Health care executive
Acting President/CEO, Hawaii Institute for Public Affairs
I’ve spent my entire professional career in the world of public policy, first as a legislative staffer upon graduating from UH-Mānoa and more recently as a health care advocate with the nonprofit Healthcare Association of Hawaii, where I specialize in long-term care. I have experience advocating for public policies that benefit the entire community.
Serving on several nonprofit boards and community organizations, such as the Mānoa Neighborhood Board, Hawaii Pacific Gerontological Society, and Chamber of Commerce’s Public Health Fund Committee over the years has strengthened my commitment to public service. Currently, I’m active with the Mānoa Girls Athletic Club, where I’ve served as a head coach for youth volleyball and softball for the past 4 years. Through this rewarding experience, I’ve tried to impart values such as courage, teamwork and sportsmanship to over 100 girls in the district. More recently, I joined the board of Mālamā Mānoa out of my concern for the issue of “monster homes” that are ruining the character of our neighborhoods.
In addition, I’ve been appointed by the last two governors to lend my health care expertise to state boards and commissions. During my tenure with the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, we worked to address the financial future of the state’s safety net hospital system at a time when the Legislature cut funding for the organization. I also served on the board of the Hawaii Health Connector and, as the group’s last chairman, collaborated with various state agencies to ensure that the 30,000+ Hawaii residents who received health coverage through the Affordable Care Act were taken care of during the wind-down of the state’s health insurance exchange.
Possessing the right blend of professional experience and community commitment, I decided to take the plunge as a first-time candidate because I’m deeply concerned about the direction our state is headed in. I have two young daughters, and our legislators over the years have done the next generation no favors by refusing to tackle society’s largest problems (if there’s one thing legislators do well, it’s kick the can down the road). “Brain drain” is not a recent phenomenon, but it’s gotten progressively worse with the rising cost of living, lack of affordable housing, stagnant wages and an economy that continues to rely on service-based sectors. It is an extremely personal issue for me; I’ve decided that I can no longer stand on the sidelines and leave the fate of my two daughters and the next generation to our current crop of legislators. I’m just one person, but I’m hopeful that a new wave of like-minded candidates will succeed in this year’s election to begin to alter the downward trajectory of opportunities for local working families to get ahead.
The UH system’s lack of support from this district’s state representative over the past decade has been troubling. UH may have its challenges, but challenges cannot be overcome with a “crabs in a bucket” approach. I firmly believe that Mānoa’s representative should be UH’s biggest champion, not its harshest critic. As a proud UH alumnus, I would support the administration and faculty in their efforts to make UH a world-class academic and research institution. To fully realize UH’s potential as the nation’s only land-sea-space institution, I support the Thirty Meter Telescope project, and am hopeful that UH will improve its stewardship of Mauna Kea, which has clearly been lacking over the years. I would also fight for additional funding to improve the physical plant of the UH system and work to address its maintenance backlog. We need to make UH as strong as possible (both from a facilities and curriculum perspective) to keep the best and brightest here at home to pursue their post-secondary education.
Another issue facing the district is the continued aging of our neighbors (more below under "highest legislative priority").
Finally, the issues of “monster homes” and illegal rentals are tearing apart the fabric of our community. The city has done a deplorable job of enforcing the permitting and zoning laws we have on the books, and unscrupulous developers/contractors have made a total mockery of the system. While some of this stems from the larger issue of a lack of housing inventory at all price points, these monster homes are negatively impacting the infrastructure of the surrounding community and have irreparably changed the character of our neighborhoods. Granted, much of this remains a county-level concern, but the state needs to pressure the city to review the Land Use Ordinance and figure out ways to compel the city to rein in this problem.
The most pressing facing the district is the continued aging of our neighbors. Mānoa and Mō‘ili‘ili are established communities, and we need to ensure that the kupuna in our community are treated with dignity. The first wave of baby boomers will hit 80 over the next several years, and, as a state, we don’t have a comprehensive plan to take care of them. This will be one of my top priorities. With my experience working in the long-term care field, I have the necessary community relationships to design such a plan. Our kupuna prefer to stay in their own home for as long as possible, so to respect their wishes, we need to ensure that we develop the appropriate workforce to make that possible. Family caregivers who take care of their parents and loved ones need more support as well. I commend the legislature for passing the Kupuna Caregivers program, and I would support efforts to provide paid family leave and increase respite care resources to reduce the burden on such family caregivers in the community. We have a tremendous opportunity to make Hawaii a model for turning senior care into an economic engine that creates jobs and keeps families on solid financial footing.
I believe I can improve their lives by serving as a tireless advocate on their behalf. I understand the legislative process inside and out, and have long-standing relationships with key legislators that will allow me to hit the ground running from Day One.
I will do my part to ensure that our district receives its fair share of funding for capital improvement projects, including enhancements to the three elementary schools (Mānoa, Noelani and Hokulani) within the district. I would also advocate to implement universal preschool to ensure that our keiki are best prepared for elementary school and a lifetime of learning. Studies show that the majority of brain development occurs by age 5. We owe it to our keiki to optimize learning during this vital phase.
The kupuna and their caregivers in Mānoa and Mō‘ili‘ili need a champion at the Legislature. With my professional expertise, I'm uniquely positioned to get relief for them today, all the while helping the state prepare for the impending "silver tsunami." As one of only a handful of elected officials who have a background in health care, I would work to increase access to health care and advocate for a more patient-centered system.
Of all my volunteering activities, the one that I find most rewarding is being a youth sports coach. Over the years, I've coached several dozen girls in softball and volleyball, and I've tried to impart life lessons of courage, sportsmanship and teamwork. However, I'm seeking this seat as a first-time candidate to ensure that my players have ample opportunity waiting for them when they enter adulthood. If we don't have a course correction soon and reset our priorities, my daughters and their generation will have no choice but to leave the islands to seek opportunity. As a coach and as a parent with a vested interest in our state's future, I refuse to stand idly by and let that happen.