42 (Kapolei, Makakilo)
Hawaii State House of Representatives, District 42
Attorney, Bays Lung Rose & Holma, Honolulu, Hawaii
Aide, Honorable Mazie K. Hirono, Lt. Governor, State of Hawaii
Law Clerk, Honorable Eden Elizabeth Hifo, Circuit Court, First Circuit
When people look for someone to be their voice in government, they look for someone who they are able to identify with -- someone who has walked a mile in their shoes. I am from the district having lived in Kapolei for over two decades now so I understand the everyday issues impacting the people of the Second City. I drive the same long commute that they do and worry about raising my kids in a safe, healthy and nurturing environment. The residents of District 42, including myself, moved to West Oahu because government promised us a Second City - - a safe place where we could live, work, and play, and raise our families. We don't need people telling us that traffic is difficult because we drive it every day.
I am honest about my background, experiences, my qualifications and my life because I want people to know the breadth of my experience. My colleagues call it “integrity”, but I believe truth and honesty have always been the best policy. Residents of Kapolei and Makakilo don’t need another person (or a panel of experts) to tell them “traffic must be bad.” They are looking for someone who is from our community, understands the challenges we face in raising our kids, empathizes with making ends meet so that government must be accountable for our hard working taxpayer dollars, and someone who is willing to stand up to be their voices.
I am honored and humbled that the residents of District 42 have selected me to serve as their voice in the Hawaii State House of Representatives because we have accomplished much together as a community. We have fought to ensure that government lives up to its promises of the people of the Second City by securing funding for new roads, new schools, additional government services, transportation alternatives, and affordable housing. Together, we have seen our City grow and together, we will continue to hold government’s feet to the fire to make sure that government is accountable to the people of the Second City.
The issues in Kapolei and Makakilo go back to the 1990's, when government's solution to affordable housing was to build further away from the urban core. A promise is a promise, and it is government's obligation to ensure that life away from the urban core remains affordable.
Traffic - There are lots of cars on the road now and it is only projected to get worse. Voters in Kapolei and Makakilo are looking for a track record of problem-solving. Current traffic solutions address congestion - the symptom of a much larger problem: poor planning. We need to mitigate the symptoms, but effective traffic relief requires improvements in infrastructure and economic development.
Infrastructure – When the growth in affordable housing was focused on West Oahu, it was government’s responsibility to ensure that the infrastructure was in place and would grow with the community. The lack of roads and lanes for traffic was one area that infrastructure had not kept up. There were not enough schools to handle the growth so our students have been dealing with multi-track calendars. Our graduating seniors from Kapolei High School were refusing to obtain a college degree at UH Manoa not because they could not afford it, but because they did not want to suffer through the traffic. I am proud that in my time as representative, many of these problems have been addressed by the opening of Kualakai Parkway (aka the North-South Road), the Kapolei Interchange Phase II (and soon to be III), UH-West Oahu, Ho’okele Elementary and the soon-to-be East Kapolei Middle School, to name a few. But there are many more areas where government must make good on its promises.
Economic Development - For there to be longer, lasting traffic solutions, we need to systematically stop (or reverse) the flow of traffic. This means creating job opportunities in West Oahu so that employment with little or no commute is an option. It is not just a quality of life issue; it is fiscally-responsible for jobs to be strategically located in West Oahu since long commutes exacerbate traffic and take a toll on our roads. I spearheaded the effort to revamp the enterprise zone tax credit to incentivize businesses to set up in Kapolei. And I continue to advocate for the Kapolei Jobs Initiative bill to continue bringing economic growth to Kapolei so that businesses will relocate and bring employment opportunities with them. I am proudly supported by many of the small (and larger) businesses in Kapolei because I understand that all of the government mandates have negatively impacted their operations. I am willing to stand up for their interests because continued job economic growth in our Second City will be the key to live, work and play in Kapolei.
The news of Hawaii’s public education system continuing to have a lack of teachers is not only a problem in Hawaii, but nationwide. Hawaii is competing with other states to attract and retain qualified teachers. As an aide to then Lt. Governor Mazie Hirono, I worked with legislative leaders in the House and Senate to pass the Hawaii Education Loan Program - a program to forgive the education loans of teachers who dedicated a minimum of five years to teach at underserved schools in the State of Hawaii. Since taking office, I have continued supporting this program while including funding in the state budget when I sat on the Finance Committee. This program has been an enormous success in attracting more qualified people to teach at our public schools, but there are still many other barriers to retaining these teachers.
Now that we have succeeded in attracting qualified teachers, we need to lay the groundwork to retain them. While I salute these new teachers, the State can do so much more to induct and mentor these new teachers into the Department of Education system.
We annually lose many seasoned and highly-qualified teachers to their well-deserved retirement, but in retirement we lose the benefit of their mentorship and their collective experience. There is currently no program or pathway for them to stay involved in the Department of Education. If government is the barrier that is preventing these teachers from giving back in retirement, then I think it is also the job of government to get out of the way to allow this to happen.
Always, in all ways.
Government (and the media) often gets caught up in the glamor of big projects -- the next silver bullet, the one pill to cure everything -- that they lose sight of a lot of the smaller fixes that cost less and get results much sooner. Improving the lives of the residents of Kapolei involves an all-hands-on-deck approach to problems.
While the majority of West Oahu residents are strongly in favor (of a fiscally accountable) rail project, they need traffic relief now, in addition to relief from projected traffic volumes for 2030. The residents of the Second City are not traffic engineers, nor are they a part of a "blue ribbon international panel of experts", but they are smart enough to see a traffic problem and report it.
Addressing and fixing these problems of all shapes and sizes is point-of-pride for myself. As the mother of twin daughters, I know that every minute I spend sitting at a poorly timed light or bottlenecked in traffic, is time that I am not spending with my daughters. Working with colleagues at the State Department of Transportation to fix many of these small problems has been more effective than any piece of legislation that I could have drafted. Whether it was the installation of a shoulder lane on the H-1 freeway eastbound between Kualakai Parkway and Kunia, restriping the two left lanes and changing the traffic signals at Kapolei Parkway and Ft. Barrette, implementing police presence on Farrington Highway westbound out of Campbell Industrial, fixing the lanes at the corner of Kalaeloa Boulevard and Kapolei Parkway, or removing the delineators and the “no right turn on red” prohibition at Kualakai and Kapolei Parkways, these traffic mitigation measures are real and are not just talk. They have made a difference in the quality of life for our residents because dealing with traffic on the H-1 freeway, shouldn’t mean having to deal with traffic in our community. These solutions are not the destination, but the journey. In West Oahu, there is no shortage of issues, both big and small, that require attention and innovative, out-of-the-box thinking to attack existing problems.
It is my hope that my track-record of problem solving speaks for itself – and it is my hope that each and every one of the residents of Kapolei and Makakilo have benefitted from some aspect of my work. I am best known for introducing and passing the Ignition Interlock law which requires anyone arrested for drunken driving to install a breathalyzer into their vehicle which most be blown into before the car will start. This law has prevented thousands of unsafe vehicle starts potentially saving thousands of lives.
I have been honored for the last several elections when area residents have chosen me as their voice in the State House of Representatives. Being productive and relevant have been a labor of love because my ideas and my perspectives represent the viewpoints of the people of Kapolei. Unlike a dinosaur that is from a different place and time, I am always applying practical solutions while using creative, out-of-the-box ideas (ideas which are often suggestions by our residents). I thank the voters of Kapolei for their trust in me and will continue to work towards their best interests, always putting the people of the Second City first.