Name on ballot:
Ernesto “Sonny” Ganaden
State House – District 30
Lawyer, Writer, Editor
Previous job history:
Youth Program Manager, Kokua Kalihi Valley Healthcare Center; Court-Appointed Attorney, Honolulu District Court; Staff Attorney, Domestic Violence Action Center; Lead Writer, Native Hawaiian Justice Task Force Report; Instructor, Department of Ethnic Studies and American Studies, University of Hawaii Manoa; Editor at large, Flux Hawaii magazine.
Previous elected office, if any:
State Representative, District 30
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.
As an advocate, attorney, professor, and writer, I have experience in the public and private sector, and have dedicated my career to public service and the people of Hawaii.
What is the most pressing issue facing residents in your district and how would you address the problem?
The increase in the cost of living as compared to wages is pushing the middle class out of Hawaii. This last legislative session, I supported numerous measures that keep money in working people’s accounts in and in the local economy, including raising the minimum wage, ensuring the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is permanent and refundable, investing in numerous housing initiatives, increasing taxation on visitors, expedited permitting for transitional housing, ending the reliance on the criminal justice system to ameliorate the needs of the unsheltered, ensuring that the human right to clean water, and support for public education to incentivize families to stay here at home.
The pandemic taught us that seemingly radical policy proposals can become logical in a crisis. We are in a continuing economic crisis for the middle class. Therefor ideas for a universal basic income, fair taxes for the wealthiest among us, and ending the incentives for out-of-state homeowners to purchase investment property must be on the table.
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?
We have begun a process of creating a more equitable tax system, which lead to an increase in state revenues this last year. Our government must prioritize housing. We must do everything we can to stabilize the housing market, encourage first-time homebuyers to purchase here, and to dismantle the economic incentives for out-of-state non-resident buyers to purchase homes on the islands.
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. However, a suspension of the tax will not lower the cost of gasoline significantly. There are issues beyond our control in state government; including limitations on national refining capacity; which are impacting our prices and will continue to do so despite our measures.
Do you support or oppose efforts to slow or limit the number of tourists to Hawaii? Please explain.
I support a healthy tourism economy that serves our working communities first. I proudly represent an urban district where people work hard in the tourism industry. Corporate hotels have been slow to rehire unionized and non-unionized workers this year despite soaring stocks. This has lead to significant stress for workers, and a reliance on the state to fill needs in unemployment and support. The state may mandate that daily room cleanings occur, and that hotels are staffed commensurate with bookings.
I reiterate a need for local ownership of our tourism industry. Profits are shipped overseas. Workers should own hotels as cooperatives. Workers themselves should be the majority stockholders in the visitor industry here on the islands. Thousands of people in Kalihi have given their best working years to make Honolulu an international destination, so they should have the first say in who manages the industry, and how profits align with values.
Government must pass laws and support economic intermediaries that help finance worker co-op transitions, changing the leadership of the hotel industry from foreign asset managers to local employee-owned companies.
Can Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy be diversified, and, if so, what can state government do to support the effort?
Of course it can. Firstly, adjusting visitor taxation and creating an equitable housing market is my primary and most immediate goal in office. There are numerous bills offered annually that diversity our economy, I am absolutely engaged in promoting those efforts.
What is your plan to increase affordable housing in Hawaii, and to help the counties deal with homelessness?
The legislature has made a significant investment in housing this year. We hope those projects will be fruitful. I will continue to do my part in creating a more equitable criminal justice system, that does not serve as an alternative to real, lasting programs dedicated to ending houselessness.
What would you propose to help protect Hawaii residents’ health during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?
We have the lowest death rate in the United States, in part due to the work of government, but primarily due to the efforts and understanding of local communities. We must encourage best practices that preserve human life and health.
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?
That is not necessarily true. The restructuring of our tax code must continue, in order to give local communities the services they deserve and pay for.
I continue to encourage street-level infrastructure in the district, and broader efforts to stabilize the housing market.
What, if anything, should state government do in response to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade?
We must support national legislation that gives the same human rights guaranteed by the Hawaii state constitution to those across America.
What should state government do to support and improve public education in Hawaii?
Continue to invest in public education! Do not stop at the support of public education at all levels until public schools are a far better choice for every local family than any private institution.
What reforms, if any, would you propose to make local government more transparent to the public?
In 2019, though the technology was readily available, the legislature was hesitant to use telecommunication for testimony. All that has changed post-Covid.
We should enshrine in law the ability to testify by videoconference for individuals and communities that have a difficult time appearing in person to hearings, moving this practice to a right. This practice has lead to an increase in participation from rural and neighbor island constituents, and underserved communities.
An unexpected outcome of closing the capitol in 2021 was an increase in transparency when individuals had to sign in to visit the building. When the visitor list was made available pursuant to Sunshine Law, it sparked a conversation about access and influence from lobbyists. We could mandate that sign-in process for registered lobbyists, they could fill a simple online form when visiting.
Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?
I have not supported the Thirty Meter Telescope. I defer to the ongoing committee on the issues, and commend the stakeholders for their work in the last several years, after the events of 2019.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
I’m a class clown, a joker, and I surf as often as I can. I don’t take myself very seriously. I do, however, consider the job of elected office a sacred responsibility in our fragile democracy. It is an honor to be your public servant.
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