comscore 2022 Election: Natalia Hussey-Burdick | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Election

2022 Election: Natalia Hussey-Burdick

  • Mike Last
Name on ballot:

Natalia Hussey-Burdick

Running for:

State House – District 50

Political party:

Democrat

Campaign website:

www.nataliaforhawaii.com/

Current occupation:

Chief of Staff, State House of Representatives

Age:

32

Previous job history:

2021 C&C of Honolulu, Reapportionment Commissioner
2021-2022 Program Manager, Kuleana Academy Leadership Training program
2018 Committee Clerk, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee
2017 Legislative Aide, Senator Laura Thielen
2016-2017 Volunteer Guardian Ad Litem for kids in foster care
2014-2017 Reading Tutor, Kalihi Kai Elementary School
2012 Administrative Clerk, Naval Health Clinic Hawaii

Previous elected office, if any:

2020 Delegate to the Democratic National Convention; 2020-2022 Secretary of the Democratic Party of Hawaii; 2018-2020 Assistant Secretary of the Democratic Party of Hawaii

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.

I was born and raised in Kailua, and have worked at the State Legislature for the last 6 Sessions since Senator Laura Thielen invited me to work with her as a Legislative Aide. Before that, I was actually studying Biology (pre-med), because I like science and I want to help people, but after working in her office I realized that my calling is truly to help people through legislation. I have a passion for reading bills, writing bills, and everything about the legislative process. I represented the Windward community on the 2021 Honolulu Reapportionment Commission, and I have been elected to several positions within the Democratic Party of Hawaii.
I recognize that we need more women in office – especially after the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe V Wade – so after a lot of encouragement and support from so many wonderful neighbors, friends, and family, I decided it was time to step up and serve my community directly in the State House of Representatives.

What is the most pressing issue facing residents in your district and how would you address the problem?

As I go door-to-door, the #1 issue I hear about is the continually increasing homelessness. The homeless population is drastically undercounted by the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) counts. I have seen it with my own eyes when I volunteered for those PIT counts, there must have been a sweep done the night before or everyone decided to hide from the count because the common gathering places were completely empty.
The problem is, many of the underlying causes of homelessness have been neglected for years. We need to:
1. Increase the numbers of social workers, drug treatment centers, and mental health programs to address the root causes of homelessness.
2. Invest in transitional and employment training services like RYSE, IHS, and Work Hawaii.
3. Build truly affordable housing in well-planned locations (increasing density in the urban core to minimize environmental impact).
These solutions will all require significant funding, but those funds will be saved later down the line with reduced ER visits, jail and prison costs, and social welfare programs.

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?

I strongly support these three ideas that working families advocates have been begging the legislature to implement for years:
1. Tax fairness: Hawaii is one of the only states that tax people in poverty, and we tax them at a higher rate than billionaires. Hawaii is becoming a haven for millionaires and billionaires, and it is a direct result of our regressive tax policies that shamelessly favor the ultra wealthy. A flat tax (giving everyone the same tax rate, regardless of income) would be better than the current structure, but I won’t be satisfied until we tax billionaires at a higher rate than people in poverty.
2. Paid Family Leave: This has always been important to support working families who can’t afford caretakers for their keiki and kupuna, but it is even more critical now as we transition into a post-pandemic world. Other states fund it through a social insurance system, similar to our unemployment insurance program. I’m confident that it could easily be added to our existing unemployment insurance program.
3. Eliminating GET on essential goods: It’s long past time for Hawaii to join the majority of other states that don’t tax basic necessities like groceries, diapers, and feminine care products.

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?

I just paid over $75 to fill my Honda CRV so I completely understand the pain at the pump, but oil companies are making record profits right now – these prices are not due to the modest gas taxes which have been fixed for years and fund critical infrastructure projects. What we need is an anti-price-gouging mandate to cap oil profits, and a statewide effort to incentivise and increase the ability for people to work from home whenever possible.

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

I absolutely support reducing tourism – it is possible to reap better economic benefits with fewer tourists if the industry is managed more wisely. I spent a lot of time researching and thinking about this during the pandemic when the legislature was examining tourism alternatives. I facilitated meetings with international tourism management expert Doug Lansky, and helped Representative Wildberger draft 2022 HB1899 which would have changed HTA’s guiding statute from “Tourism Marketing” to “Tourism Management,” incorporating the concepts of Regenerative Tourism. Residents have been begging for better management for years, and the current administration of the Hawaii Tourism Authority has been doing a good job developing Destination Management Action Plans, but their guiding statute still dictates that their primary duty is “marketing” – at least until we gather the political will to pass a law to change it.

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


Hawaii has so many other viable options to diversify our economy, the possibilities are practically infinite. My top three ideas for local economic growth are:
1. Increasing local agriculture by supporting small farmers through public land leases and shared commercial kitchens.
2. Investing in career readiness programs for cutting-edge environmental jobs, high tech data systems, and creative industries.
3. Thoughtful planning to build transit-oriented affordable housing in areas that make sense for the community and the environment.

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

Currently, we essentially let the free market decide where to place new housing projects, which often leaves the community playing whack-a-mole and accused of NIMBY-ism when a project is objectively poorly planned in a location that doesn’t work for the people or the environment. I think the State and County need to be much more proactive with planning and zoning affordable housing projects. We need to significantly increase density in our urban core, and I’d love to explore planned communities in semi-developed areas like the land adjacent to the Pali Golf Course / HPU.
Homelessness is a multi-faceted problem with many causes. As I mentioned in a previous answer, some of the immediate steps the State needs to take are:
1. Increase the numbers of social workers, drug treatment centers, and mental health programs to address the root causes of homelessness.
2. Invest in transitional and employment training services like RYSE, IHS, and Work Hawaii.
3. Build truly affordable housing in well-planned locations (increasing density in the urban core to minimize environmental impact).

What would you propose to help protect Hawaii residents’ health during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?

Understanding the airborne nature of this virus, it is imperative that we increase ventilation and embrace more open air spaces in public places, or we will continue to be vulnerable to future variants and other airborne pathogens. We must allow restaurants to utilize outdoor dining areas, and future buildings should incorporate “passive building design” techniques to take advantage of our tradewinds to promote air flow. Shutting down businesses does not make us safer. As we learn to live with our “new normal,” the main objective for health & safety should be reducing the concentration of droplets passed between strangers. As we’ve seen with Monkeypox and Bird flu, this won’t be our last airborne virus. We need to make fundamental changes to the way our society interacts with each other in order to prevent the next pathogen from becoming another pandemic.

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?

Education, Affordable Housing, and investing in New-Deal style workforce transition programs that will simultaneously help achieve our sustainability goals and jumpstart our local economy.

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

Everyone seems to think that Hawaii is safe now that Roe v. Wade is overturned, but actually the constitutional protections we have are on the same shaky ground because the concept of abortion is buried in the “right to privacy” clause in both our State and US Constitution. Neither the State nor the US Constitution actually say anything about “abortion” or “pregnancy” – all they mention is the right to privacy, and you have to look to the committee report (state) and the supreme court case (federal) to understand that privacy includes the right to a woman’s right to choose healthcare decisions between her and her doctor. However, the right to decide something between you and your doctor does nothing to actually allow anyone the ability to physically make that happen, and for a lot of people on neighbor islands with limited-to-no access to the doctors that perform abortions, the “right” to make that choice is meaningless to them. It is absolutely imperative that we do 3 things in the upcoming 2023 Legislative Session:
1. Strengthen the language in our State constitution to specifically protect freedom of choice in birthing decisions
2. Clarify HRS 453-16 to better define “nonviable fetus” and “operation”
3. Fully fund Planned Parenthood or similar organizations to expand services to neighbor islands

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

First and foremost, we need to increase teacher pay, especially for hard-to-staff areas and for students with special needs. We also need to hire more teachers in order to reduce class sizes, and give teachers more appropriate measures of success than the current rigorous standardized testing and punitive teacher evaluation systems.

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

One of the silver linings of the pandemic is that it forced the legislature to finally embrace technology: all of our hearings are now livestreamed & archived on YouTube, and we’re allowing the public to participate remotely via Zoom. I will only support leadership who commits to continuing both of those basic transparency & accountability practices. I still can’t believe we used to make neighbor island residents fly over in order to testify – with just 48 hours notice!
It isn’t right that the Legislature created a Sunshine Law for the purpose of public participation and transparency, but then exempted itself from it.
It is inherently unethical for incumbent legislators to regularly hold fundraisers the day before critical legislative deadlines.
I also support other common sense measures like strengthening conflict-of-interest laws, publishing voter information guides, and reducing the power of a Committee Chair to unilaterally kill bills without consent from their committee members.

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

A lot of people seem to have forgotten that Katherine Kealoha was the person who signed off on the EIS for TMT when she was head of the Office of Environmental Quality Control. As an environmentalist, I think everything she approved should probably be re-evaluated in light of her major corruption scandal. As a science major, it breaks my heart to have to oppose astronomy, but our privilege to explore space does not outweigh the Native Hawaiians’ right to free, prior, and informed consent. To continue this project without that consent would be a human rights violation, as described by Amnesty International. The importance of studying astronomy also does not outweigh the statutory purpose of the conservation district that the TMT would be built upon. We have laws restricting construction on conservation land for good reason, regardless of whether the proposed building is a hotel or a building-sized telescope. These critical cultural and environmental concerns were ignored in public testimony, which left advocates with no other choice but to rise up and take nonviolent direct action to stop the project. I cannot support any project that has not done the due diligence of gathering meaningful stakeholder input, and free, prior, and informed consent of the indigenous people.

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

I have been advocating on issues that impact our community ever since I can remember, always speaking up and testifying on behalf of the environment and the people who are suffering. I know what it’s like to have an elected official brush off your concerns and vote on critically important bills without even reading them. I promise to always listen to the community, read the bills thoroughly, and carefully consider all aspects before casting my votes. Just as I would expect you to do your research before trusting me with your vote, you can expect me to do the same when representing you in office. Visit nataliaforhawaii.com if you want to learn more, volunteer, or donate. Mahalo for your kind consideration.


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