comscore 2022 Election: Val Aquino Okimoto | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Election

2022 Election: Val Aquino Okimoto

  • Val Okimoto
Name on ballot:

Val Aquino Okimoto

Running for:

Honolulu city council – District 8

Political party:

No answer submitted

Campaign website:

www.valokimoto.com

Current occupation:

State Representative

Age:

45

Previous job history:

Special Education Teacher, Hawaii DOE; CPA, Carr, Gouveia & Associates

Previous elected office, if any:

Hawaii State House of Representatives, District 36 (2018 to present)

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Oahu.

For the past four years, I have had the honor of serving my community of Mililani as a State Legislator. One of the main reasons why I decided to run for office was to bridge the gap between elected officials and the everyday person. This sentiment still holds true today and is one of the main reasons I decided to seek election this year to the Honolulu City Council. To offer the people an active, objective voice in laws that impact our everyday lives.

Since taking office, I have:

– Supported and introduced legislation that reduces the cost of living for Hawaii’s working families;
– Encouraged the development of affordable homes for local families;
– Promoted the creation of high-quality jobs to help keep our families here in Hawaii.
– Brought tens of millions of dollars to schools in our District.
– Gave voice and representation to those who felt forgotten and unheard.

Overall, I believe the people of District 8 are looking for a fresh leader that will provide a vision we can all believe in—not politics as usual. If elected, I will serve as a humble but strong voice for my community while paving the way for an affordable, exciting future for Honolulu.

What is the most pressing need for the people you seek to represent, and what will you do to address that need?

I believe the most pressing need for our community members in District 8 is the cost of living. This problem is especially difficult due to the pandemic’s effects on our economy and rising inflation levels. If I am elected to the City Council, I will prioritize the following:

1. Diversify District 8’s economy by:
a. Maintaining our important industrial locations near the harbor and airport.
b. Grow Pearl City and Waipahu’s economic opportunity zones into centers of innovation, education, and creativity along new development.

2.Public Safety:
a. Champion policies that will directly impact rising violent crime rates
b. Address the issue of repeat criminals and the mental health elements of homelessness that go virtually unchecked.

3.Economic Relief:
a.I will not support any tax increases, but instead, focus on providing immediate relief for working families.

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?

At the county level, I oppose increases to taxes or fees, especially property tax and usage fees. Instead of raising taxes or creating new ones, I believe it is time to expand the tax base so we can lower the tax burden on middle-class families.

We have the highest property values in the nation. Raising the property tax will hit our middle working class the hardest, and will likely devastate those living on fixed incomes, retirees, and kupuna. If anything is done in this area, it needs to be focused on those making over a certain income, speculators, or out of state investors as provided by law.

What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness and to make housing more affordable to residents?

We talk a lot about affordable housing, but it is only a piece of the problem we face with our homeless community and is certainly no panacea to the problem.

It is time to speak about and commit to addressing the criminal and mentally ill homeless that affordable housing will not address on its own. As I stated above, this demographic of homelessness goes largely unchecked and is growing.

It is critical that we address this issue now, and in other areas of Honolulu to prevent the rise in crimes and to stop the potential spread into District 8.

One way to make housing affordable to our residents is to take advantage of federally designated Opportunity Zones. It is a commitment of mine to work directly with federal entities to capitalize on these areas that build up communities by incentivizing responsible local investment that gives back vital resources, such as infrastructure upgrades, that our communities very much need.

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

No amount of reform will ever make the government fully transparent. It has to start with us, the elected official.

I believe the best way to restore public confidence is to be the example, not the exception. There is a lot of apprehension in government these days and it is eroding institutional trust. It’s time to restore faith in local government, one elected official at a time.

Hawai’i needs more openness in government, so that any member of the public can easily review how its local government spends their tax money. Good government should not be held hostage by secret holds. Lawmakers have the right–indeed, the responsibility–to block or vote against legislation they consider bad. However, they should always do so publicly– identifying themselves and explaining their actions.

If elected officials are not willing to block a bill publicly, they should allow the bill to move forward. That’s how good government works: Everyone should know what it is up to. At the end of the day, that’s the best way to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse. Excessive and redundant government regulations, typically exacerbated by the lack of spending oversight and overall fiscal transparency, provide ample systemic opportunities for bribery, graft, and other corrupt practices that are detrimental to economic growth and development. I am committed to taking practical steps to eliminate corruption

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, what should city government do to help protect residents’ health?

Hindsight is always 20/20. There could have been a lot of improvements. In my mind, the biggest improvement we could have made was to trust our small businesses and trust our communities and families to take care of themselves.

Instead, we implemented statewide mandates that, to this day, have significant costs to the City budget. We have an obligation to learn from mistakes made to best prepare our communities for whatever may come.

If we cannot trust our constituents how can they trust us? That is why I remain committed to forging institutional trust back with our communities and our business members.

What should city government do to help residents who have been economically affected by the pandemic?

A good economic policy should focus on empowering our residents to return to work safely and confidently.

In general, society should continue to resume most activities with proper safety measures, recognize their citizens’ rights and needs to earn a living, and provide in-person education options for children.

Policymakers should foster environments that attract and enable work opportunities for all people, including eliminating unnecessary regulations and licensing requirements, respecting individuals’ right to work and to be their own bosses, repealing wage restrictions that reduce jobs, ending restrictions that limit workplace flexibility, and enabling more accessible and affordable childcare.

Work and workplaces are central to a healthy thriving community, not just economically but also for the well-being of individuals, families, and the social fabric of our islands.

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.

Our residents were promised, and have been paying increased taxes for, a rail that goes to Ala Moana Center. I am committed to seeing this project completed and promises kept.

Do you support or oppose using new city funds to cover any shortfall in HART’s construction or operating costs? Please explain.

I do not support using new city funds for the rail project. I do not believe the public supports new city taxes or fees and am committed to finding creative ways to complete Rail without negatively impacting our cost of living.

Do you support or oppose the plan to dismantle the Stairway to Heaven? Please explain.

Ultimately, I believe that this is a community issue with the residents on the Windward Side. If I am elected, I will work closely with my colleague from that district to strike a balance between what is best for their community and the public at-large.

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

I’m a State Representative, educator, and most importantly, a mom who wants to see a better future for her daughters.

I was born and raised on the island of Kauai and the daughter of two lifelong public workers. My father served as a member of the Kauai Fire Department and was a member of HGEA, and my mother is a retired administrative professional for the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture. I graduated from Kauai High School Magna Cum Laude as a scholar-athlete in Basketball, Volleyball, and Track & Field.

I graduated from Brigham Young University-Hawaii with a BA in Accounting and a Minor in Business Management and began my career at a local CPA firm on Oahu. I then became a certified special education teacher for the Hawaii State Department of Education, serving the students of Highlands Intermediate for 7 out of my 10 years in the DOE.

In 2018, I was elected to the State House of Representatives and am grateful to serve as a vocal advocate for government transparency, financial responsibility, and commonsense leadership. While at the Legislature, I served on the committees on Labor & Tourism, Economic Development, Education, Higher Education & Technology, Transportation, and Legislative Management.

My passion for public service stems from these roots that were planted at birth here in these islands. At the core of me is a local girl who loves this state and will do all I can to serve our people and our future generations.

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?

I fully support efforts to crack down on vacation rentals that are in violation, and I believe it can be effectively enforced if properly managed. This is a good amount of revenue that the city will lose if poorly enforced, revenue that can be used to offset tax and fee increases that will have direct effects on our local residents.

Do you think more needs to be done at the city level to manage tourism? If so, what would you propose?  

There is always room for improvement, and managing such a large industry is no easy task, especially for a local government. A balance has to be found where the government is at a healthy length from private business while not allowing the industry to grow out of control. I will work to keep all channels of communication opened between my office and the private industry.

I am in favor of levying fees at highly-visited destinations, such as Hanauma Bay, to protect these natural resources. If elected, I will work closely with stakeholders to promote responsible tourism.

What can city government do to mitigate the affects of sea-level rise on Oahu?

I will work cooperatively to consider all available options in order to invest in long-term economic sustainability. Collaborate and build long-term relations with local leaders in the construction and STEM fields to create and Introduce a city Climate Adaptation Strategy that outlines capital improvements, infrastructure assessments, development regulations, and other measures needed to address the long-term effects of climate change and sea-level rise.


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