Name on ballot:
State Senate – District 15
Previous job history:
TV News Reporter in Guam and Hawaii
Previous elected office, if any:
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.
I have been in office for 20 year and have advanced major projects and policies – from the new Aloha Stadium and $35 million Moanalua Theater, to reorganizing the Hawaii Tourism Authority and establishing the State Energy Office in statute. I work well with others, bring fresh ideas to every discussion, and deliver results.
What is the most pressing issue facing residents in your district and how would you address the problem?
Clean water. 93,000 of my constituents were exposed to poisoned waters, due to the Navy’s negligence. Shortly after the 27,000-gallon spill in 2014, I was appointed to the Red Hill Task Force. I have been questioning and criticizing the Navy for their lack of urgency in fixing their leaks. I introduced a bill this year to ensure that their future tanks are not atop our aquafer. In the years ahead, I will be holding them accountable for defueling their Red Hill tanks.
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?
Reduce taxes. We can start by cutting the state’s 18-cents on every gallon of gas. I also amended a bill this past legislative session to cut the general excise tax on food and medicine. That idea did not make it through the next committee.
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?
Do you support or oppose efforts to slow or limit the number of tourists to Hawaii? Please explain.
It is already happening. In the first four months of 2022, tourists spent $5.8 billion dollars in Hawaii, which was higher than in 2019, with 16% fewer visitors! The public wanted the same visitor spend, with a lower visitor count. That has happened. This state does not have a problem with the number of visitors coming to our shores, we have a problem with where they land up. The state needs to start by curbing the proliferation of short term vacation rentals, and also manage their flow into our parks and through our streets.
Can Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy be diversified, and, if so, what can state government do to support the effort?
Yes! We need to stop crying about the Price of Paradise and start pursuing Profitability in Paradise. We can do so by playing to Hawaii’s strengths. I continue to advance my Triple A Economic Plan by advocating for Alternative energy, Aquaculture, and Aerospace. In all three areas, Hawaii can be a global leader. We need to embrace innovation in this state. To do so the state needs a strategy and more resources. DBEDT gets less than 1% of the state’s budget, yet is tasked with growing the economy, so employees can get raises and the indigent can get healthcare. More attention to growing an innovation sector can make many of our societal challenges disappear.
What is your plan to increase affordable housing in Hawaii, and to help the counties deal with homelessness?
Monetize our state lands and prohibit those from off island to buy state subsidized housing. Look at Aloha Stadium and Sand Island, both are underperforming state assets. If we developed these areas for highest yield, we can use those new lease payments to build affordable housing along the rail line. When the state uses credits and bonds to help developers, we need assurances that those investments don’t land up benefiting outsiders or speculators. There needs to be a 20 year commitment to live in the home, and when it’s resold, the next owner needs to be a kama’aina.
What would you propose to help protect Hawaii residents’ health during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?
Encourage booster vaccinations, wearing masks, and social distancing. No more mandated business or government closures.
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?
Invest in business growth opportunities. If we don’t, we will continue to have one goose, tourism, laying ONE golden egg. Tourism got “scrambled” during COVID. We need to grow the flock and invest wisely in innovation. Making this transition also warrants an investment in workforce development. Our service-oriented workers need to be upskilled for the jobs of the future.
What, if anything, should state government do in response to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade?
Fortify laws allowing a woman’s right to choose.
What should state government do to support and improve public education in Hawaii?
Audit DOE. There are far too many layers in the educational bureaucracy. Find the leaks and fix them before talking about throwing more money into education. Once we are confident that we have an efficient educational system, lawmakers can make bold investments in our schools.
What reforms, if any, would you propose to make local government more transparent to the public?
I would encourage all public meetings be hybrid – in person and remote. The first step towards transparency is inclusion. Long before COVID, I was promoting video conferencing of my committee meetings in the Senate. Five years ago, there were very few takers. Now it’s become the norm.
Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?
I support the TMT. Hawaii has a huge role to play in answering the questions of the universe. Those telescopes also provide quality jobs. Hawaii should do much better in training our youth to be the next generation of astronomers. Astronomy fits in perfectly with efforts to create an aerospace industry on the Big Island.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
I am the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Palau. I was given that role because of my long-standing efforts to improve the lives of Micronesians in Hawaii and the Pacific. Over the past 14 years, I have sent nearly $5 million of surplus medical and educational supplies throughout the region. I advocate for healthcare and fair treatment of our local Micronesian community. They are Hawaii’s 21st Century civil rights movement.
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