Name on ballot:
State House – District 22
Previous job history:
Most of my career was spent in the global bond markets, I was a bond trader in New York, London and Tokyo. Served as Head of Fixed Income-Asia for both Commerzbank and Donaldson, Lufkin, Jenrette. After returning to Hawaii I was the Chief Investment Officer of First Hawaiian Bank and municipal bond issuer at Morgan Stanley.
Previous elected office, if any:
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.
I bring a combination of local roots, my family spans 6 generations here, with a global perspective rooted in working at the highest level of global finance. Heart and mind. I care deeply and am tenacious on policy.
What is the most pressing issue facing residents in your district and how would you address the problem?
Broadly speaking, the issues people are talking about in the district can be attributed to the effects of change. We’ve experienced significant change in a district where things happened much more slowly in our mostly idyllic past. The aggregate effect of which is quite overwhelming for many long time residents. Indeed, increasing homelessness and crime, monster homes, illegal vacation rentals and large scale development are all rooted in larger macro trends in our general society, locally, nationally, and globally.
The key to managing these changes is having both an appreciation and understanding of where we come from and where we need to go. I grew up in the district, from early childhood in a McCully walkup and next to the freeway on Metcalf Street to coming of age and currently residing in Manoa Valley. A career spent in Europe and Asia in high finance provides me the counterpoint of a global perspective. I’m confident I bring both the heart and mind needed to successfully manage change in my district, that’s what it’s all about for me.
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?
While the current spike in inflation generates headlines and has local politicians scrambling for answers, the reality is that we’ve been priced out of our home state in one way or another for the last 50 years. Whether due to rising consumer prices, the speculative housing bubble or an insufficient wage structure, it all comes down to the same thing: The destruction of living standards.
The current inflationary trend pales as a driver of our economic woes relative to the astronomical price of housing. Consumer goods inflation is a moving target, largely depending on the Fed’s interest rate stance. But there’s no abatement in sight to the housing bubble. The state needs to use taxation authority to rein in speculative investments in housing, that’s the real elephant in the room when it comes to making ends meet.
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, a gas tax holiday definitely warranted at this time. The prices of basic goods will always be subject to market forces beyond our direct control, what we can control locally is the cost of housing. Doing so would provide residents with some degree of cushion to weather future short term economic shocks.
Do you support or oppose efforts to slow or limit the number of tourists to Hawaii? Please explain.
I’ve been talking about limiting tourism way before the more recent lockdown generated discussion. People seem to forget that prior the appreciation of the Japanese yen in the 1970’s we had very few visitors relative to now. Nobody was starving, On the contrary, the standard of living for the average resident was much better than it is now. People were definitely happier. The industry driven slogan that tourism is our lifeblood is a flawed lie from the standpoint of economic theory. Of course pulling the rug out from the industry at the flick of a switch would be an economic shock with devastating impact on all of us. We need to gradually wean ourselves off of reliance on an industry where all the profits have gone to the top while causing the cost of living skyrockets.
Can Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy be diversified, and, if so, what can state government do to support the effort?
This was a major priority for me well before the pandemic. Waikiki just the new plantation. Everyone looks for the one magic pill, there is none, diversification needs to be rooted in dozens of initiatives, big and small, the aggregate effect gets us there. I’m involved in and supportive of efforts related to development of Hawaii as a hedge fund domicile, private equity leader, baseball mecca. The current economic emergency dictates we leave no stone unturned, serious consideration needs to be given to revenue sources such as lottery, gambling and recreational cannabis.
What is your plan to increase affordable housing in Hawaii, and to help the counties deal with homelessness?
There’s lots of housing in the state, it’s just not affordable, the result of housing being used as a speculative investment rather than the scarce life necessity it is. Using taxation to rein in speculation and start the deflation of the devastating real estate bubble here is the only long term solution. It’s impossible to even come close to building enough affordable housing for everyone. The hard reality is that any serious solutions must necessarily address the affordability of existing housing stock.
What would you propose to help protect Hawaii residents’ health during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?
If we can get past the partisanship and divisiveness of the issue socially it’ll go a long way towards ensuring proper dissemination of accurate information, which is key to everyone working together for a more inclusive greater good. That’s what it’s always been about for us here in Hawaii.
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?
Public education and government employees have taken the brunt of the cuts in prior budget shortfalls. These are priorities we cannot afford to neglect. Coming from the ruthless efficiency of the global bond markets I find the level of waste and special interest handouts in government to be extreme. Shoring up government efficiency in spending is the key to ensuring our kids and teachers are never the subject of budget cuts.
What, if anything, should state government do in response to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade?
The outrageous decision by the Supreme Court will fortunately not interfere with a woman’s right to choose here in Hawaii. And our political landscape makes it unlikely that any effort to change that wouldn’t even get off the ground. I was one of 58 democratic legislators to sign a statement objecting to the SCOTUS decision. We will stand together to ensure this basic right is never threatened.
What should state government do to support and improve public education in Hawaii?
I was a supporter of efforts to amend the state constitution to allow the state to tax investment properties and use the proceeds to improve public education. This is a true win-win. Providing greater funding for public education will enable us to pay a living wage to teachers and work down the maintenance and CIP backlogs.
What reforms, if any, would you propose to make local government more transparent to the public?
Government transparency was one of the victims of the pandemic. Obviously there can be no transparency without public access to the decision making process. That access was denied during the lockdown and slow to return. As chair of the House Legislative Management Committee, I made it my priority to ensure public access as much as possible. Several bills came before my committee which were aimed at restricting access, citing covid health and safety issues as well as security issues using the January 6 capitol riots as justification. I killed these bills by refusing to schedule them for hearings. The State Capitol belongs to the people of Hawaii, not the sitting legislators. While many legislative offices are locked and by appointment only, mine will always remain open, you don’t even need to knock, just come in anytime.
Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?
I’ve been on record as opposing TMT from the start. It saddens me to hear people refer to this as a Native Hawaiian issue. We created lives outside of the indentured servitude of the plantation economy by working together, all of us supporting each other. It’s always been how we roll here in Hawaii. The only way forward is for all of us to have solidarity as brothers. Divided We Fall.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
I sacrificed a lot to make the move to policy making. Business as usual not an option for me. But the forces behind our status quo are formidable, requiring more than anything the Will to force change so our public policy benefits all, not just some.
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