comscore 2022 Election: Keith Amemiya | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Election

2022 Election: Keith Amemiya

  • Keith Amemiya
Name on ballot:

Keith Amemiya

Running for:

Lieutenant Governor

Political party:

Democrat

Campaign website:

amemiyaforlg.com/

Current occupation:

Executive Director, Central Pacific Bank Foundation

Age:

56

Previous job history:

My roots are deepest in education, having served as the Executive Director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, Executive Administrator and Secretary of the University of Hawaii’s Board of Regents, and as a State of Hawaii Board of Education Member.

Previous elected office, if any:

None

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.

In listening to communities across the state, I believe that first and foremost, the people of Hawaiʻi deserve someone they can trust and who will passionately fight for their interests. I am running to change the status quo, end political corruption, and put our local families’ interests first. As a business leader, I have been able to bridge gaps between our businesses and our communities. Together with families across the state, we have worked to solve chronic problems for the past few decades, including increasing funding in our rural communities and creating equal access to sports for women and girls. I’m running for lieutenant governor because I’m concerned for Hawaiʻi’s future. What we need now, more than ever, is not another career politician or lobbyist, but a true leader, who knows how to bring people together to get things done.

What will be your top priority if elected?

We have to get the cost of living under control – too many of our families and friends are already having to leave every year. First up, we need to tackle our affordable housing crisis. The state needs to work with the counties to ensure zoning regulations help support development for residential housing. We need to dedicate significant funds to subsidize the cost of infrastructure development for affordable housing developers. We need to identify state lands that make sense for housing our communities. We need to contemplate innovative revenue generation opportunities, including potential green taxes, to create more funding. Most importantly, we need to be pau with the reasons why “no can” and start getting it done.

How do you view the role of the lieutenant governor’s office and how will you approach fulfilling that role?

The lieutenant governor’s office is an office of opportunity. I will work with the governor to empower our office around affordable housing and dedicate staff and resources to work with statewide initiatives. Former Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz developed a team to pursue federal funding, something we should reconstitute to secure the billions needed for our state. Additionally, state government operates in silos much too often. The power of the Office of the Lieutenant Governor can be used to coordinate and work between state agencies, convene working groups for departments working on housing issues, and streamline existing processes.

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?

Hawaiʻi’s cost of living is hurting our families and communities. The prices of housing, gas, food, and other essentials are skyrocketing. Young people are leaving our state in alarming numbers, and we can’t attract and retain essential workers because Hawaiʻi is simply not affordable. My plan to lower the cost of living consists of:
– Finally passing into law a true living wage and paid family leave.
– Eliminating taxes on food, medicine, diapers, and other essential products.
– Lowering the cost of housing for working families.

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?

Yes, absolutely, but this does not address the long-term issues. We have to get away from fuel dependency by continuing to invest in green infrastructure and multi-modal transportation.

What is your plan to help protect Hawaii residents’ health during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?

Government needs to continue to be vigilant and make decisions to protect our residents based on science and best practices. We also need to improve our resiliency as a community so we don’t suffer the fallout from another economic shutdown. Access to food, housing costs, small business needs, unemployment benefits, and clear communication to the public are my top priorities when dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. I also believe we need to improve in the following areas:

– Clearer, more consistent communication to the public, with coordination from all levels of government and business and community leaders. Many residents and business owners often and rightfully felt confused, fearful, and uncertain with restrictions and recovery plans.

– Coordination of evidence-based and research-driven practices for community-wide testing and vaccinations.

– Access and information to ensure that people’s basic needs are met, such as food and housing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I saw firsthand the food insecurity that was caused when the schools shut down, and many families went without meals. I worked with high school principals, local businesses, and community leaders, including Carissa Moore and Marcus Mariota, to distribute over 20,000 meals at schools to ensure our keiki and their families were fed.

Do you support or oppose efforts to slow or limit the number of tourists to Hawaii? Please explain.

I believe Hawaiʻi is too dependent on tourism as its primary economic driver and pre-pandemic levels of tourism put a strain on our island resources. I strongly support diversifying our local economy, and driving tourism in a more regenerative direction. I support Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority’s movement to Huliau or transform towards a kamaʻāina-driven visitor model, focused on bringing the right visitors that are respectful and mindful of their impact on the local community. Concerted efforts towards visitor industry spending on local businesses and local agriculture, while mitigating impacts at hot spots and special places, can make a big difference for both our visitors and our local communities.

How can Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy be diversified, and what can state government do to support the effort?

There are many inspirational things happening in different parts of our community that can each help to build exciting opportunities for Hawaiʻi’s future. For example, two industries have demonstrated potential in Hawaiʻi, but have not been fully leveraged: 1) film and media production and 2) technology and innovation.

As a state, we have only scratched the surface in terms of our potential as a hub for media production. Beyond using our islands as a site for filming, there are creative tax credits that would incentivize the development of brick-and-mortar studios locally that could generate significant funds. Other cities have pivoted to make themselves attractive to production companies and have reaped the benefits. We have talented local producers and compelling stories to tell that can be part of a regenerative economy.

The same can be said for using the state’s commercial and industrial holdings as potential sites for technology companies in the biotechnology and innovative technology sectors. Utilizing creative tax credits to incentivize companies to relocate to Hawaiʻi, we can generate much needed revenue. It would also create a diverse field of new local jobs that pay competitively in industries to help keep our young people in Hawaiʻi and create more remote working opportunities so workers can spend more time with their families rather than on the road.

What is your plan to increase affordable housing in Hawaii, and to help the counties deal with homelessness?

Being able to house our families is at the heart of our responsibility to ensure a basic quality of life for our communities. The state needs to take an active role in increasing the supply of housing for middle- and low-income residents. These strategies can be implemented at the State level to create more housing:
– Build water and infrastructure capacity, where appropriate, to incentivize development of housing local families can afford.
– Make state lands available for low or no cost for affordable housing to be developed, where appropriate and where sufficient infrastructure exists.
– Work with community organizations to go beyond just saying “no” and move into envisioning what we are willing and wanting to say “yes” to affordable housing in their communities.
– Provide zero-interest down payment assistance to first time homebuyers.

In addition to creating long-term housing that our families can actually afford, the state has neglected supporting the mental health needs of our community. In supporting my mother and her challenges with mental health, I have seen firsthand the lack of resources needed for individuals and families. The additional space at the Hawai’i State Hospital is a start, but we need long-term treatment facilities for our communities that don’t require someone to hurt another person before they receive care.

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?

My top spending priorities will be for affordable housing and reducing the cost of living for our residents. Priorities such as building water and infrastructure capacity for housing, down payment assistance, and investing in diversified industries are all important for our continued economic recovery.

We also need to dedicate a team to pursue ongoing federal funding, as we know that we are leaving billions of dollars on the table every year. We have become far too reliant upon waiting for our Congressional delegation to bring home resources, when most states and counties are proactively applying for funds. As lieutenant governor, Senator Schatz built such a team, and we should reconstitute it.

What, if anything, should state government do in response to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade?

The overturning of Roe v. Wade is a tragic blow to a woman’s right to choose and has dangerous implications to other civil rights and freedoms in our country. In the near-term, abortion rights will be protected in our state, but we need to work to strengthen these rights at the state level, such as ensuring greater access for medical abortions across all islands and creating opportunities for others from outside the state to access medical services here. The state needs to also improve the quality of women’s wellness and LGBTQIA+ healthcare services on the neighbor islands.

What should state government do to support and improve public education in Hawaii?

Quality education is one of the keys to opening a future of hope and opportunity for our youth. I served on the Board of Education from 2011 to 2015 and know firsthand that every school is unique, particularly in our island state. We need to empower principals to make decisions that are right for their students and communities and invest more in our schools and communities to truly support our next generations.

What reforms, if any, would you propose to make state government more transparent to the public?

Corruption scandals at the Capitol have shaken our trust in Hawaiʻi’s elected officials. Over the last ten years, the state legislature has failed on many of the issues that matter most to people in Hawaiʻi – affordable housing, homelessness, the cost of living, climate change, and protecting our environment. They have failed to deliver a true living wage or paid family leave.

As the only candidate for lieutenant governor who is not a career politician or lobbyist, and the only one who does not take money from lobbyists, I support the following measures to combat corruption in our legislature:

– Impose term limits on legislators
– Ban fundraising during the legislative session
– End financial conflicts of interest
– Require legislators to follow sunshine laws

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

Mauna Kea is a special place for Hawaiʻi, for spirituality, and for the universe. It is important that we come from a place in these discussions of knowing and respecting that wahi pana. I do believe that whenever Hawaiʻi has an opportunity to be the world’s leader in a field, when we can further the discovery of our universe, and when we can create more high paying jobs on Hawaiʻi Island, we need to strongly consider it. However, the Thirty Meter Telescope has seemingly become the tipping point for Native Hawaiian issues and concerns that have been ignored for far too long, and an example of how difficult it is to come back to the table once trust has been broken. I was pleased to see the hard work of the working group that was composed of voices from various perspectives that I believe all care about Hawaiʻi and our special places. Ultimately, I hope we are able to find common ground through better land management and proceed with the TMT construction while ensuring that Native Hawaiian concerns are meaningfully addressed, as these concerns will otherwise continue to exist whether or not the telescope is built.

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

I’m the only candidate for lieutenant governor who is not a career politician or a lobbyist and who has executive leadership experience leading large statewide organizations. I have dedicated my career to public service by working directly in every community statewide throughout my career. I am the only candidate who has a detailed plan to clean up corruption so that we can focus on the critical issues facing working families statewide, such as affordable housing, homelessness, and climate change.


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