Name on ballot:
Honolulu city council – District 2
Planner, City & County of Honolulu / Private Attorney
Previous job history:
Policy & Fiscal Director, Honolulu City Council
Domestic Violence Prosecutor, City & County of Honolulu
Associate Attorney, Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel
Administrative Support, U.S. Pretrial Services, U.S. District Court Hawaii
Assistant Manager, Small Business
Previous elected office, if any:
Waipahu Neighborhood Board (3 Terms)
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Oahu.
I believe that my passion and my experience in all branches of city government will best serve the people of Oahu. As I walk door to door, it is clear that our neighbors are looking for someone they can trust, who will listen, and who will work hard to address the challenges our families are facing.
After graduating from Mid-Pacific, I attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa, graduating with a masters in public administration and a law degree with certificates in environmental and Native Hawaiian law.
I have dedicated my career to helping others: supporting our federal judiciary at U.S. Pretrial Services; overseeing human resources for a small business; working as an attorney in private practice; serving as a domestic violence prosecutor for our City; conducting policy research and drafting potential legislation as a policy advisor at the City Council (Council); and pursuing my passion for making government work more efficiently and effectively. During the pandemic, I saw our residents struggling and joined the Department of Community Services, where I now work as a planner to help provide housing opportunities for our families and services for those experiencing homelessness.
With my work in all three branches of city government and my small business and private practice experience, I want to help our community navigate the City and all of its complexities. As a prior prosecutor and civil litigator, I intend to fight to achieve all that our district deserves to improve the quality of life for our residents.
My undergraduate and community work in communications and conflict resolution amplified my commitment to listening and bringing our community together. With so many crises on our horizon, from our lack of affordable housing to climate change eroding our infrastructure and damaging our homes, we must get out of our silos and work together to solve these issues and to uplift our community’s voice. I commit to being accessible and available to our community and know that we can accomplish so much together.
What is the most pressing need for the people you seek to represent, and what will you do to address that need?
Our families are being priced out of Hawaii. The median price for a home has surpassed $1 million, impacting everyone. Our youth are moving back in with family or moving away for better job opportunities. Families are moving away because they cannot afford a home. Our kupuna find themselves unable to watch their grandchildren grow up while also being burdened by their increasing tax bill. We must ensure that all families have housing options that they can actually afford on their salary, for no one should have to choose between paying for rent, food, or other necessities.
As an affordable housing planner for the City, I see so many opportunities to meet our community’s needs. We can help complete current and future housing projects by investing in the needed infrastructure, including roads, sidewalks, and sewers. We can also speed up the permitting process by filling the many vacancies in the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP), using pay differentials to stop losing DPP staff to the private sector, and implementing self-certification for specific permits. Increased staffing would also allow better enforcement of vacation rental laws, pushing more units back into the market to increase supply and lower demand and costs. By maximizing density in the urban core and looking at making city land available in appropriate areas, we can provide for the creation of new housing units while preserving our critical agricultural and preservation land. By creating a Department of Housing, we can centralize the city’s housing activities in one location. We must act now to stop our families from being priced out.
Rising inflation has significantly worsened Hawaii’s already high cost of living. What can be done at the county level to help Oahu residents cope with high consumer prices?
As I walk door to door, the cost of living continues to be one of the greatest concerns of our district’s residents. Our neighbors are feeling pressure from rising housing, grocery, and gas costs. Affordable housing and good-paying jobs are two areas that the city can support. The city must take the steps needed to support housing options for all income levels. No resident should have to spend more than one-third of their monthly income on rent, regardless of how much money they make. By speeding up permitting, enforcing our vacation rental laws, investing in infrastructure, and maximizing density in the urban core, we can dramatically bring down the cost of housing. The City employs over 10,000 residents and partners with many non-profit organizations to provide services to our community. These jobs ensure that residents receive the city services they pay for and provide a lifeline for many local families to receive the wages and benefits needed to thrive. As the City is faced with a growing number of vacancies, we need to ensure that government employment attracts the best and brightest minds. That is why pay differentials should be used to ensure that we pay city workers what they deserve and that the City is well-staffed to meet the needs of the people of Oahu.
The City can also play a part in supporting new, resilient jobs. The projects that come before the Council for approval must be evaluated based on their benefit to the community. As we strive to develop smartly, protecting the character of our communities, we also want any new projects to provide good-paying jobs for residents. We need to invest in renewable energy and agriculture, including better leveraging federal funds left on the table each year, which will provide jobs that withstand the challenges ahead. Investing in healthcare, technology, and the arts can provide a pathway for our youth to stay in Hawaii instead of having to move away to pursue their dreams. We can help train up this new generation of workers and support our current workers by supporting the Oahu Workforce Development Board, the City’s development board tasked with helping train and retool our island’s workforce.
What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness and to make housing more affordable to residents?
Housing first with support services is our answer to homelessness. We have thousands of folks who experience homelessness each year due to economic reasons. They may be your cashier at Foodland or a student in your class; they may be someone who recently lost a job, divorced, or had a medical emergency. We can meet these neighbors’ needs by solving our housing crisis and ensuring that there is housing that Hawaii families can actually afford. We can accomplish this by speeding up the permitting process at DPP; enforcing our vacation rental laws to push these units, sometimes vacant, back into the housing market to increase supply and lower costs; investing in the infrastructure needed for housing; making appropriate city land available for housing; maximizing density in the urban core to both increase the number of available units and preserve critical agricultural and preservation land; and creating a Department of Housing to centralize the city’s housing activities in one place. We must also leverage the many funding sources available, including those from the City’s Affordable Housing Fund and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to support housing options that local families can actually afford.
In my role in the City, I have worked with some of the most dedicated and passionate homeless service providers, and I understand that they desperately need more support and housing options. We need to increase support services and stabilization beds for those needing assistance, including mental health and substance abuse treatment. We know that many experiencing homelessness want to stay in the community they are from, so each community must brainstorm and discuss what services may look like in their community. The models will not look the same for every area, but Kahauiki Village, a plantation-style supportive housing community near Keehi Lagoon, exemplifies what can be created when we work together.
What reforms, if any, would you propose to make local government more transparent to the public?
Government must be accessible, transparent, and accountable to the public. I support campaign finance reform and citizen-funded elections to limit the impact of private money in politics. We can also change from opt-in to opt-out voter registration and implement ranked-choice voting, supported by Common Cause Hawaii, to ensure each vote counts. “Gut and replace” should also be a practice of the past, for we must operate transparently and give the public a meaningful opportunity to weigh in on pending legislation. These policies are common sense, generally relate to state and federal laws, and have been supported by Common Cause Hawaii for some time.
With that in mind, there are also specific things that the City can do. The COVID-19 pandemic brought a new wave of community involvement as remote testimony became a component of public hearings. Government must maintain virtual participation by phone or video conferencing to ensure the residents of District 2 and all other communities outside of town can meaningfully participate. I also appreciate that the Council is bound by Sunshine Law and other restrictions that increase transparency and ensure that Council matters are discussed and decided before the public’s eyes.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, what should city government do to help protect residents’ health?
Other large cities similar to Honolulu’s size have a public health officer. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the need for the City to have its own expert to rely on during emergencies and non-emergency situations to evaluate and advocate policies intended to promote the health and safety of our community. With the pandemic winding down, the city must remain vigilant and continue to rely on the most up-to-date science and data. It is also vital that we ensure accurate information gets out to the public, particularly communities requiring language access resources. The City must be proactive, engage the community, and have staff that can navigate the many languages and cultures that make Hawaii so unique.
What should city government do to help residents who have been economically affected by the pandemic?
We must solve our housing crisis so that families have access to housing they can actually afford. We must also support good-paying, resilient jobs, which can include retooling and supporting the work of the Oahu Workforce Development Board to support innovative jobs in agriculture, renewable energy, technology, healthcare, and the arts. By stimulating growth, we can create the jobs needed for residents to support their families and facilitate a space for small, local businesses to grow. By investing in much-needed infrastructure, we can create vibrant communities that also support these local businesses, and we need to continue to invest in support services that prevent families from falling into homelessness and provide a stable path forward.
Do you support or oppose the current plan to stop construction of the rail project in Kakaako instead of near Ala Moana Center? Please explain.
I support transparency, financial accountability, and the completion of rail as approved by the voters. The current plan to take construction to Kakaako complies with the Federal Transit Administration requirements, operating within our current financial means, and provides the option of continuing construction to Ala Moana Center. We must work within our means while identifying ways to finish rail to Ala Moana Center to realize rail’s promise to voters of affordable housing and liveable, walkable communities. Transit-oriented development, where we build homes and communities around our rail stations, is essential to responding to our housing crisis and creating a more sustainable future. As I go door to door, many families have shared with me their frustration with long commutes and having to raise keiki through the rear view mirror. Maximizing density along the rail within the urban core will support affordable housing units, saving families tens of thousands of dollars per year in housing and transportation costs while protecting critical agricultural and preservation land across the island. Mixed-use development with multimodal transportation will also help create vibrant communities for housing and local businesses to thrive and improve the quality of life for our families.
Do you support or oppose using new city funds to cover any shortfall in HART’s construction or operating costs? Please explain.
Our residents see their real property tax bills rise as our property values increase. This further exacerbates our affordable housing crisis and harms our kupuna who often live on fixed incomes. I would oppose raising real property taxes for residential properties to cover any shortfall in HART’s construction; however, we must pursue other funding options that are available to realize the investment we have made in rail. Our families will be best served by having multimodal transportation that allows for the development of affordable, vibrant communities. As a city, we must ensure that the development along rail uplifts the character and history of each community and provides for housing that families can actually afford.
Do you support or oppose the plan to dismantle the Stairway to Heaven? Please explain.
I respect the decision of the current Council and City Administration. My preference is always to preserve access to community space when possible. This can involve a managed access plan, and often requires extensive community involvement. With that in mind, every elected official must be responsive to the needs and concerns of the community. As a Councilmember, I commit to engaging and listening to all of the stakeholders involved in the discussions surrounding community spaces, and I would give great deference to the community members most impacted by a particular issue and their respective elected officials.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
I love our community and would be honored to have the opportunity to serve our district. I grew up in Waikele during my teenage years. My stepdad was in the army for 30 years, so public service was always very much a part of our family. Prior to that, my mom raised me as a single mom. Our experience as a working family has shaped so much of who I am today. I am increasingly frustrated by seeing so many on Oahu that work so hard for their families, sometimes two or three jobs, but are still unable to afford a home or our rising cost of living. I know that we can achieve an Oahu where every family has access to housing they can afford, every community is safe and has the infrastructure needed to improve our quality of life, and our island and natural resources are protected and preserved for generations to come.
Do you support or oppose the newly revised city law to combat vacation rentals that violate zoning regulations, and do you think it can be effectively enforced?
Reducing vacation rentals in our neighborhoods both protects the quality of life in our community, by reducing noise and traffic, and increases the number of units available for families to rent or own. With the median price of a home surpassing $1 million, we must act now to prevent our families from being priced out of Oahu. The more we can push vacation rental units back into the housing market, the quicker we can increase supply and decrease demand and costs.
Do you think more needs to be done at the city level to manage tourism? If so, what would you propose?
The City can lessen the impact of tourism on our natural environment by utilizing impact fees and incorporating management plans in appropriate areas. We must preserve what makes Hawaii so unique for generations to come. I support the movement HTA has been making over the past few years towards a regenerative form of tourism that supports both our communities and our visitors. We should focus efforts on targeting mindful visitors that want a meaningful experience and relationship with Hawaii over a higher quantity of visitors. Our vacation rentals laws play a part in protecting the residential nature of our communities while centralizing tourism in areas that can be better managed. We must also invest in agriculture, renewable energy, healthcare, technology, and the arts to better diversify our economy and create a broader range of resilient jobs for times when visitor numbers drop.
What can city government do to mitigate the affects of sea-level rise on Oahu?
Our district knows intimately how rapidly sea-level rise is already impacting our communities, with roads being eroded away by the waves and homes falling into the ocean. The city must employ mitigation and adaptation measures to respond to sea-level rise and climate change. To mitigate the impacts of climate change we must: reduce our reliance on fossil fuels by increasing access to EV charging, expediting the transition to an electric bus fleet, supporting multimodal transportation, better managing our waste, and much more.
To prepare our community for what’s already at our doorstep from rising ocean levels and larger storms, we must:
1. Follow through with a managed retreat plan;
2. Increase emergency shelter access and signage across the district, including a resilience hub in Koolauloa;
3. Increase stream maintenance;
4. Invest in flood mitigation;
5. Begin work on a data-driven retreat plan; and
6. Invest in much-needed infrastructure, including our roads and bridges.
Millions of federal dollars are available through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife and Departments of Transportation, Agriculture, and Housing and Urban Development. We should have a full-time position dedicated to identifying and applying for these federal grant opportunities to ensure that our community can be fully prepared and kept safe.
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