6th, South and West Maui
Hawai`i State Senator, District 6
Elected to State Senate, District 5 in 2002 (now District 6); Appointed as Economic Development Coordinator, County of Maui,1999-2002; Elected to the State Senate 1994 - 1998; Appointed to the State Senate 1993; Elected to the Hawaii State House of Repre
Hawai`i State House (see above)
For the past 16 years, I've had the privilege of representing the 6th Senate District -- South and West Maui -- and to work on issues that not only affect my district but also Maui County and the state. I want to continue to be a strong, progressive voice that not only understands the things that matter to our communities but also gets results. As Chair of the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health Committee, I have championed and helped pass landmark legislation to improve access to quality healthcare, preserve the environment, provide better learning facilities for our students and teachers, and advocate for women and our kupuna. With over 25 years of total legislative experience, I know how to be a good listener, fight hard for issues that matter to our communities and successfully pass laws that benefit the average person -- especially working families, women and the under-served. It is both a deep commitment and an honor to serve the people of Hawai`i.
There are several challenges relevant to District 6 residents. The first involves our roadway infrastructure -- specifically, mitigating the effects of climate change on our coastal highways and making our intersections safer.
Because of rising sea levels, sections of Honoapi`ilani Hwy need to be relocated away from the shoreline in many places and the northern terminus of the Lahaina bypass needs to be constructed with future climate threats in mind. This past term, I worked hard to secure the necessary $40,000,000 to fund construction of the Lahaina Bypass going north. I want to continue to press for needed highway improvements including completion of the conversion to "smart" intersections to make street crossings safer for pedestrians and vehicles alike.
Another challenge deals with increasing affordable housing on the West-side. Recently the Governor signed one of my bills to help Front Street apartments stay affordable, as well as to provide $30,000,000 for 200 new affordable rental units to be built by 2019 in Lahaina near Keawe Street at the Villages of Lei Ali`i. I want to keep this momentum going!
A third challenge is to continue improving our education facilities. This means expediting construction for the new high school in Kihei and a new library/administration building for Lokelani Intermediate School, as well as securing funding for additional classrooms and a new elementary school in West Maui to relieve overcrowding. It is important to expand the number of UH-Maui college courses offered in West Maui to enable students to obtain college credits more affordably and explore additional career options.
After talking to many concerned residents across the state and in my district, people tell me the most important issue is still the economy. My highest legislative priority, therefore, would be to find ways to grow and diversify our economy. By supporting sustainable business, entrepreneurs and tech startups, I believe this fresh infusions will help create more quality living wage jobs and boost economic development for generations to come.
I am convinced that a highly qualified workforce will drive the future of Hawai`i's economy, so improving education is a top goal. Besides upgrading school facilities, I want to promote 21st century skill-sets especially in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and healthcare so our young people can be employed in higher paying jobs and come home to live and thrive.
I am also a strong proponent of clean, renewable energy. I want to continue to find ways to provide incentives for electric companies to reduce fossil fuels and decrease operating costs. The framework will move us closer to a more efficient electric grid system, cleaner energy and lower rates.
In the meantime I want to build on my current initiatives to protect our natural resources, reefs and near shore waters. This includes preserving Lipoa Point in West Maui for scenic, cultural and public recreational use; protecting our coral reefs by banning sunscreens containing harmful chemicals; and providing pesticide-free buffer zones at our schools. I strongly believe we must become dedicated stewards of our islands and marine life -- or risk losing the spirit and specialness of Hawai`i that define us all.
I grew up in a small farming community (rice and cotton) in South Texas the older of 2 girls. My parents were educators: my mother an elementary school teacher and my dad was a coach and the school business manager. They were involved in church and community activities and encouraged their daughters to do likewise. When I went to college, my mother decided to enroll with me to get her Masters Degree during summers and on week-ends. She was dedicated to her students and found her passion working with special needs students after many years as a 5th grade teacher. Music was an important part of our household but my sister was the one with the talent and pursued it after college. Although I learned to play the flute in the marching band, I found studying piano and organ a lifetime skill I still enjoy and share with others. On Maui, I added ukulele. I'm still learning.
My parents taught me the value of education, hard work, faith, the importance of community and helping others. The values they imparted and my interest in civics and politics, lead me to get involved in the campaign to lower the voting age to 18, encourage students and teachers to get involved in politics and ultimately ran for office after settling in Hawai`i in 1980. I've never thought about being anywhere else. This is my home that care deeply about and want to continue to work to enact policies and budgets that support the very best we can be: honoring our host culture; helping our young people with skills to thrive into the future; protecting our environment; enabling more affordable housing; providing access to quality healthcare; encouraging healthy lifestyles and aging with support services for our kupuna and their caregivers; and pursuing a sustainable economy that includes all. I believe this is a vision we must constantly strive to achieve.