comscore 2020 Election: Jackson Sayama | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

2020 Election: Jackson Sayama

  • Jackson Sayama
Name on ballot:

Jackson Sayama

Running for:

State House – District 20

Political party:


Campaign website:

Current occupation:

Research Analyst



Previous job history:

Research Analyst at Island Holdings

Previous elected office, if any:

Neighborhood Board #5

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.

As a candidate, I bring a more global, sustainable vision for Hawaiʻi and a lifelong commitment to bettering the future of our local families and children. Born and raised on St. Louis Heights, my district has been home my entire life and I will work tirelessly to ensure that my community and Hawai`i can continue to be home for local families for generations. To listen to and address the concerns of my community, I currently serve on my local neighborhood board, am on the neighborhood security watch, and have conducted outreach with houseless communities around Oahu. In the past, I’ve also interned with the Honolulu Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, US Senator Brian Schatz’s office in D.C, and State Senator Stanley Chang’s office.

My global experiences studying in China and Japan gives me a unique perspective on Hawaii’s role in the Pacific – not just a tourist destination, but a bridge between the U.S, China, and Japan. Hawaiʻi is uniquely positioned, culturally and geographically, to attract global opportunities to innovate and develop solutions for both local and global issues.

What will be your top priority if elected?

My top priority is to ensure the health and financial security of local families and businesses by strictly enforcing and managing COVID-19 safety protocols. While Hawaiʻi must work towards diversifying its economy, the immediate focus must be on safely reopening Hawaiʻi to visitors. The further we delay reopening our economy, the more local businesses will go under and families will suffer. While we cannot completely eliminate the risk of infection, the State must enforce pre-testing and quarantine procedures as well as expand its local capacity to track, trace, and test those potentially infected. Without enforcing robust safety protocols and expanding testing, it will be difficult to mitigate and monitor the spread of the virus, much less reopen the economy without risking another outbreak. As State House Representative, I will work tirelessly to strengthen the State’s capacity to manage this pandemic and to communicate these efforts with my district to inspire security and confidence.

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

Despite recent spikes in active COVID-19 cases, I would not advocate for a full lockdown as was done during the initial outbreak or reinstate an inter-island quarantine. To mitigate the spread and strengthen the State’s ability to respond, I would support pre-testing protocols for visitors and the expansion of the Stateʻs contact tracing and testing capabilities. As schools reopen for classes, I will coordinate with the area superintendent, principals, and teachers to ensure all measures are taken to protect the health and safety of school staff, students, and their families. If additional resources are required to accommodate for distance learning, I would work to bring resources from the community and State to do so.

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

With one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) has been overwhelmed by laid-off workers awaiting their unemployment benefits. To ensure families can receive their much needed benefits, DLIR must work to expand its capacity to process claims as well as modernize the software. In addition to DLIR, Hawaiʻi must invest in expanding its financial aid to organizations like AUW that administer rental relief and other services for struggling families. Within my own district, I would coordinate with food distribution networks, neighborhood security watches, and other community organizations to identify individuals who require help.

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?

Maintaining the State’s capacity to serve the community, whether it be processing unemployment benefits or teaching students, is critical to reopening Hawaiʻi. Furloughs, pay cuts, or downsizing would only be considered after exhausting all possible financial mechanisms to make up for the shortfall in revenue. Now is not the time for austerity. The State must invest in its community by streamlining processes and programs needed by struggling families and businesses.

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?

To lay the foundation for a more diverse and resilient economy, I will encourage promising research and its commercialization by coordinating with the University of Hawaii and the business community. I will also invest in securing broadband connections across the islands, work with the local defense industry’s ongoing programs to develop Hawaii’s tech-based industry, and promote the innovation of renewable energy technologies.

While growing new jobs in innovative industries, Hawai’i must also invest in modernizing the school curriculum so our students are ready to take these jobs after they graduate. Having talked to local teachers and Ruth Silberstein, the former area superintendent and former principal of Palolo Elementary, I understand the hard work and coordination required to realize such a curriculum. As a Representative, I will fight for school funding and to provide teachers with the freedom to tailor their curriculum to the needs of their students.

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

The police can only serve our communities well if we can trust them and that requires a high level of accountability. To improve police accountability, we first need to give more authority to oversight panels for the police departments. Second, we need to create better standards ranging from implicit bias training to police records. It’s unacceptable to have cases of “unknown” deaths in police custody or under-recording deaths due to faulty “homemade” records as stated by Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard. Third, we need to rethink the police’s role in houselessness. While these sweeps may garner support from residents and businesses, these actions only serve to push houseless individuals from one neighborhood to the next and further strain the relationship between the houseless and the government.

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

The State of Hawaiʻi was founded upon the illegal annexation of the Hawaiian Kingdom. While this original sin and subsequent inequalities felt by the Native Hawaiian community must be addressed, TMT is also the kind of innovative project Hawaiʻi needs to attract local talent, to elevate its standing in the global scientific community, and to bring millions of dollars in investment into the local economy. Before TMT can proceed, however, the University of Hawaiʻi must decommission five existing telescopes and restructure its management to respect the sacred land and include input from the Native Hawaiian community. Whether it’s TMT or other development projects, Hawaiʻi must coordinate closely with local stakeholders to ensure transparency and accommodate community concerns.

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

For years, I’ve seen family, friends, and neighbors leave Hawaiʻi because of rising costs of living and lack of job opportunities. I know that I am a young voice in this election, but Hawaiʻi must change if my generation and future generations are to call Hawaiʻi their home. Whether it’s COVID-19, education, the cost of living, or houselessness, today’s problems won’t be solved if we expect others to solve them. As a candidate born and raised in District 20, who has gained a global perspective and is committed to building a better future for local families, I am ready to serve as District 20’s next State House Representative.

View more candidate questionnaires or see more 2020 Hawaii elections coverage.
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