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: Rick Blangiardi

AGE: 74
OCCUPATION: business executive
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP: I grew up in Cambridge, MA. My father was a machinist by trade, and due to his place of employment (Watertown Arsenal) closing, he accepted a transfer to the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in 1965 as a civil service employee. My family strongly requested I make the move with them, and consequently I enrolled at the University of Hawaiʻi, where I also earned a full scholarship for playing football.
SCHOOL(S) ATTENDED: Springfield College; University of Hawaiʻi
CURRENT RESIDENCE: I presently reside in Honolulu on the island of Oʻahu.

  1. Let me say first that before taking steps to solve issues, you need to fully understand them. As your Mayor, I would start by calling together representatives of the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community (NHPI), including OHA, to share your knowledge regarding the disparate impact of this pandemic on the NHPI. We do know, for example, that COFA migrants are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 with their numbers being 30% when they represent 4% of the population. We also know COFA migrants are denied Medicaid cover- age, and while the CARES Act did not address this, the HEROES Act as passed by the House does. I am confident that meeting with and learning from representatives of the NHPI, my administration will be better able to address and combat the unique challenges and issues facing the NHPI; and I commit to work with you. With respect to the HEROES Act, if and when it is passed by Congress, my administration will do everything it can to help the NHPI access and maximize available resources, such as Community Development Financial Institution funds, Community Health Systems, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and Native Hawaiian Organizations. I will also ensure that the NHPI share equally with all others in the funds that become available after the CARES Act, such as extended stimulus, unemployment and/or PPP. Finally, I commit as Mayor that, as we develop city policies, programs and initiatives, including housing, homelessness and COVID-related public health policies, we consult the NHPI and make sure we are taking care of and meeting the needs of this important community.
  2. Given that a disproportionate number of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (NHPI) reside in rental homes, the pandemic has had a disparate impact on the NHPI community and would have been much worse, but for the eviction moratoriums. As Mayor, houselessness will be a top priority in my administration and city, state, and federal resources, along with non-governmental organizations, must focus on comprehensive, collaborative and long-term strategies and solutions. The so-called “compassionate disruption” approach only moves the problem in circles to other streets, neighborhoods and communities and then back again. It is not a solution, most assuredly during a health pandemic. As Mayor, I would make sure the city immediately identifies and makes use of vacant city properties for shelters, including rental properties the city can secure on a room and/or building basis. I will also seek additional federal funds to expand our housing programs. Finally, given COVID-19 and its projected multi-year impact to our economy, I will look for revenue sources to offer sustainable rent assistance programs that will assist our most vulnerable individuals and families on Oʻahu while we recover lost jobs and create new jobs through diversification.
  3. There is no doubt our economy’s historical dependence on tourism has exposed an economic vulnerability during a pandemic. I am confident, that under my leadership as Mayor, we can safely recover our tourism sector to levels that are healthy, responsible, and sustainable, while diversifying Oʻahu’s economy both inside and outside of tourism. We should begin by looking broadly at what items we import from outside Hawaiʻi. For example, food security from sustainable agriculture is an industry we desperately need and will benefit from, just like our historical dependence on imported fossil fuels created an opportunity for locally sourced renewable energy, a sector with additional capacity for diversification and growth. In the construction sector, there are enormous opportunities for green, carbon-reducing, resilient infrastructure, including smart growth transient-oriented communities with affordable housing and public spaces, and projects to address Hawaiʻi’s climate change and sea-level rise. And even in the tourism sector, there is enormous potential to diversify with a focus on “quality” tourism versus “quantity” tourism. The opportunities to diversify Hawaii’s economy are many if we just keep our focus on sustainability, resiliency, and our future generations who want to live and raise their families on Oʻahu and in Hawaiʻi.

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