Hawaii House of Representatives
I believe that my life experience, my family’s experience in our community, and my experience over the last four years as a State Representative qualify me to represent our district in the State Senate. I am a seventh generation resident in this community. My wife and I grew up on the windward side, left for college, and returned to raise our three young children here. As young working parents, we are living the same challenges that so many other working families face: the high cost of living, the lack of affordable housing, and the lack of economic opportunity to help us make ends meet. We are concerned about caring for our aging parents and family, and are also concerned about what kind of Hawaii we are leaving for our children.
In my four years in office serving in the House of Representatives, I have worked hard to get things done and to learn what it means to be an effective advocate for my community. That means not only learning the issues, but also learning how to solve problems. That means bringing people together, listening, and finding compromises that move tough issues forward. It’s required a realization that we won’t always get things right, and that making mistakes in pursuit of bettering our community is always a superior option to sitting back and ignoring problems because they are hard or controversial.
1. Cost of living. It is too expensive to live in Hawaii. It doesn’t matter if you are retired, raising children, or are a recent graduate. Basic necessities, like housing and healthcare, increase continually and are already out of reach for large portions of our population.
Hawaii has always been an expensive place to live. However, the gap between the wealthy and everyone else seems to be growing more rapidly now than it has at any point since statehood. We need to reverse that, and we can by taking some of the same steps that were taken at statehood. We can make housing more accessible by building for our workforce and for seniors in the urban core. We can work to restructure our overly regressive tax system, so that middle and lower income households aren’t pushed into homelessness, or forced to move away. Finally, we can commit to training our workforce to be more resilient so that they can adapt to the rapidly changing world.
2. Homelessness. Increasingly, we’re starting to see an influx of transient individuals from town, straining our systems on the windward side. What we’ve learned since the crisis started is that we need to be more proactive in providing services to homeless individuals who need it.
New approaches by service providers who go out and offer access to care for homeless have increasingly shown to be more successful than what we are doing now. For example, HPD’s HELP program and the Hawaii Homeless Healthcare Hui’s medical outreach program have already saved millions of dollars in costs to taxpayers by diverting homeless individuals away from jails and emergency rooms.
The Windward side deserves and desperately needs its fair share of these types of services to help the individuals who are homeless in our community. It is not fair that our parks, public spaces, and bus stops are often occupied by individuals who may not otherwise be there if they simply had access to help. Providing services to those folks to get them off the street will hopefully free up resources – like police resources – to deal with the individuals who do not need help, but are just causing problems in our communities.
3. Education. Because the windward side is an expensive place to live, we need to give kids the tools to get good paying jobs to afford to say here. That means empowering schools to give our kids the best chance to adapt to the changing economic landscape in Hawaii.
Moving away from a heavy emphasis on testing will go a long way in this effort. Teachers should have the flexibility to teach the most relevant curriculum, so that students get meaningful lessons and experiences out of the classroom. Preparing for endless successions of high stakes standardized tests eliminates this possibility. We should be teaching kids how to think, not how to memorize information that they can access on a smartphone with little difficulty.
Instead of forcing them to teach to the test, we should provide resources to teachers and principals that will allow them to pursue and develop programs that they think are going to facilitate real, valuable learning experiences. The modern education system also hasn’t provided enough practical learning—things like shop class have been deemphasized in the last 20 years and replaced with test prep—and it's time to get back to that. Not all lessons are learned in the classroom. Kids need to be doing in order to give them the best chance to succeed. We can do that here in our community through better collaboration with our community organizations, employers, and stakeholders.
My highest priority is and has been addressing the high cost of living. This will require (1) ensuring that more workforce housing is built in town to take pressure off of the windward side; (2) addressing the overly regressive nature of our tax system, which makes life too difficult for all but the very wealthy; and (3) aggressively promoting education, workforce, and economic development so that more of our local talent can find work that allows them to afford to stay home in Hawaii.
There are two ways: the first is to affect change at the state level by pursuing policies that improve the way our government addresses our collective challenges. The second is working with my constituents to address individual and community needs.
In my four years in office, I have worked hard to reach out to stakeholders on issues like housing, homelessness, the environment, and economic development to find ways to move good policies forward. I’ve found that bringing the right collections of people together on a particular issue will create the opportunity to find solutions where solutions are not readily available.
In the community, I’ve tried to reach out proactively to community groups and my constituents to hear what they think is important, and also to simply be a resource that they can feel comfortable reaching out to. I’ve walked our neighborhoods every summer for the last four years to hear from and assist people—whether it’s getting their potholes filled or helping seniors reach state offices to secure medical benefits. I’ve met with teachers and principals to find ways to promote robotics and coding in schools. I still drop in on groups of friends having coffee in the mornings around our district just to hear what is important to them, and to let them know how I see things.
I have tried hard to be a representative who is accessible to my constituents and who is working to solve the problems that matter to them. I will continue to do so in the State Senate.
I believe we need new ideas and approaches to address our major state issues, many of which frankly have been ignored for far too long. I also believe that we can’t just fund our way out of these problems, we need to change the systems that deal with them. Too many of our government systems—from social services to environment to education—need to be reformed and restructured to deal with the realities of the present and the future. The world is changing rapidly, which means the urgency for change needs to increase rapidly as well.
I have worked hard to learn issues, bring people together, and find ways to move good policies forward that improve our communities and our state. If elected to the State Senate, I will continue to work hard, lead when necessary, and try to get results for our community. Mahalo for the opportunity, and I humbly ask for your support on August 11.