Name on ballot:
Trish La Chica
State House – District 36
Policy and Advocacy Director, Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute
Previous job history:
Policy Analyst, Office of the Governor (David Ige)
Community Engagement Specialist, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum
Journalist, ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs
Previous elected office, if any:
Neighborhood Board #25, Mililani (current)
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.
I have been working in public health for over a decade now. I have experience at the national, state, and local level. I’ve worked in federal policy, working with our Congressional delegation in DC. I worked in the State Executive branch, under Governor Ige as his health policy analyst. I have established relationships with cabinet members, including the directors of health and human services and in my current role as Policy Director, I work with hundreds of advocates across the state and with our House and Senate leaders to enact laws that keep our families and keiki healthy and safe. One particular piece of legislation that we’ve been working on along with youth advocates and our teenagers, is a bill to prohibit the sale of candy-flavored vaping products.
I also serve my community and neighbors on the Neighborhood Board and am currently serving my second term as the District Chair for the Democratic Party in Mililani. In 2019, I was appointed as Co-Chair of the Legislative Committee for Oahu County where we hosted several legislative town halls to identify critical issues faced by the working people of Hawaiʻi. This process supported Democrats in identifying a 2020 legislative package that prioritizes an affordable and livable Hawaiʻi. Two months ago, I was recently elected as the President of the Young Democrats of Hawaiʻi where I am now helping to bring young leaders into civic engagement and to collaborate with other young party leaders from across the country.
What will be your top priority if elected?
My top priority is to advocate for an equitable, inclusive and community-led response to the COVID-19 crisis. We need to provide a clear, unified message and improve how we are communicating to the public, particularly on the government’s plan to reopen and diversify our economy. We need to empower others, not just those in top offices to make decisions. I believe we need to listen to our teachers and school staff on how to make schools a more flexible and supportive environment for our students. When CARES funds run out, we need to continue to work with our nonprofits on the path to recovery. Finally, instead of making across-the-board cuts, we need to empower administrative leaders to provide innovative solutions on how to make government work more efficiently and save money.
As Hawaii faces the COVID-19 pandemic, what more can be done to protect residents’ health?
We cannot reopen the economy if we don’t prioritize public health and safety first. Currently, our number of cases are trending upward again. In addition, the mainland has seen a severe resurgence of infections and deaths. Our Governor extended the 14-day quarantine for visitors to Sept 1st, which means we have a month to develop a plan to control community spread and prevent overwhelming our PPE (personal protective equipment) supplies and hospitals. We need to increase our testing capabilities particularly for out-of-state visitors and offer testing, treatment, and vaccination (once approved) at no cost to Hawaiʻi residents.
What more can be done to help residents who have been economically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
1. We need to provide our workers with adequate workplace safety guidance, sanitation supplies, and PPE (personal protective equipment) so they can return to work and feel safe in the workplace.
2. We need to sustain our working families by passing paid leave and providing financial assistance for housing, food, childcare, and utilities; and finally
3. We need to save jobs, and save our local businesses and farmers by providing them with aid and forgivable loans and distributing federal CARES act monies to help them
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?
History has proven that contractive actions such as furloughs and pay cuts only lengthen the recovery time from recessions. I am opposed to furloughs or pay cuts coming at a time when so many of our workers are frontline and essential workers keeping our residents safe and helping to keep our government running. Hawaii’s working families already experienced the painful impact from the 2008 recession. Instead of cutting, our state government needs to find money to help keep our workers employed and keep critical programs going.
Hawaiʻi needs to take advantage of its excellent credit rating and borrow from the new Federal Reserve lending facility that was opened up for states. The legislature also authorized the Governor to borrow up to $2.1 billion, payable in three years at little to no interest. In addition, the legislature can look at new sources of revenue that would not hurt Hawaii’s working families, but instead captures tax breaks enjoyed by the top one percent of earners and top corporations.
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?
Hawaii’s service, retail, and tourism industry has been hit the hardest during this pandemic. They make up a good portion of the revenue that is collected by the state. Right now, my priority if elected, is to rebuild an economy that protects our workers. We need to put their health and safety first so that we can have a healthy Kamaʻaina economy. We must pivot away from our over-reliance on tourism and invest in educational programs to shift our workforce into local food production, technology, healthcare, clean energy, and natural resource management. Not only are these higher-paying jobs but they also help Hawaiʻi to become more resilient in the face of future disasters. I will also support the continued funding of state CIP projects which will help stimulate our economy and to work with small business to “support local” goods and services.
Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.
There are many fair-minded and dedicated judges, lawyers, and law enforcement officials that come from our community and seek to serve our community. Our criminal legal system, however, must be improved. We must eliminate cash bail, for release from custody should be based on danger and flight risk and not whether someone can afford to pay. We should also invest in pretrial supervision that sets individuals up for success by providing access to substance abuse and mental health treatment, as Hawaiʻi currently does not have the capacity to meet those needs. Similar access to mental health and substance abuse support must be provided during probation as well, including increased access to inpatient dual diagnosis programs. It is also apparent that good people can still operate with implicit bias which in turn affects racial disparities in policing. We can increase community safety by passing laws that require implicit bias training, ban the chokehold, and implement a duty to intervene law for law enforcement. These are just a few of the policies that would help move us towards fixing our criminal legal system.
Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?
While I want to help address the inequities done to Native Hawaiians and how the land has been mismanaged, I do support the TMT project as it has gone through and completed all of the required government and public reviews and approvals. The scientific opportunities from this project are endless and we should proceed with both building of the TMT as well as the agreed upon decommissioning of the smaller telescopes on Mauna Kea.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
My husband and I are proud to call Mililani home. We’re raising our two young kids here and we want them to have the best future possible. I am running for office because we have a system in our country, and in our state that doesn’t really take care of families. We have one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country. We can’t keep our teachers. We have the highest cost of living in the country and more families are leaving Hawaiʻi for a better life on the mainland.
At the same time, we are in truly unchartered waters during this pandemic. COVID-19 is not going to go away anytime soon and Hawaiʻi needs public health leaders who can prepare us for the challenges ahead. Old school politics and the status quo is not the answer. We need new and innovative solutions.
If elected, I would be the only legislator with a strong public health and healthcare background after Lieutenant Governor Josh Green. I would also be the first immigrant and the youngest Democrat to be elected in our district’s history.
As a Representative, I am committed to bringing our community together and to fight for a safer, healthier, and more equitable future for Hawaiʻi.
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