Name on ballot:
State Senate – District 9
No answer submitted
Previous job history:
Previous elected office, if any:
Honolulu City Councilmember
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.
I have represented our district for 10 years: four years as City Councilmember (2011-15) and the past six years as State Senator. I’ve knocked on 35,000 doors and spoken to many thousands of you personally.
My parents’ experience inspired me to run for office. They got here from China with nothing. My father became a professor at UH, and he was able to buy a home, put my brother and me through school, and give us opportunities we could never have had anywhere else in the world. Today, 90 percent of my high school class went to college on the mainland, and most haven’t come back. The American dream–to have a good job, raise a family, and buy a home–is no longer possible for young people today and for future generations. I want to make Hawaii a place where every generation can have a home.
What is the most pressing issue facing residents in your district and how would you address the problem?
The housing shortage is the top issue facing Hawaii. One of the most visible symptoms is homelessness. I support dramatically expanding innovative strategies like Housing First and ohana zones to give homeless persons safe places to go. These are proven policies that have succeeded in jurisdictions around the country and around the world.
Building enough supply to meet demand is the necessary and sufficient condition to ending the housing shortage. I do not support paving over the undeveloped land of Hawaii to build more suburban sprawl, nor do I support allowing developers to make unlimited profits from developing state-owned land. Instead, I have proposed a plan for the State to build large scale, high density leasehold homes on state-owned lands near the rail stations for sale to all Hawaii residents on an income-blind basis.
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?
The biggest driver of the cost of living in Hawaii is the cost of housing. By providing low cost homes to all Hawaii residents regardless of income, our plan will bring the cost of housing within reach of most Hawaii families.
Other large costs for Hawaii families include energy for electricity and transportation, both of which currently depend largely on the rising price of oil. By accelerating our transition to renewable energy and by making communities more walkable, Hawaii residents will pay much less for their basic necessities.
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, there should be a state version of the federal gas tax holiday proposed by President Joe Biden.
Do you support or oppose efforts to slow or limit the number of tourists to Hawaii? Please explain.
I believe more study will be needed before assigning a cap to visitor arrivals. I support sustainable tourism in Hawaii by targeting higher spending visitors. The tourism industry is the basis of the state economy, which is in a fragile transition to the post-pandemic era. We can and must ensure that the return of tourism has a smaller impact on the environment and local quality of life.
Can Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy be diversified, and, if so, what can state government do to support the effort?
There are several promising economic sectors that the State should grow, as the pandemic has exposed the economic vulnerability of the tourism industry. Two sectors offer the lowest hanging fruit.
First, the demand for affordable housing has only grown with the downturn in the economy. With existing construction technologies and techniques, new housing units can be built for as little as $300,000 each, which translates to a mortgage or rental payment of $1,500 per month, which a majority of Hawaii residents consider to be affordable. Proper safeguards can ensure that these units will be available to Hawaii residents. The continued production of these homes for every generation of local people, without taxpayer subsidy, would provide a steady construction job pipeline for years and decades to come.
Second, Hawaii can replace the fossil fuels that currently supply the large majority of our electricity with renewable sources. Hawaii’s abundance of wind, solar, biofuel, and other clean energy sources could make us the Saudi Arabia of clean energy. Every year, we send over $5 billion out of state to buy oil. Keeping that money in state enables it to be deployed to create jobs and stimulate the economy here, rather than overseas.
What is your plan to increase affordable housing in Hawaii, and to help the counties deal with homelessness?
My top priority is a new social contract with the people of Hawaii: that all workers should be able to live decent and happy lives. One recent labor union campaign put it well: “One job should be enough.” Actually, this social contract was in effect for most of the country in the postwar era, which fostered an enormous economic expansion and established the American middle class.
Hawaii families already enjoy many of the essential elements of a good life, such as universal free K-12 education and near-universal health care. The biggest missing component of the vision is housing. After decades of undersupply, Hawaii’s housing shortage has been estimated at 65,000 units over a ten year period, driving home prices and rents to the highest levels in the country. One recent study estimated that a worker earning the median wage would need 40 years–yes, 40 years–to save for the median down payment. That’s why Hawaii has the highest percentage of people working two or more jobs in the country and both parents working in the country, just to barely scrape by.
We have the highest home prices in the nation, which leads to the highest cost of living in the nation, which leads to the highest rate of people working two or more jobs in the nation and both parents working in the nation. Every year, about 18,000 babies are born in Hawaii. These are local people, not wealthy overseas investors or mainland visitors. Every year, about 10,000 people die. Even if we make the unrealistic assumption that all 8,000 new people every year marry each other and stay married to each other, that means we still need 4,000 housing units for those new 4,000 new couples. On average, Hawaii produces 2,000 housing units per year. That gap has persisted for years and decades. Until we dramatically increase housing production, the shortage will continue to worsen, until Hawaii’s middle class is forced out completely.
ALOHA Homes is one solution to the housing shortage. ALOHA stands for Affordable, Locally Owned Homes for All. The State would take existing lands that it owns near rail stations, such as parcels already slated for redevelopment or other underutilized parcels, and build high density housing. These developments would be highly walkable, and their residents would commute via rail instead of in cars on the road. They would be sold at cost, as little as $300,000, which means a monthly mortgage payment of $1,500. There would be no taxpayer subsidy, and only Hawaii residents who would be owner-occupants and own no other real property could buy them. These projects would be built on existing urbanized lands and would require not one inch of agricultural, conservation, or otherwise undeveloped land.
Employing a similar model for over 50 years, Singapore’s public housing system now houses 82 percent of its population in high quality, well maintained developments with very little private car usage. Singapore successfully accommodates a population of 5.5 million on an island less than half the size of Oahu.
Hawaii can house its future generations. The accelerating exodus to the mainland and the homelessness crisis on our streets are not inevitable laws of physics. By building at sufficient density, maximizing walkability, minimizing building cost, and restricting ownership to Hawaii residents, we can achieve an abundance of affordable housing for many decades to come.
Future generations will be able to move out and start families of their own instead of being trapped in their childhood bedrooms. They will be able to enjoy time with their families instead of spending hours stuck in traffic or rushing from one shift to the next. They will enjoy fresher and more convenient food, as shopping will be within easy walking distance of their homes. As they age, they won’t have to take the car to go to the grocery store, post office, bank, or pharmacy; they can simply take an elevator. And for all those who prefer their current car-centric suburbs, that’s fine. Not one existing house need be demolished to make way for these projects. This vision is possible, indeed it is imperative, from a sustainability perspective. All we need is the leadership to take the first step.
What would you propose to help protect Hawaii residents’ health during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?
By the numbers, Hawaii’s Covid response has been the most effective in the country. Hawaii has the lowest fatality rate, the third lowest number of Covid cases, and among the highest vaccination rates among US states. We should be proud of flattening the curve to well within our capacity to treat those who need it. We have all sacrificed to make this happen, and I am particularly grateful for the hard work of our medical and public health community.
As our islands open to greater inbound tourism arrivals, Hawaii must ensure adequate testing and contact tracing capacity. We must perform temperature monitoring on travelers and take other steps to ensure that new, potentially deadlier strains of Covid are not brought in.
In the long term, ending Hawaii’s housing shortage will also improve public health. Many of Hawaii’s current coronavirus clusters are in overcrowded homes where social distancing and self-isolation are impossible. With a dramatic expansion of our housing stock, the transmission of disease will decline.
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?
Hawaii must continue to make progress on delivering basic services at a high level. We must continue to support public education, health care, and transportation, among others. This year brought record funding to Native Hawaiian programs like Hawaiian Home Lands, and the state should continue to do so to the extent possible.
What, if anything, should state government do in response to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade?
I am pro-choice and am proud that Hawaii was the first state in the country to legalize abortion after the Roe decision. In the wake of the United States Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, we must strengthen our protection of choice. I will introduce a constitutional amendment to ensure that a woman’s right to choose is enshrined in the Hawaii State Constitution, as the legislatures of California and New York have recently done. I would also introduce legislation prohibiting anyone here in Hawaii from cooperating with state governments and federal government in regards to information about reproductive healthcare as well as sharing information with individuals not directly involved with that healthcare. If people come to Hawaii for health care, I will safeguard their privacy and safety while finding ways to improve access.
What should state government do to support and improve public education in Hawaii?
Any education plan must begin with better funding. We must improve the physical state of our schools and other educational facilities. We must recognize the hard work and seniority of teachers by increasing pay at levels appropriate to their seniority. To reduce the teacher shortage, I support the “Grow Our Own Teachers Initiative” to train students with college degrees from here and give them total stipend incentives to attend the necessary classes to become certified and licensed teachers.
The HSTA and DOE have a memorandum of understanding for a recruitment and retention incentive that today provides an annual differential of $3,000 for teachers employed in hard-to-staff locations. This is a good start. While it helped fill vacancies in the targeted areas, it hasn’t significantly impacted vacancies overall. I would support a new recruitment and retention model that looks at the shortage differential to identify schools in geographically isolated locations to address areas with higher rates of non-certified teachers and higher teacher vacancies.
What reforms, if any, would you propose to make local government more transparent to the public?
I believe the single best way to make the legislative process more transparent, predictable, accessible to the public, and accountable is to enact a continuous, year-round legislative session. Today’s legislative session from January through May gives as little as 48 hour notice before testimony is due. Many bills die without a public explanation during critical deadlines like conference. Today, all four county councils employ continuous sessions, and having served on the Honolulu City Council, I found that the lack of arbitrary deadlines greatly promoted transparency.
During the pandemic, the Legislature began accepting remote testimony. The Legislature should continue to do so to maximize public input, especially from the neighbor islands and underserved areas of Oahu. I believe that other state boards and commissions should continue to accept remote testimony as well.
Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?
Yes, I would like to see the telescope built. But I also think the protectors have raised a number of very real concerns about management of the mountain over the decades. Before proceeding with construction, it’s reasonable to expect accountability for past mismanagement, implementation of new measures to ensure that the concerns will not recur, removal of unneeded telescopes from Mauna Kea, and engagement with the Native Hawaiian community with true open mindedness.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
The coronavirus pandemic has produced some truly unprecedented times for all of us. But what it has really done is expose some of the fundamental underlying problems in our community: the housing shortage, the lack of good jobs, and the limited economic mobility, to name a few. We have a historic opportunity to seize the initiative, to start meeting the challenge, to create a better future for all generations. I humbly ask for your vote to continue our work to achieve this dream.
The most responsive form of government is one that comes to you, listens and serves you. Whether we have met or not, please let me know how I can serve you. Regardless of party, political views, gender, or economic background, please contact me online at www.stanleychang.com, email: email@example.com, or call me: (808) 778-5783.
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