricultural economy by building upon the network now being created on each island by farms and farmers, non-profits and volunteers, businesses and government agencies using county, state, and federal economic stimulus funding. People are becoming more aware that there is sufficient produce being grown on Hawai’i island to provide for local demand. Having a local agricultural economy that meets local market demands will reduce our carbon footprint. The amount of fossil fuel required to import out-of-state produce will be greatly reduced. Healthy soils and increased plant growth will absorb carbon from the atmosphere.
As Hawaii faces the COVID-19 pandemic, what more can be done to protect residents’ health?
Needless to say, I hope that the COVID crisis is under control by the time I take office. However, if it is not, I will be proposing a comprehensive plan to allow people to return to work and school, albeit it will involve public health education and changes in behavior. The plan will include ramping up testing for both the active virus in those who are infected and antibodies in those who’ve recovered from infection. It will require facemasks to be worn inside and outside in areas where foot traffic makes social distancing difficult. For those who test positive for the virus or antibodies, contact tracing will be used to determine those who’ve been exposed and their status. For in-coming visitors and residents, requiring a rapid result test prior to leaving and then again at 48-72 hours after arrival to help control or prevent introduction of infections and subsequent community spread. In addition, I will work to have Hawai’i join the Western States Pact (California, Colorado, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington) to join forces in being the pandemic under control and beginning our economic recovery.
What more can be done to help residents who have been economically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
There are many resources available to residents, but we have not done a good job of publicizing and connecting residents to those resources. County and state governments must accelerate the process for “bidding out” CARES act funding to entities that will in turn distribute funds and benefits to residents and local businesses. And as a the executive director of a local non-profit food distributor recently said, “It’s a realization that everybody is becoming aware of. If we support our local agriculture we will be able to feed ourselves, and we don’t need to worry about the fact that 85% to 90% of our food is coming from off island. We could just keep all of our money here and invest in our local agriculture here.” Feed Hawai’i first!
Should public worker furloughs, pay cuts or downsizing be used to help the state deal with lower tax revenues and higher expenses during the pandemic? Why or why not?
I will work with our Congressional delegation to create leadership through this crisis and to lobby for sufficient federal support of state and local government to offset tax revenue loss. However, we are facing an economic downturn at least on the scale of the 2008-9 Great Recession. During that time state and county workers shared the economic pain of our residents by accepting furloughs in order to keep jobs in place and offices functioning until economic conditions improved. I do not support downsizing government as a solution because that could cause irreparable societal harm. We must remember, this too shall pass.
Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy has suffered greatly due to the pandemic. If elected, what would you propose to support and diversify the state’s economy?
An immediate step we can take is to redirect existing funding to support new economic drivers. For instance, we can use the Hawai’i Tourism Authority to redirect its marketing to promote Hawai’i as a “work-at-home-in-Hawai’i” destination. This would bring permanent jobs from a diverse cross-section of economic activity and with those jobs, paychecks that will be spent locally providing needed revenues to local businesses and government. That would be a win-win-win for government workers, by diversifying our economy with good paying jobs and increasing private and public revenue. The pandemic has made it clear to all Americans that prior corporate practices of shipping manufacturing and related jobs overseas has created a national security problem. Congress is now in the process of taking action to incentivize the return of manufacturing of essential products to the US, such as pharmaceuticals and components to devices and machinery. Because of its location at the center of the Pan-Pacific region, we are positioned to offer a centralized location for new manufacturing facilities that comply with the Green New Deal. This would also reduce the amount of carbon emissions for shipping by air and sea. In addition, we can restart the construction sector of our economy by funding investment in affordable housing projects to build net-zero carbon emission homes with long-term price controls to ensure a reasonable return on investment. Together with a program for retro-fitting existing construction to optimize energy efficiency, this will contribute additional household sustaining wages and benefits for all businesses related to home construction.
Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.
I will join with my colleagues in the state legislature to continue drafting and adopting laws to increase transparency and accountability in law enforcement to improve society and the court system, reform the bail system, and to develop community-based prisoner rehabilitation programs.
Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?
Past research from the existing observatories on Mauna Kea has resulted in fantastic discoveries, including the first photo of a planetary system outside our own and locating the center of our galaxy. While this research has greatly expanded human scientific knowledge, we must also honor, respect, and expand our community’s knowledge of the ancient Hawaiian astronomers, the papakilohoku. The TMT project is the proverbial straw that broke the camels back for Hawaiians whose rights and culture have been trampled for two centuries. It is Hawaiians Black Lives Matter moment. My task as an elected official of the State of Hawai’i will be to find the intersection between scientific research and Hawaiian rights and cultural practices, such as Papakilohōkū, where all parties will be honored and respected in kapu aloha.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
I grew up on a farm with 10 siblings with the values of hard work and responsibility. My wife, Melanie, and I met in graduate school and settled on our organic, solar-powered farm where we’ve raised two wonderful children, a son who is now a software engineer and a daughter entering her fifth year of architecture school. Our lives have been devoted to helping community, whether it be in Africa, South America, Latin America, or here in Kona. I humbly ask that you will allow me to bring what I have learned and experienced in life to serve you as your State House District 5 representative. Mahalo nui!
View more candidate questionnaires or see more 2022 Hawaii elections coverage.