Name on ballot:
Della Au Belatti
State House – District 26
Democratic Party of Hawaii
Previous job history:
Attorney, Senate Majority Research Office; Law Clerk, State Supreme Court Associate Justice Simeon Acoba; Law Clerk, Judge Dexter Del Rosario; High School Social Studies Teacher, Maryknoll School
Previous elected office, if any:
Hawaii State Representative
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.
I bring a depth of experience and knowledge about government and how government can work better to address the challenges facing us in our communities and throughout the State. We are confronted today by some of the toughest problems of our times – global climate change, threats to our civil liberties and rights that we never thought would be under attack, and rising economic inequality that leaves many behind. I have proven and demonstrated that I have the ability to bring together diverse groups and stakeholders, listen carefully, draw upon best practices based on evidence, and develop legislative solutions and programs that improve the lives of residents of Hawaii.
What is the most pressing issue facing residents in your district and how would you address the problem?
The most pressing issue is easing the cost of living for Hawaii’s working families. To address this issue, we need to: (1) continue to tackle affordable housing; (2) ensure a strong economy that brings in revenues to sustain public infrastructure, social service programs, and government services; and (3) ensure our children and young people have access and opportunity to work in living wage jobs that allow them to stay here in Hawaii and thrive.
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?
We need to continue to support policies like the Earned Income Tax Credit that put money into the pockets of working people and supports for early childcare and low income housing to help defray the high cost drivers in people’s day-to-day budgets. I would also like to reexamine our tax system and look for opportunities to provide relief to working individuals and families in the form of tax rebates or tax credits for A.L.I.C.E. families and individuals.
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?
Lowering or temporarily suspending state taxes would unfortunately take away much needed revenues to maintain our state roads and highways. I support policies such as the tax rebate recently passed by the Legislature as a more effective tool for providing relief to Hawaii’s residents.
Do you support or oppose efforts to slow or limit the number of tourists to Hawaii? Please explain.
I support efforts that will better manage tourism in Hawaii. Limits or caps on numbers of tourists may be difficult to enforce, but we can do a better job of managing and mitigating the impacts of overtourism on our residential communities and recreational areas. Reservation systems for popular tourist destinations and management plans that focus on traffic, parking, and use of natural resources are the types of policies and programs we need to implement.
Can Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy be diversified, and, if so, what can state government do to support the effort?
Yes, Hawaii’s economy can be diversified! We need to continue to pursue policies such as farm to school or farm to state programs that provide incentives for our local agricultural industry to produce food and products for our local economy. We need to continue to support career and academic pathways in our K-12 public school system that feeds into programs at our community colleges and 4-year colleges so that students can pursue careers in healthcare, cybersecurity, the digital and creative communities. These are all areas in which our local economy can be diversified and strengthened.
What is your plan to increase affordable housing in Hawaii, and to help the counties deal with homelessness?
While we need to maintain funding for future affordable housing projects, we also need to deliver on the commitments made by this year’s Legislature to produce affordable housing. Many of the historic investments made require reporting to the Legislature and legislative oversight. I am committed to making sure the Legislature works with executive agencies and community stakeholders to build out affordable housing, and think of creative ways we can minimize obstacles and provide affordable workforce housing that helps individuals along the spectrum of housing needs from public housing to workforce housing. We need to approach homelessness the same way by funding the State’s Ohana Zones projects and supporting community wide efforts that bring together law enforcement, health care, and social services programs at the county level to address the different types of homelessness we find in our communities.
What would you propose to help protect Hawaii residents’ health during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?
Fortunately, science and our better understanding of COVID-19 has enabled us as a State to better deal with the evolving nature of the virus. We need to continue to support our public health department, including its surveillance programs, and pay attention to the evolving science and recommendations that come out of trusted sources such as the CDC and the World Health Organization. We also need to continue to urge the uptake of vaccinations and other immunizations to keep our communities strong and protected.
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 are affordable housing, social safety net services that protect the most vulnerable in our community, and public education.
What, if anything, should state government do in response to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade?
State government needs to ensure that all people’s healthcare decisions are protected to the fullest extent under our State laws and that affordable access to safe health care procedures are maintained.
What should state government do to support and improve public education in Hawaii?
State government needs to: (1) ensure adequate funding to have and keep high quality teachers; (2) support the continued build out of Hawaii’s early learning system so that keiki can succeed in Hawaii’s K-12 public school system; and (3) support and accelerate the creation of pathways and partnerships in our public schools for our students to find their place in higher education or workforce training programs where they can be placed in living wage jobs.
What reforms, if any, would you propose to make local government more transparent to the public?
Continued use of technology to ensure citizen participation in meetings is a critical reform we need to support and sustain as we come out of the pandemic.
Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?
As one of the best places in the world to explore the rest of the universe, I support the continuation of astronomy on the Big Island. I also support the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope; however, as we move forward, collectively we have to deliver on the new management structure that was crafted by this year’s Legislature and ensure that true engagement occurs with communities on the Big Island to ensure that further utilization of Mauna Kea for astronomy is done in the correct and proper way.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
Like so many others who call Hawaii home, ohana is everything to me. As a nearly 30-year resident of Makiki, my husband and I are raising two daughters who we want to have the opportunity to thrive in Hawaii. This is what drives me to do the work that I do for the community!
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