Name on ballot:
Donovan Dela Cruz
State Senate – District 22
Hawaii State Senator, District 22
Previous job history:
Adjunct Professor (HPU); City Council Member (Honolulu), DTL, Director of Communications (Watermark Publishing)
Previous elected office, if any:
City Council Member (Honolulu)
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.
Iʻm proud to be serving the district that I was born and raised in and continue to call home.
I’ve served on boards and am a member of various organizations nationally and locally such as the National Council of Environmental Legislators, Leilehua Alumni and Community Association, and Leeward Community College Culinary Institute Board. Prior to becoming a Senator, I also served on the Honolulu City Council for eight years, serving as Chair for three years. Iʻm a graduate of Leilehua High School and the University of Oregon where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Communication Studies; and I’m currently working on a graduate certificate at University of Hawaii-Manoa’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning.
Iʻve served as the State Senator from District 22 for nearly ten years. I currently chair the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19. I also serve as a member on the Committee on Education. I’ve worked hard to pass legislation in education, creating jobs, growing agriculture, and protecting our environment. I’ve also worked to secure capital improvement funds for the district:
Wahiawa Civic Center and Court House Complex
Mililani Mauka Middle School building
Repaving Kamehameha Highway from Wahiawa to Haleiwa
Kipapa Bridge improvements
Wahiawa Wastewater Treatment Plant improvements to divert the outfall from Lake Wilson and provide water for agricultural lands
Wahiawa General Hospital improvements
As the chair of the Senate Special COVID-19 Committee my peers and I have worked to improve transparency and accountability of the Hawaiʻi State government as we respond to and safeguard the well being of residents and visitors during and post pandemic.
What will be your top priority if elected?
With the onset of COVID and the shutdown of tourism and much of our service industries, the economic pressures and challenges have been further exacerbated for many of our residents and families. My top priority is opening our economy safely and job creation When we can train and re-deploy individuals into new and emerging industries that optimize the assets of our community, such as cyber security and agriculture technology, everyone benefits. With new jobs created right here in District 22, the live, learn, work, play becomes a reality.
In addition to traffic and homelessness, the cost of living in Hawaii is one of the most pressing issues for many across the state. Again, we need to diversify the economy and ensure better-paying jobs. Investing in education and workforce development, creating incentives for small business, and investing in infrastructure are vital to grow jobs in agriculture, energy, commuter science and cyber security, health care, film production, and research and development.
As Hawaii faces the COVID-19 pandemic, what more can be done to protect residents’ health?
On an individual level, we need to be more vigilant in practicing the protocols that minimize the spread of COVID: social distancing, mask wearing, sanitizing our personal and workspaces, and keep our group interactions to 10 people or less.
Airport screening process needs to be improved and the self-quarantine needs to be enforced.has proved successful. We also need to increase testing capacity. I’ve asked the Governor to develop the current quarantine system to review the feasibility of including government authorized travel bubbles, taking tests upon arrival, and “Pool testing”.
Pooled testing is a new procedure to help to meet the high demand for testing in mass coronavirus screening programs needed in the early identification and isolation of asymptomatic individuals. Samples from up to thirty individuals are pooled and tested together in a single tube using sensitive molecular biological detection methods. Only if the pool result is positive do the samples need to be tested individually. When the infection rate is low and only a few people are infected, pool testing can significantly expand the testing capacity of existing laboratory infrastructure, current estimates of 5-7.5x . Even up to a 20% frequency of positive patients, pooled testing will save precious resources and funding for the State of Hawai’i
This new testing approach would further ensure that we can increase our capacity to test all travelers in a cost-effective way. It will also help to address the recent reduction of testing supply here in the State.
While we were initially effective in flattening the curve, we also need to have more transparency and decisive action. This could have reduced confusion and expedited economic recovery. We need to continue to push for modern and effective measures, and continue reviewing our responses. For example, the Special Committee has introducing, amongst other things: Airport Screening Procedures and Travel Information Forms, 14-day mandatory quarantine for all incoming passengers, One-Key Initiative at hotels, banning of all rental cars to anyone quarantined, redeployment of non-essential State employees who cannot work from home, banning of all vacation rentals and B&Bs during the emergency order, and improvements to the UI processing system.
The Senate passed resolutions SR146 and SR166 in March, highlighting the need for the color-coded lockdown system and requesting all departments present a response plan. We sent two letters to the governor regarding a travel bubble (to get the hotel economy going) and pooling. We need to continue to have decisive action like this that preempts our problems, not just responds to them.
What more can be done to help residents who have been economically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
The Legislature has directed most of the CARES Act funding to provide economic relief for businesses and residents. Funds were appropriated to provide, among other things: $100/week plus up to UI benefits starting July 31 to December 31, rent relief of up to $500/month or 50% of rent paid directly to the landlord starting August 1 to December 31, grant programs for childcare providers to make up lost revenue, PPEs, and meal assistance, food assistance for thousands of families, retraining and workforce development for unemployed individuals, and support to high school seniors who were adversely affected by school closures.
The legislature has also authorized the Governor to borrow from the Municipal Liquidity Facility to ensure continuity of government and the DLIR to borrow from the US Department of Labor to ensure UI benefits for thousands of claimants. We are also waiting for more information regarding the passage of the 4th stimulus package currently being deliberated by Congress. We are all in this together. Everyone, family, friends, and neighbors should try and help where they can to help those in need. If you want some guidance with starting a nonprofit to help your community, my website will soon have a simple guide to help you get started.
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 closing of Hawaii’s tourism industry and small businesses caused a budget shortfall of $1.5 billion. To balance the budget, the Legislature did not accept all the governor’s supplemental requests, cut vacant positions, and used unspent savings from the previous fiscal year. We need to ensure core and safety net programs go uninterrupted.
Instead of furloughs, we need to make strategic cuts. We need to analyze programs to determine their effectiveness. All these solutions derive from the advice of UH economists. If cuts are necessary, we must start at the top, not the bottom. We must protect the necessary programs and services supporting those economically impacted by this pandemic. We must also ensure the continuity of projects which aid economic recovery and urge the Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism and Department of Agriculture to grow non-tourism sectors with haste.
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?
We need DBEDT and its agencies to drive the diversification of our economy. Three industries that have proven rapid growth potential are film, cybersecurity and agriculture. Hawaii has always been a premier filming location. Our natural resources coupled with the film tax credit, creates hundreds of local jobs, and markets our state. I would continue to push for a creative media park that would provide a post-production facility, which would create an economic hub for the entertainment industry.
We also have a major demand in the areas of computer science and cybersecurity. There is a shortage of STEM professionals here in Hawaii. I will continue to push for the wider integration of the successful education pathways, which I have piloted in my district, preparing students to be globally competitive.
Finally, we must invest in large- and small-scale agriculture: Ag-tech, value-added centers and regional product specialties. We import over 85% of the food we consume. We need to increase local production. I will continue to support programs that assist local farmers to access markets as well as scale up production for valuable export crops and value-added products. I also will support communities working to develop regional economic development plans.
The legislature provided funding to DBEDT and DOA to begin projects that will grow the economy. The legislature also provided HTDC $15 million in CARES funds to establish local manufacturing of PPE, cleaning supplies and disinfectants.
Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.
This is a very important issue for Hawaii because of our ethnic diversity. Our officers deserve to be treated with deference and respect. However, we must provide more transparency and accountability to improve public perception necessary for improved recruitment and retention of our officers. A uniform system across our islands would be similarly beneficial. I also have faith that the law enforcement standards board will, per its statutory duty, review procedures across state and county government and recommend necessary changes.
Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?
Although I support economic diversification, Mauna Kea needs to be managed better. As new telescopes were built, older telescopes should have been decommissioned to minimize the impact on the mountain. As management of the mountain improves, legally authorized and permitted construction should be allowed.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
I care for my community. I was born and raised in Central Oahu and continue to fight for their needs. I want the area that I represent to become somewhere that residents can live, learn, work, and play. We need jobs and opportunities for our keiki so they can call Hawaii home. I promise to continue to fight for the needs of Central Oahu and its residents.
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