Duke Aiona


Photo: Duke Aiona

  • Age | 67
  • Occupation | Attorney
  • Where did you grow up | Pearl City, Oʻahu
  • Schooling | University of the Pacific, UH Mānoa William S. Richardson School of Law
  • Current residence | Wahiawa, Oʻahu
  • Website | www.dukeaiona.com
Question 1Question 2Question 3
With the median price of a home in Hawaiʻi exceeding $1.1 million, what is the governor’s role in addressing this crisis and what specific tactics would you employ to achieve relief for Hawaiʻi’s families?
During the height of the pandemic, the need for a more diversified economy was highlighted. Hawaiʻi’s lack of food sovereignty and over-dependence on tourism dollars were top of mind. As tourism rebounds, what is your commitment to continue moving toward economic diversification, particularly in agriculture, and what changes would you specifically endorse to reduce our dependence on imports that are vulnerable to disruptions in the supply chain?
In August 2019 the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court ruled (Clarabal v. Department of Education) that the state has a constitutional duty to provide Hawaiian language immersion education in our public schools. Despite this, there are only 25 public/charter schools (out of 294) offering Hawaiian immersion education. 80% of Native Hawaiian keiki are enrolled in the DOE, and the majority do not have access to Hawaiian immersion education in their local community. What specific immediate action would you take to significantly increase the number of public schools offering Hawaiian immersion programs?
  1. With the median home price at record levels, many local families cannot simultaneously pay rent and save to buy a home. In order for families and individuals to stay in Hawaiʻi, they will need to escape the rising costs of housing. Therefore, a long-term solution is required. The Home Ownership Personal Equity (HOPE) program enables individuals and families to save money for a down payment on their own home, simply by paying rent. Over time, families will actually earn equity on their rent, providing for a down payment on a home anywhere they choose to live. Current affordable housing policies are only a band-aid approach in that it doesn’t solve the problem residents face with rising rents and long-term planning. Providing lower-income and middle-class families with an opportunity to own their own homes gives families and their future generations an opportunity to stay in Hawaiʻi. This program will not require an increase in taxes and is expected to help more than 5,200 families in its first year alone.
  2. While tourism will always be an industry Hawaiʻi relies on, the pandemic highlighted the need in diversifying our economy to provide more certainty for kamaʻāina during times of economic downturn. Unfortunately, Hawaiʻi’s high taxes and fees, and the copious amount of regulations and bureaucracy have made it difficult for new industries to flourish in our islands. Getting government out of the way by reducing the number of regulations, permits, bureaucracy, fees, and taxes sends a message to the businesses outside of Hawaiʻi that we are open for business. However, to do this requires the political will and a commitment to allocating the resources that are necessary to develop the infrastructure that would attract businesses and industries. Also, at the core of creating a sustainable and vibrant socio/economic model is the need to strengthen our families and improve our public education system to ensure our keiki have every opportunity to succeed in a diversified economy. I am committed to prioritizing all of these areas to ensure the people of Hawaiʻi can flourish.
  3. Reinforcing ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi as a living, thriving language means allowing the Hawaiian language to become part of our daily lives, activities and business environments. That starts with our classrooms. One way to increase access to Hawaiian language immersion education is to increase the availability of charter schools. According to a study released by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Hawaiʻi’s charter school laws rank 31 of 45 states. To help increase access to Hawaiian immersion education, I would implement policies that make it easier to create new high-quality charter schools.
    Furthermore, to support the integration of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi in our everyday lives, my administration will build upon The Law of Aloha by establishing a Hawaiian Cultural Vibrancy Policy for state employees to develop, nurture, and practice Hawaiian cultural principles, language, and practices in their daily work. Policies to support our Hawaiian language haumāna are also critical as we continue to form better ways to evaluate cultural learning. Supporting the BOE Policy 2105 and working cooperatively with the Hawaiian language community, I will stand behind the development of authentic assessments in Hawaiian language that can be administered to immersion students.

Yes/No Questions for Gubernatorial Candidates (4)

  1. Should Native Hawaiians have decision-making power regarding the stewardship of Maunakea?
  2. Acres of Hawaiʻi’s “ceded” lands under state control have been leased to the military and other federal entities for absurdly low amounts (e.g., $1/year). Do you believe Hawaiians and the state should receive fair market value lease rents for these lands?
  3. Do you support changes to Hawaiʻi’s current tourism model to include proactively protecting cultural sites and fragile ecosystems from over-tourism?
  4. Do you support fulfilling the state’s obligation to provide Native Hawaiians with their 20% pro rata share of Public Land Trust revenues?

  1. Yes
  2. Yes
  3. Yes
  4. Yes

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