1 Many have described how the pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated socio-economic inequities experienced by vulnerable communities, including Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. As mayor, what steps would you take, if any, to identify and address the unique needs and challenges of those who are often “forgotten” or overlooked in the county’s policies and programs, and other initiatives?
2 “Sweeps” of houseless individuals and families have been warned against by the Centers for Disease Control, and at least one pre-pandemic study shows that their overall effectiveness at getting people to services and shelters is questionable at best. With dwindling shelter space remaining, and large numbers of county residents experiencing ever-increasing substantial housing insecurity during this pandemic, what other strategies would you have the county pursue to address the needs of those experiencing houselessness beyond or as an alternative to “sweeps?”
3 If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that economic dependence on tourism is fragile and that greater economic diversification is necessary. What are your views on creating a more diversified, sustainable economy for Hawaiʻi and what specific industries do you think would most benefit Hawaiʻi and its people?

Photo: Keith Amemiya

AGE: 55
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP: Hawaiʻi Kai, Oʻahu
SCHOOL(S) ATTENDED: University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa – Bachelors of Business Administration – 1988; University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa – Richardson School of Law – Juris Doctor Degree – 1991

  1. The need for communication and transparency between government and the public has never been greater. As Mayor, I will immediately establish the Office of Community Engagement to elevate key community issues, give attention in a timely manner, seek feedback before City projects begin, and instill a renewed sense of trust in City government. This office will also work closely with neighborhood boards and Hawaiian Civic Clubs to more accurately address key issues. In my time as Executive Director of the Hawaiʻi High School Athletic Association, I also saw firsthand the disparate funding and programming in vulnerable communities, particularly those with large populations of Native Hawaiians. Under my direction, we combined access to needed medical and social services in conjunction with renewed athletics programs that resulted in improvements across the board for students at these schools. I have always been committed to addressing the needs and concerns of our Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities, and I intend to do the same as Mayor.
    Climate change will also continue to be the challenge of our lifetimes, and the data predicts that our vulnerable communities will experience the greatest impacts. I will implement the Climate Action Plan within our first 100 days, giving particular emphasis to equitable climate solutions. As stewards of this ʻāina for over 2,000 years, Native Hawaiians have insight and best practices for how to mālama our island, and I hope to work together to ensure the City is investing in these programs. We can begin by incorporating elements of the ʻĀina Aloha Economic Futures Huliau Action Agenda and work with community members to develop and implement key proposals that align City and community goals.
  2. My work with Kahauiki Village, which houses over 140 previously houseless families, made an important impression on me personally. If we’re going to tackle the houselessness problem on Oʻahu, we need to address the lack of affordable housing so our struggling families can survive.
    I’ve been listening to the people, and I put forward a Housing for All Plan that would enable the City to lower housing costs by (1) enforcing illegal vacation rental laws; (2) imposing an empty homes tax; and (3) incentivizing truly affordable housing development. The City can also (1) leverage partnerships to build affordable rentals; (2) support communal and shared housing models, such as Kahauiki Village; and (3) partner with the state to provide access to mental health and/or substance use disorder support services. Our unsheltered persons who suffer from debilitating mental health issues are often the most visible with the fewest options. The City can help them into appropriate residential care settings, not shuffle them between providers, jail, and the streets.
  3. My Recovery Plan for a Healthy Honolulu focuses on investing in our people, economy, and environment. Our leaders have allowed Oʻahu’s residents to shoulder the burden of 10 million visitors for too long. We need to support local entrepreneurs, creators, and small business owners by providing funding, applied research opportunities, access to markets, and places to connect and incubate ideas. We should invest City resources into technology opportunities where the City can reduce waste, eliminate greenhouse gases, and improve efficiencies.
    Retraining our workforce can help us pivot away from a dependence on tourism and create a more resilient future. The City’s Work Hawaiʻi program can be a leader in leveraging existing relationships with the UH System, apprenticeship programs, and career training programs to expand opportunities for career pathways, including potential on-the-job training funding to support employers as they invest in new talent.

View more of this candidate’s manaʻo from the Ka Wai Ola News 2020 Primary Election Survey