Senate District 12
For the last 10 years, I have served as the State Senator representing the residents of Waikīkī, Ala Moana, Kakaʻako, McCully, and Mōʻiliʻili helping to insure the best quality of life for constituents of Senate District 12. I’ve introduced, co-sponsored and passed significant legislation while securing considerable funding to impact and improve the lives of the people living in urban Honolulu and beyond. They include:
• increased funding for the construction of affordable housing,
• building collaborations between the State and City to fund homeless programs,
• protecting the health and safety of young children in licensed day care facilities
• increased funding to improve the ability of our kupuna to live and age in place.
• secured millions in funding to improve school facilities
• secured millions to clean and repair the Ala Wai Watershed and Canal
• secured millions to protect Waikiki beach from erosion
I’ve earned the respect of my colleagues as evidenced by my responsibilities in the Senate.
Current assignments include:
• Senate Majority Caucus Leader
• Vice Chair, Hawaiian Affairs Committee
• Member, Ways and Means Committee
• Member, Economic Development, Tourism, and Technology Committee
• Member, Government Operations Committee
Former assignments include:
• Senate Majority Leader
• Chair, Tourism and Hawaiian Affairs Committee
• Member, Housing, Judiciary, Public Safety, Consumer Protection, and Military Affairs Committees
(1) Building more affordable housing, (2) Allowing Kupuna to live and age in place, and (3) Empowering individuals who are homeless to move off the streets, out of the parks and into support programs and housing,
Affordable Housing. The State and City have rules and ordinances (respectively), that require a certain percentage of residential units constructed be set aside at rates affordable to working households at various levels of income. I voted to increase the housing appropriation to $570 million that will generate more than 25,000 affordable housing units by 2030 (whether in the urban core or not), expanding living options for low-income families and those making up to 140 percent of the area median income (AMI). While private sector set-asides encourage investment in housing, it is important to support good, balanced development and fund supportive infrastructure. The provision of water, sewer, and roads are required to enable more housing to be built and to lower housing construction costs. I also support transit-oriented development (TOD) and the construction of additional residential units near planned rail stops to enable families to live, work and play in proximity to mass transit.
Aging in Place. As the price of existing housing stock continues to increase, it is important to ensure that costs remain stable for Kupuna who live on fixed incomes. In Kakaʻako, I remain vigilant in ensuring that senior housing projects brought to fruition with State investment, remain affordable. Affordable housing also supports Kupuna by ensuring that reasonably priced units are available i.e. Na Lei Hulu Kupuna Senior Housing. I also continue to support programs that allow Kupuna to live active, fulfilling lives in their community and why we created the new senior center in Kakaʻako…The Nā Kupuna Makamae Center.
Homelessness. Homelessness is a symptom of larger challenges that individuals face including mental health, drug abuse and addiction, and low wage jobs. I will continue to support programs that empower and connect homeless individuals with existing social services programs, job training, shelter, transitional and permanent housing.
FUNDING AND BUILDING MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Hawaii’s need for affordable housing affects all of us. We have increased public funds, provided incentives to counter the high cost of construction, and identified more vertical development in areas where increased densities are allowed. We must also insure that we take full advantage of every opportunity to build more affordable housing along the rail line. These things are occurring in order to build housing that is truly affordable for both sale and rent. The solutions are there.
I purposefully reflected on this question because it goes to the very core of why one serves. Elected officials must revisit this calling every day. All public servants improve the lives of those we serve by being fully present in the process with the best interests of all our constituents in mind, always mindful that each decision we make affect everyone’s quality of life. At ground level, we can improve lives by creating affordable housing, healthcare, education, human services etc. We have and will continue to strive for the optimum results. From a wider perspective, we improve lives by rebuilding our citizens trust in Government.
As we survey the national landscape these days it has become more than apparent that there is a fundamental lack of trust in government. There’s no easy way to overcome an untenable situation but you must start at the local level. Establishing those bonds of trust also means getting beyond the preconceived notion of what the general public has come to view of as a “typical politician”. I’ve learned a very valuable lesson during my ten years in office: trust isn’t just given, it’s earned.
If ever there was a time for local governments and local elected officials to step up to the plate and focus on building those bonds of trust with the citizens they serve, this is undoubtedly the time.
I was raised in both Kakaʻako and Kapahulu. I am a family man, a public servant, businessman and musician. My wife Abigail Lehua and I are blessed with three sons, two daughters and nine grandchildren. My family inspires my drive for public service every day. In addition, I have served and continue to serve our community in various capacities for numerous community organizations that include:
• Nā Kūpuna Makamae Senior Center, Founder
• Kawaiahaʻo Church - Chair, Board of Trustees,
• Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts, Former Chair
• Polynesian Voyaging Society, Board Member
• Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame, Board Member
• Hawaiʻi Book and Music Festival, Board Member
• Hawaiʻi Special Olympics, Board Member
• Hawaiʻi Association of Retarded Citizens, Board Member
• Life Foundation, Board Member
Four years ago, I joined several other musical colleagues and formed
The Kūleana Breakfast Club. We are an organization of musicians dedicated to helping other musicians who have fallen on hard times, and need help to meet medical and other necessary expenses. The Club holds benefit concerts and has helped over 17 musicians to date.
In summary, my responsibility is to bring people together to do good for our community. I bring common sense politics, backed by experienced, collaborative leadership and want to continue serving Hawaii and the residents of Senate District 12. Thank you for your time.