State Senator; Project Management Consulting, Kal
* Reynolds Recycling, Director of Community Relations;
* Charitable Ventures, Inc., President and Founder;
* National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii, Director of Development;
* Office of Lieutenant Governor Mazie Hirono, Executive Aide.
State Senator since November 2006.
I understand the struggles of so many working families and individuals in the islands. Our family moved around, from low income rentals to my grandparents’ house. My parents working long hours to make ends meet. Even now, like so many, we live in a three generation household so we can work together to meet the demands and expenses of life in Hawaii. In addition, I have extensive experience in our state government and a distinguished track record of accomplishment fighting for our working class.
What sets me apart is that I’ve had to make tough decisions and been called on to lead a number of key committees on a broad range of statewide issues, including agriculture, Hawaiian affairs, water and land use, lower and higher education, and labor.
Most significantly, I served as Chair of the Committee on Ways and Means (WAM) from 2015 to 2017, responsible for state finances and fiscal policy. During this period, I tackled some of the most challenging issues facing our state. I know what it means to manage both a household budget and the $14 billion state budget, making tough choices and putting our most important priorities first. The position required integrity - to ensure that colleagues and constituents could rely on your word, and leadership - to navigate challenges in the face of conflict while acting in the best interests of the people of Hawaii.
At the end of the day, we all go home and sit at the kitchen table, doing homework and paying our bills. I worry about the future. The ability for our boys to have kitchen tables of their own right here in Hawaii. That is why it’s so important to me that we have a strong leader in the Lieutenant Governor’s office that understands the needs and struggles of our families and can be that voice.
1) Affordability & Income Equality
Reducing the cost of living and income equality are the most significant issues facing the residents of Hawaii. Addressing these issues is my top priority. I have faced many of these struggles myself, watching my parents work hard and sacrifice to afford a home of our own, and struggling to be the first in my family to go to college and get a degree.
I support progressive and meaningful policies that ensure people may continue to live and thrive in Hawaii. More specifically, I support aggressively advocating for policies that:
* Address the high costs of housing, health care, child care, and other necessities for living in Hawaii;
* Establish paid family leave and achieving gender parity in wages;
* Refrain from exacerbating the tax burden on low- and moderate-income taxpayers;
* Promote economic growth, diversification, and higher paying jobs production;
* Prepare Hawaii’s residents with the education and skills for a changing state and world economy.
2) Early Learning
Early learning and education starts from birth. Highly effective early learning opportunities significantly benefit a child’s development. Early education ensures that five-year old children are ready to learn by the time they enter kindergarten. Only sixty per cent of eligible children access preschool before entering kindergarten. Where you live and your family’s socio-economic situation should not limit your opportunities, but that is the reality for too many of our families and their keiki. To remedy this, more must be done to increase early learning access and quickly train a workforce of early learning professionals.
3) Affordable Housing/Homelessness
Affordable housing/homelessness are interrelated, but require distinct solutions.
Making housing affordable necessitates an increase of supply. Increasing supply requires aggressive action. State government’s primary roles must be to:
* Provide funding and enter into public-partnerships for affordable housing projects, especially to meet the goal of developing 22,500 affordable rental housing units by 2026 as directed by Act 127 of the 2016 Regular Session which I introduced;
* Provide funding to the Hawaii Public Housing Authority to increase its rental housing stock for low-income families and persons, and identify innovative approaches to moving people towards greater self-sufficiency and out of public housing;
* Construct or help private developers construct necessary infrastructure;
* Facilitate private sector housing development that is consistent with environmental and agricultural preservation, good land use planning, and community values;
* Maintain the current housing stock for residential use.
Addressing homelessness requires a comprehensive spectrum of services for homeless persons aimed at transitioning them from illegally inhabiting property to living independently in permanent housing. To accomplish this, a variety of programs must be directed with two constituencies in mind.
The first constituency is families and persons who need assistance because they are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless. Based on their needs assessment, outreach and support should be provided to families and individuals through Family Assessment Centers or homeless shelters with a range of supportive services that lead to permanent housing.
The second constituency is the general public, including businesses and visitors, who deserve and are entitled to clean and safe parks, beaches, sidewalks, schools grounds and other public property. Over the past three years, I have introduced packages of bills that establishes the continuum of support necessary to address homelessness in our community. From the establishment of a community court system, to dedicated funding for chronically homeless individuals who are severely mentally ill, to building and funding the Family Assessment Center in Kakaako, and fighting to create a Homeless Children Rental Assistance Pilot Program, my focus has been to increase resources for the homeless and work towards positive outcomes for all of our families and individuals.
In 2013, I led the fight to pass the 21st Century Public School Lands Bill (Act 155) to modernize our schools by integrating educational facilities within other compatible mixed-uses, like affordable housing. Many metropolitan cities already have these types of schools which allow the government to better utilize precious land by building facilities vertically rather than spread out horizontally. Tailored to high density areas, Hawaii could have state-of-the art schools on the bottom part of a building, with affordable housing units higher up. Hawaii has an opportunity to better utilize the resources we have to provide such public benefits as workforce housing and safe and modern schools for our people and children.
This Act has never fully been implemented and we’ve got to consider different approaches like this that could help address both our affordable rental housing goals and our teacher shortage. I know that people want to be able to put down roots, and providing workforce housing preferences for school personnel encourages retention and has the added benefit of building stronger, more connected communities.
I have dedicated my entire career to fighting for a brighter future for Hawaii’s working families. As Lieutenant Governor, that would continue to be my focus. To accomplish this and improve the lives of constituents, I would immediately convene advocacy groups, stakeholders, lawmakers and key decision makers within various state departments and agencies to develop an aggressive legislative package and budget recommendations focused on supporting families. Such ideas and initiatives may include:
State Rent Supplement
I would also support an increase of funding for the State Rent Supplement Program. The Program provides rent subsidies to low-income families and supplements the federal Section 8 rental assistance program which is at capacity. Mirroring legislation I introduced this past session (SB2989), I would seek to create a homeless children rental assistance pilot program which would specifically aim to help families secure permanent housing. Part of the requirements of this program would be that participants must obtain financial case management and counseling services to reduce recidivism and prevent them from falling back into homelessness.
Kupuna Caregivers Program
Focused on meaningful implementation that maximizes efficiency while ensuring resources get to kupuna and their caregivers, I would build on the foundation we set forth in SB2988 (2018). While it did not pass, the measure focused on increasing funding to $4 million, ensuring that eligible services would include such supports as activities of daily living, respite care, meal delivery and transportation, and require evaluation metrics and assessments to maintain the fidelity and success of the program.