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2020 Election: David A. Tarnas

David Tarnas
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Name on ballot:

David A. Tarnas

Running for:

State House – District 7

Political party:

Democratic Party of Hawai’i

Campaign website:


Current occupation:

State Representative / Environmental Planner



Previous job history:

I am Principal Consultant at the Hawai’i-based environmental planning firm, Marine and Coastal Solutions International, with thirty-five years of professional experience as an environmental planner, project manager, group process facilitator, policy analyst, and government affairs and community relations advisor for private individuals, businesses, governments, and non-governmental organizations. I also served two terms as State Representative from 1994-1998 and worked as the UH Sea Grant Extension Agent for West Hawai’i from 1990-1994.

Previous elected office, if any:

1994-1996, 1996-1998: State Representative, House District 6: North Kona-South Kohala.

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.

Through my decades of work as a planner and legislator, I have demonstrated that I have the skill set, temperament, patience, and courteous persistence to be an effective legislator and representative of our community. As a three-term legislator and professional environmental planner, I have the experience of working with local community stakeholders to identify concerns and opportunities; develop policies, plans and programs; and build consensus on priority solutions and implementation strategies. I have lived and worked in House District 7 (North & South Kohala, North Kona) for over 34 years so I know the people and places with our unique characteristics and challenges. In my professional planning career, I have gained relevant experience that strengthens my qualifications to continue serving effectively as State Representative. In my first two terms from 1994-1998, I served as Vice Chair of the House Committee on Education, and then as Chair of the House Committee on Ocean Recreation and Marine Resources. In my current term (2018-2020), I serve as member of the House Committee on Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs, the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection, and the House Committee on Lower and Higher Education. Throughout my legislative career, I have led state policy development in marine and coastal resources management, ocean recreation, agriculture, forestry, watershed management, water resources and land use, endangered species, renewable energy production, education, health policy, and economic development. I am responsive to constituent requests for assistance and am grateful to be State Representative.

What will be your top priority if elected?

My main priority is to serve the people of House District 7 with responsive constituent assistance. I will continue to advocate for priority public infrastructure projects at our public schools, parks, forest reserves, highways, harbors and airports. I will sponsor legislation to promote and support the environmental protection and sustainable economic development of Hawaii’s ocean resources for healthy oceans and coral reefs, clean water, abundant fishery resources, local aquaculture, and renewable energy.

As Hawaii faces the COVID-19 pandemic, what more can be done to protect residents’ health?

Increase local testing capacity for COVID-19 by working with the major pharmacies, and coordinate with Alaska State Government to ensure sufficient local testing capacity. Establish agreements with local hotel properties to become quarantine hotels for travelers while they await their test results. Workers at these quarantine hotels should get additional hazard pay for working there. In public places and indoor shops, everyone needs to wear masks all the time and over both the nose and mouth. We need better compliance with proper mask wearing in public places. Everyone needs to wash their hands, keep a safe distance, and stay home if you feel sick.

What more can be done to help residents who have been economically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

We need to continue to support the payments of Unemployment Insurance benefits to Hawaii’s unemployed people. We need to continue efforts to distribute food to those who need it. Using government funds and charitable donations to buy local produce and donating the food to the Food Basket helps by providing a market for the local farmers and it supports those who need the food. The Governor should continue the prohibition against evictions and I ask all landlords and tenants to work with each other to get through this tough time. The main thing we need to do is get our tourism economy going again as soon as possible. That means having a good system for a negative COVID-19 test within 72-hours of departure. If you don’t have the results when you arrive, they go to the quarantine hotel to await their results. Once the travelers gets a negative test, they are released from quarantine. We also need to be serious about enforcing compliance with the quarantine requirements.

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?

The Council on Revenues projected a revenue shortfall this fiscal year of over $2.5 Billion. To meet the constitutional requirement of a balanced budget, the legislature has passed a financial plan that provided sufficient means of financing state government services without pay cuts, furloughs or downsizing. The plan was based on a restart to the visitor economy in September. However, with increasing virus spread in mainland states and the resulting delay in any quarantine-exemption program for travelers, our visitor economy will take longer to recover, causing the revenue shortfall to increase. This will likely require further budget restrictions, which would force the Governor to consider cutting personnel costs to balance the budget. In this case, I would recommend that the Governor use public worker furloughs as the preferred means to cut personnel costs, rather than pay cuts or downsizing.

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?

I will advocate for legislation that supports economic development to provide meaningful employment and a healthy quality of life for local community members by strengthening the island’s core existing industries of agriculture, tourism, ocean recreation, astronomy, construction, and military training.

However, we also need to expand into more sustainable industries for the long-term. This means diversifying the island economy with new and emerging knowledge-based industries and resource-based industries, including renewable energy, large-scale distributed food and fuel production, forestry, aquaculture, marine biotechnology, information technology, ocean monitoring and energy technology R&D, and space technology R&D.

To ensure these jobs will go to local residents, we need to strengthen workforce readiness through better public education and workforce training and offer lifelong learning for the community.

I will continue to support program funding to help build these industries through programs at NELHA and PISCES, DOFAW and DBEDT. I will also continue to advocate for funding programs at DLNR and DOA to control alien invasive species that can devastate our agriculture and forests.

Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.

Yes. I voted for HB 285 that requires police departments to report instances of police misconduct. It also requires the Law Enforcement Standards Board to review and recommend statewide policies and procedures relating to law enforcement, including the use of force. I also voted for HB 2744, which amends firearm registration requirements and establishes a Gun Violence and Violent Crimes Commission. Additionally, we need to continue to support government programs providing mental health services and addiction counseling and support services to the public so the police can focus on providing safe law enforcement.

Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?

I firmly believe that the future of Hawaii is brightest if we embrace TMT and astronomy as an appropriate use of Maunakea, and that we also create and implement a new management framework and governance of Maunakea with active engagement of the community, the observatories, along with the many other stakeholders of Maunakea.

Building TMT on Maunakea can be done in a way that honors and respects Hawaiian cultural values and practices, and the Hawaiian tradition of celestial navigation. I urge that the TMT project moves forward to be built and operated in a way that complies with the Conservation District Use Permit duly approved by the State.

While the TMT is being built, I ask everyone to please be actively involved in the work to revise the management framework of Maunakea going forward. Please get involved in the DLNR review going on now. Please be involved in the UH projects to update its Comprehensive Management Plan of Maunakea, the Revised Master Plan for the Mauna Kea Science Reserve, and prepare an EIS on these plans. These are ways the community can have long-lasting positive impact on the management of Maunakea.

Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?

I am grateful to serve as the State Representative in House District 7 and am eager to continue in this job. I welcome your input on issues being considered by the legislature. And I will gladly listen to your suggestions for how to solve a problem.

To meet the needs of our district, I have been able to secure funding for important priority projects. In 2019, the legislature appropriated $1.5 million for planning and designing a sewer system at Puako; $500,000 to plan and design parking, restrooms and trail restoration at Pololu Trailhead; $2.5 million for the North Kohala Agriculture Exploratory Well, $8.75 million for a 10-million gallon water reservoir in Waimea; and $1.2 million to make safety improvements on the Waimea Middle School STEAM building,

In 2020, I was able to secure $90 million for Saddle Road Extension from Mamalahoa Highway to Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway; $22 million for the Waimea Regional Safety Improvements, including multimodal improvements in Waimea town, operational improvements at Kawaihae Road and Lindsey Road, and a bypass between Kawaihae Road and Mamalahoa Highway; and $4.1 million for additional land acquisition and design for replacing the existing Waiaka Stream Bridge, realigning the bridge approaches, reconstructing the Route 19/Route 250 intersection, and installing safety improvements.

Mahalo nui for considering my candidacy for re-election as State Representative in the House District 7.

View more candidate questionnaires or see more 2022 Hawaii elections coverage.
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