2018 Primary Election Candidates

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AKI, Zuri C.
Name on ballot:

AKI, Zuri C.

Running for:

State House

District (if applicable):

36: Mililani-Mililani Mauka-Waipi'o Acres

Political party:


Campaign website:


Current occupation:

Public Policy Advocate at The Office of Hawaiian A



Previous job history:

Walt Disney Imagineer, Curriculum Coordinator MBTA

Previous elected office, if any:

Neighborhood Board #25 - Mililani/Waipi’o/Melemanu (At-Large)

What qualifies you to represent the people of Hawaii?

The Hawai‘i State Constitution provides three qualifications for the State House of Representatives: 1) a resident for no less than three years, 2) 18 years of age or older, and 3) a qualified voter in the district from which the person seeks election (Art. III, Sec. 6).

Be that as it may, I have come to understand that elected officials in either House comprising our Legislature hold a position similar to that of a fiduciary, entrusted with upholding the law of the land, ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of the residents, and in so far as managing the public trust (Art. XI, Sec. 1) “for the benefit present and future generations” as beneficiaries.

Accordingly, a set of unwritten qualifications emerge in the expectations of the public for State Representatives/Senators: Good governance, ethical practices, a duty of care (the exercise of responsibilities with a certain degree of diligence, attention, care, and skill), a duty of loyalty (public interest ahead of their personal gain), and a duty of obedience (the exercise of responsibilities in a manner faithful to the wishes of people).

With that said, my eligibility in the race for State House District 36 evidences my satisfaction of the constitutional requirements.

As for those unwritten qualifications, I strongly believe that at its very core, a Representative, as a lawmaker, must have a sufficient understanding of the law and its relationship to politics, the legal process, and legal infrastructure. I have seen too often how a single misplaced word in a statute can deviate from the original intent of the law. I have a Juris Doctor from William S. Richardson School of Law, where I also focused on legal writing and legislative drafting. Law school has equipped me with one of the most fundamental tools of an effective lawmaker: comprehension of the law.

Representatives are tasked with developing and advancing State policy. These policies have a tendency to shift between the administrations of each new governor, but greater and largely more static sources of policy are enshrined both with the Hawai‘i State Constitution and embodied within the long-held beliefs of the people – at the state level and into the community. I work as a public policy advocate for the State of Hawai‘i. The nature of my job is to have a thorough understanding of State policy and the policies of State agencies including the counties. In addition to this, I am a life-long resident of the State of Hawai‘i and a life-long resident of the district in which I seek election, with countless multi-generational roots here (going back to time immemorial). This has provided me the privilege of knowing where we have been, while also knowing where we need to go.

In addition to the aforementioned skills and experiences, I serve my community as a member of the Mililani-Waipio-Melemanu Neighborhood Board No. 25 and a grassroots community organizer on issues concerning environmental conservation/climate change, tech education for kupuna and at-risk youth, and combating homelessness/houselessness. I have since begun to develop these initiatives into major projects and should I have more time outside of the hectic campaign season, I’ll be advancing each of these exponentially.

I strongly believe in good governance and the need for it – which is among the reasons why I chose to run for office and make a positive change. I also strongly believe in ethical practices and pledged an oath, upon entering law school and again when I filed to run for office, to uphold ethical practices. Finally, I have loyalty to my State and its people, and my primary reason for seeking political office is for the betterment of conditions of the people of Hawai‘i.

What are the top three challenges facing the voters you seek to represent?

The top 3 priorities for my district/community are: 1) traffic; 2) lack of economic opportunities; and 3) high cost-burden. Each of these issues are intertwined and while they may also be considered statewide issues, the impact is more severe for my community than most communities throughout the State.

Traffic, the enduring of long work-day commutes (and sometimes even weekends) has become almost synonymous with the loss of opportunity and time. Based on the average commute time from Mililani to downtown Honolulu (and back), a 20-year commute, which I have endured, equates to over one year of time spent sitting in traffic (even more so for those on the Wai‘anae and Waialua/North Ko‘olauloa coasts). What can each of us do with one year of time? That’s one year of salary, one year with the family, one year of learning a new skill: it’s opportunity and time lost.

The lack of economic opportunities in Central O‘ahu is often the impetus for endeavoring long commutes to downtown Honolulu. The sheer lack in economic opportunities is a significant contributor to the brain drain and it serves as a major inhibitor to a less than favorable business ecosystem – all the “action,” as they say is in Honolulu and now Kapolei. While Hawai‘i may be among the worst states to create a business, thriving business ecosystems are often situated in far from Central O‘ahu.

Residents in my district have a tendency to accrue a higher cost-burden that isn’t entirely limited to financial cost, but also includes social cost. For example, it’s not unheard of for a Mililani resident to have to wake up an hour or two earlier than a Honolulu resident in order to commute to a Honolulu job (I’m one of them). We skip breakfast and other opportunities – I mean, a few of my coworkers actually go to the gym during the time I’m sitting in traffic. There’s an obvious health cost to this. We get home later and by then, we’re so exhausted, that cooking a healthy meal is cast-aside for quick fast food. This seriously impacts families.

Adequately addressing these issues would mean introducing significant economic opportunities to Central O‘ahu to such a degree that it also stimulates the establishment of a thriving business ecosystem. We need jobs, great jobs in Central O‘ahu. We can alleviate huge amounts of traffic congestion by allowing people to work closer to home. It’s not a cure-all and it would certainly take time for such a monumental shift. I’ve been an advocate (and the only candidate in my race to say so) for establishing a major tech sector (including fintech and med-tech) here in Hawai‘i – Central O‘ahu would be a perfect location for a tech hub. I have been talking with some movers and shakers in the tech sphere to see what it would take to establish a tech hub in Central O‘ahu.

If elected, what will be your highest legislative priority?

Increasing revenue for the State of Hawai‘i. Hawai‘i faces the most unprecedented effects of climate change, an affordable housing crisis, a homeless crisis, an ever-increasing high cost of living (highest in the Nation), and a growing brain drain. The only way we’re going to adequately address these issues is with more dedicated funding.

My highest legislative priority is to substantially increase revenue for the State of Hawai‘i in order to solve the largest problems negatively impacting our quality of life. This means, the Legislature is going to have to seriously consider how it can better lay the foundation for emerging profitable sectors like tech/fintech and medical tourism. The Legislature will also need to seriously consider the viability of gaming/gambling as a major source of revenue and its overall impact on the Hawaiian Islands.

If elected, what can you do to improve the lives of your constituents?

I can effectively work toward solving the State’s most significant problems and that in itself will drastically improve the quality of lives of my constituents. Among my constituents, issues such as affordable housing and the lack of economic opportunities or brain drain have varying impacts. Homeowners may not be as concerned about affordable housing as a newly wed couple looking to start their own family. Such is the same for the job-searching Millennial versus the retiring Baby Boomer.

However, there are blanket issues that impact each and every one of us: high cost of living and climate change for example. The Legislature has a number of ways that it can address the high cost of living, which includes focusing on increasing the buying power of residents or even reducing the cost-burden specifically for residents. As the effects of climate change increase, all residents will be impacted by sea level and temperature rise. By utilizing state funds to increase our climate change readiness, we can establish the necessary infrastructure to mitigate its most substantial impacts, while making our lives a whole lot more comfortable.

Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you?

Not only am I highly qualified to serve as this community’s Representative, but I am the only candidate with multigenerational roots in the district, which means that I am intimately familiar with the issues residents face (and have faced). I know where we have been and where we need to be in the future.

I’ve always enjoyed our community’s small town feel and the benefits of getting to know your neighbors, but we’re rapidly expanding and with the growth of nearby Koa Ridge, those things that negatively impact that quality of our lives - like traffic congestion - will only intensify. For our sake, our representatives need to plan ahead and encourage certain types of growth away from the urban core in order to allow residents economic opportunities in Central O‘ahu. This has been the central focus of my platform and I aim to improve the quality of our lives

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