Public Policy Advocate
Executive Director, Hawaii Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO
State House of Representatives
A legislator must be able to separate ones self from ones own opinion(s) and make objective decisions based on the rule of law, sound policy, and in the best interest of the community. Having a practical understanding of how things work when the rubber hits the road is crucial to finding workable solutions to many of Hawaii's socio-economic ills. I served in various capacities, front line, operational, and executive level positions in the private sector, for fifteen years prior to running for office and serving two terms as a State Representative in the Hawaii State Legislature. Since then, I’ve worked with local and state government focusing on public policy review and advocacy. Most recently I served as the Executive Director for the Hawaii Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO and currently as a Public Policy Advocate for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Throughout my thirty-five year career, I’ve served on numerous appointed and volunteer boards, commissions and philanthropic organizations. I am a proud father of two wonderful adult children and a recent grandfather. I have always done my best to help others without expecting anything in return. I believe my years of ‘practical’ hands-on experience in the public and private sector has given me a uniquely broad base of knowledge from which to draw upon and make good objective decisions, while being mindful and empathetic to those whom the decisions made impact. Lastly, I am from the community for which I hope to serve; raised in Kāneʻohe and having lived in both Kāneʻohe and Kahaluʻu. The District is comprised of two distinct areas within the moku of Koʻolaupoko, one being more urban fringe and the other more rural, agricultural/country in nature, and each with its own character, needs and desires. As a Native Hawaiian, my sense of place and responsibility is not taught or by choice, but rather is inherent in who I am and where I come from. My decision making is one of mindfulness, empathy, objectivity, responsibility, and respect.
As a former legislator, I see many of the same issues we struggled with in the past, continue to exist: Affordability (Housing)/ Homelessness, Protecting Our Neighborhoods, Infrastructure.
Affordability (Housing)/Homelessness. As the cost of living across the state continues to grow out of reach for many local residents, it has become increasingly difficult for our children to survive and thrive on the Windward side.
As a young adult, I was fortunate enough to purchase my first condo in my hometown of Kāneʻohe. Kahuhipa Street at that time was considered a fairly affordable area. I cannot say that is the case today, as real estate continues to climb and even modest single family homes in the area, once considered affordable, are listing at nearly one million dollars. The outcome for many local residents is a shared story of children moving away in search of a better quality of life that is affordable.
Homelessness. A study, released by the Aloha United Way (ALICE Report,) cites approximately 48% of Hawaiʻi working residents are asset limited, income constrained and employed; in some cases, one paycheck or unexpected financial hardship away from becoming working homeless. I support all legislative efforts to promote asset building for local residents and will pursue initiatives designed to help local residents save for the down payment on the purchase of their first home. The key to overcoming poverty is through asset building.
Homelessness is multi-pronged with varying issues - identification of an individuals’ specific circumstances and needs, assist with placement into programs that meet those needs. Solutions to homelessness is not a “one size not fits all”. Although I firmly believe in helping those in need get on their feet, we must also encourage self-determination and self-reliance. I support programs that assist with capacity building and skills training to encourage and enable those who are able, to improve their current state and to progressively work towards self-reliance. Recent legislation, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), ʻOhana Zones, Family Assessment Centers, Housing First, Medical Respite Programs, are helpful solutions, but but we must continue to look for and implement other capacity building policies if we hope to make a meaningful difference.
Although we shouldn’t criminalize homelessness, community standards must be upheld and maintained. Public policy must help those in need, and appropriately address those that abuse the community with behavior that is unacceptable – defecating in public places, leaving large piles of trash everywhere, behavior that makes sidewalks and public areas unsafe and unusable need to be recognized and dealt with accordingly. We need to support those that need assistance and also support our communities.
Protecting our neighborhoods. The continued proliferation of non-resident-owned and illegally-operated transient vacation rentals continue to drive up the cost of housing sales and rentals for local residents. They directly compete for an already depleted inventory of housing in the local market. A recent study (Hawaiʻi Housing Planning Study 2016) cites a shortage of 65,000 housing units statewide.
Needed are more efforts to protect our neighborhoods and reduce the cost of living by strengthening, implementing and enforcing laws that create affordable housing opportunities for local residents, levels the playing field against non-resident speculators, encourages compliance by permitted and true owner-occupied short-term vacation rental operators, and protects the fragile nature of our neighborhoods from becoming distributed resort areas.
I support state efforts to: leverage additional funds that allow for more private investment and construction of affordable homes/transitional housing for housing first candidates, identify vacant and/or underutilized state lands that can be used to develop comprehensive affordable housing projects and communities, and to work with the city and county to reduce costs related to developing transitional/affordable housing projects for the very low income earners.
Infrastructure. The sewer systems, primarily in the Kahalu’u area need to be upgraded and/or modernized to properly handle the waste water needs of the community. The protection of the waterways and natural resources from compromise and contamination during times of heavy rainfall and flooding is vital. Aging and overburdened cesspools flow into Kāneʻohe Bay and cause irreparable damage to Kāneʻohe’s fragile eco-system, coral reefs and marine life, and need to be upgraded or replaced with a permanent sewer system. The cost of such upgrades however should be implemented in a way that minimizes and/or mitigates excessive financial impacts to residents/owners. Streams, waterways and resevoirs need to be properly managed, maintained and routinely dredged to minimize flooding and property damage due to heavy rainfall and flash flooding.
Supporting all efforts to provide local residents and future generations with the means to continue to live and raise their families in Hawai'i.
Engage and empower my community, share with them and include them in the legislative process.
I am not about politics. I strongly support and advocate for good sound policy that engages, empowers and serves the people. I do not pretend to know everything, am open to and embrace criticism, and have the political will to stand up for and do what is right, not what is politically expedient or convenient. My candidacy is not about me, its about the community and the Hawai'i we leave our children and our grandchildren. It's about respect and equal treatment for all opinions and differing view points. It's about supporting an issue or idea based not on the politics, but on the merits of the issue. It's about serving others and not myself.