Name on ballot:
Previous job history:
• Professional consultant
• Honolulu City Council: Member (2009-2020), Council Chair and Presiding Officer (2019-2020)
• Honolulu City Council: Senior Legislative Assistant to Council Chair Barbara Marshall (2005-2009)
• General Manager – Whitney, Inc.
Previous elected office, if any:
• Honolulu City Council (2009-2020)
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.
As a former Chair and Presiding Officer of the Honolulu City Council, my experience as an elected executive will be invaluable in complimenting the governor to lead our state. As Council Chair, I established policies and procedures that kept Honolulu’s legislative branch of 155+ employees safe through the COVID pandemic, and excelled in making prompt decisions with available information.
What will be your top priority if elected?
My main priority as lieutenant governor will be to focus on the development of affordable housing, including workforce housing on state-owned land and provide kauhale villages across the state to shelter our homeless population across the state. I will discuss this issue further in Question No. 8.
How do you view the role of the lieutenant governor’s office and how will you approach fulfilling that role?
The role of the lieutenant governor is to complement and support the governor in advancing the policies of the state administration. I believe a good lieutenant governor is someone who aspires to be a team player, who can take direction from the governor and be assertive and influential without being overbearing.
One way I can be productive as lieutenant governor is to have my office establish a permanent presence in our neighbor island counties of Hawaii, Maui and Kauai. All too often, State government has a tendency to be Oahu-centric in both outlook and priorities. Neighbor island residents will benefit from having an active liaison, someone who helps to resolve issues and problems and can advocate to administration officials on their behalf.
Rising inflation has significantly worsened Hawaii’s already high cost of living. What can be done at the state level to help Hawaii residents cope with high consumer prices?
Inflation is presently a post-pandemic worldwide phenomenon that has resulted from combination of the following:
• Increased consumer demand for goods and services, due to a robust post-pandemic rebound in the economy;
• Serious supply chain issues, particularly within China, a major global manufacturing center which suffered a belated COVID-related shutdown; and
• Signification disruptions to the global oil and food grain markets occasioned by the February 2022 outbreak of the Russo-Ukrainian War.
We must ensure that Hawaii’s social safety net remains secure and its lines of delivery are sufficient, so that those residents who need assistance will receive it. We can also consider short-term suggestions such as a General Excise Tax holiday on food and medicine, which can bring local consumers some temporary price relief on household essentials.
Hawaii’s rising gasoline prices are among the highest in the nation. Should Hawaii lower or temporarily suspend state taxes on gasoline to help ease the pain at the pump?
While I would support a temporary suspension of the state gasoline tax, we must remember that, like inflation, the recent escalation of fuel prices is a worldwide phenomenon, and its primary driver is the volatile price of oil per barrel and not fuel taxes. While a gas tax holiday can bring some temporary consumer relief, such a respite will be fleeting if the price of oil continues to drive up costs. The state should provide a more rigorous oversight of the local market, to ensure that local retailers don’t try to take advantage of the situation and gouge consumers at the pump.
What is your plan to help protect Hawaii residents’ health during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?
It is highly likely that we will all have to factor the active presence of COVID into our daily lives, much as we do for influenza. That means urging our residents to get immunized against COVID and boosted on a regular basis to the extent possible.
Further, we need to increase our statewide inventory of hospital beds in anticipation of the next pandemic. Hawaii’s geographic remoteness means we don’t have the luxury of transferring patients to a neighboring state; we’re on our own.
Finally, we need to support research at the University of Hawaii into the long-term effects of COVID, so-called “long COVID,” on our local population.
Do you support or oppose efforts to slow or limit the number of tourists to Hawaii? Please explain.
HTA should focus on, and develop, a sustainable, diversified model for tourism with less emphasis on mass-market tourism. As part of its diversification, the HTA should focus more on attracting more lucrative business and convention travel. For all aspects of tourism, HTA needs to better manage the impacts of mass-market tourism in a manner that addresses the needs of Hawai‘i’s vested interests. These vested interests include resident concerns as well as Native Hawaiian identity, history, and customs
How can Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy be diversified, and what can state government do to support the effort?
The State of Hawaii should pursue sound 21st-century agricultural policies that enhance our food security and mitigate our present overreliance on imports from the continental United States and foreign points of origin. It is imperative that we recommit ourselves to the support of sustainable and diversified agriculture, and to the further safeguarding of Hawaii’s most productive agricultural lands.
(I would note that we presently import up to 90% of the food consumed by residents and visitors, which is potentially problematic should anything happen to disrupt our islands’ shipping lifelines. According to DBEDT, a reduction of that percentage by just ten points would redirect about $313 million per year back into the local economy.)
The University of Hawaii holds great potential as an economic engine and driver for our islands. As lieutenant governor, I would urge the State to encourage this partnership with the University of Hawaii and to further consider other prospects for collaborative efforts.
What is your plan to increase affordable housing in Hawaii, and to help the counties deal with homelessness?
To facilitate an increased inventory of affordable housing for residents, the State should:
• Review and update the definitions for affordable housing so that they are not rooted in market-based applications, which tend to work against individuals and families in the rental market whose earnings are at 60 AMI and below.
• Review the existing inventory of underutilized State and county properties for potential use as sites for affordable rental housing, particularly on Oahu.
• Consider alternative means of funding and building affordable housing units such as a non-profit development corporation, and explore and consider all opportunities to offset or lower development costs.
• Encourage DHHL to diversify its own mission beyond the traditional homestead model through the development of affordable rentals for Native Hawaiian beneficiaries, many of whom cannot presently afford to build and own a home.
Hawaii isn’t likely to see a repeat of this year’s $2 billion revenue surplus which allowed higher-than-normal spending on state programs and projects. If elected, what will your top spending priorities be?
As I state in Question No. 8, most acute issue pressing Hawaii right now is the lack of affordable housing. Housing and shelter are basic human rights, and no one who desires shelter should be left to suffer on our streets. I will therefore suggest that the executive branch provide funding and land for workforce housing and homeless shelter villages.
I’ve had some experience in this sector. While serving as chair of the Honolulu City Council, my office partnered with Lt. Governor Josh Green’s office and members of the Waimanalo community to establish Hui Mahi‘ai ‘Aina, a communal village modeled on the kauhale concept, which offers shelter and corresponding wrap-around services to our local homeless population.
We should expand this concept across the state. As lieutenant governor, my office will identify state-owned lands across Hawaii where additional kauhale are feasible, and work with the governor and local communities to establish more of these villages to service our homeless ‘ohana.
What, if anything, should state government do in response to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade?
The immediate impact is upon those states where the has been a robust and prevailing movement to repeal not just a woman’s right to abortion but also greatly impede her right to reproductive freedom of choice in general, including the right to obtain contraception. Per Act 1, Session Laws of Hawaii 1970, the State of Hawaii became the very first state in the union to legalize a woman’s right to obtain an abortion upon demand. Obviously, we should leave that law in place.
What should state government do to support and improve public education in Hawaii?
One immediate step that would improve matters somewhat would be to transfer to the Hawaii Dept. of Education institutional control over its own school facilities. Currently, the authority and responsibility for the upkeep, repair and maintenance of public school facilities rests with the Dept. of Accounting and General Services.
This is a self-inflicted bureaucratic complication which has quite often results in unnecessary delays in repair, maintenance and construction of those facilities. It should not take months to process and complete a routine work order. Local school administrators know best the needs of their respective schools. By shifting control of the R&M process to DOE, it would provide a mechanism for better planning and coordination.
What reforms, if any, would you propose to make state government more transparent to the public?
The State Sunshine Law governs the manner in which all state and county boards in the State of Hawai‘i must conduct their official business in public. But one glaring exception to the Sunshine Law has been the state legislature, which conveniently exempted itself and its members from compliance. It is long past time for state legislators to curtail this travesty and start to abide by the very laws and rules with which they require every other government body to comply and follow.
Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?
Culture and science can co-exist on Mauna Kea, and I do support astronomy. The management authority of Mauna Kea will be transferred over a transition period from the University of Hawai‘i to the Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority, an 11-person panel which for the first time includes Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners which will allow Hawaiians an opportunity to be decision makers.
Far too many times, the phrase “in consultation with the Native Hawaiian community” has been a disingenuous euphemism for “we informed them of our decision.” As lieutenant governor, I will abide by and respect the decisions made by the Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority. Let’s give this Oversight Authority a chance to work.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
I was raised by my grandparents in Windward Oahu. As a single parent of four children, family is important to me. Through the lens of family and community, I will always protect Hawaii with my heart and soul to ensure we can provide a better future for all our children and the generations to follow.
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