Lori answers Star Advertiser’s and Civil Beat’s Candidate Questionnaire. Additional Q&A are included that have been asked throughout the campaign.
What is the most pressing issue facing residents in your District, and how would you address the problem?
Currently, one of the great concerns and most significant issues facing our District is the rising cost of living. The cost of living is a threat to financial security for many, if not already, and it will disrupt many families across our state. Residents are still trying to recover from the past two years, people are still healing from the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, and yet we are faced with an onslaught of rising costs of everyday expenses. There is not much we can do about the inflation rates; the Feds control that. However, I think it’s important to offer people access to information to minimize the impact of inflation—whether it is increasing access and education in financial literacy, managing consumption levels, or ways to pursue sustainable pathways through individual or community farming projects.
Rising inflation has significantly worsened Hawaii’s already high cost of living. What can be done at the state level to help Hawaii residents cope with high consumer prices?
I’ve always loved the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” We need to understand that consumer demands contribute to everyday price inflation. Therefore, we need to invest aggressively in our sustainable development efforts to help minimize our dependency on our current imports. More than anything, we must be more innovative yet disciplined in investing in long-term sustainable solutions that support, protect, and prepare Hawaii’s hardworking families today and into the future. Clean water and air are basics, so let’s first start with shutting down Red Hill.
Hawaii’s rising gasoline prices are among the highest in the nation. Should Hawaii lower or temporarily suspend state taxes on gasoline to help ease the pain at the pump?
Suspending state taxes on gasoline sounds fine, but let’s be honest, at these prices, saving .16 on a gallon will not make a significant difference to Hawaii’s low-moderate working families. Those in poverty have lower vehicle ownership resulting in two-thirds of bus ridership being low-income; if we really want to help lower the cost of living, let’s ask the Counties to suspend box fares for those riding the bus.
Can Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy be diversified, and if so, what can the state government do to support the effort?
Our greatest offering to the world is the beauty of our islands, culture, and people. Tourism will always remain Hawaii’s primary source of income. We must embrace it and look at opportunities to complement our existing tourism offerings rather than engage in dialogue that speaks to abandoning it. That being said, Hawaii’s tourism management must shift to offering more authentic cultural visitor experiences that provide meaningful reciprocated benefits for our communities and our ‘aina.
Furthermore, strengthening Hawaii’s economy requires more than diversifying it. It requires redesigning an equitable workforce system. We must address the barriers that keep people from fully participating in the workforce, such as affordable and accessible quality early child care, transportation, up-skilling existing employees, and increasing educational and training opportunities. We will also need to better welcome and provide incentives for new businesses to support the local economy.
Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?
The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is an excellent opportunity for all of Hawaii and science worldwide; however, I oppose the construction of the TMT on the Big Island because of the many unresolved surrounding issues. I oppose the long-standing, blatant injustices that the State of Hawai’i continues to engage in and cowardly avoids correcting. We must seek to understand the sacredness of the ‘aina and honor its people, culture, customs, and community. We must renegotiate land lease transactions so it delivers fair and honest profit sharings to its rightful beneficiaries. We must ensure all stakeholders are represented and actively engaged in discussions related to all future development of the TMT and all existing and future telescopes that occupy the Mauna. Without first rectifying these issues, I, unfortunately, stand in opposition to the construction of what could be an incredible opportunity for all of Hawaii.
What reforms, if any, would you propose to make local government more transparent to the public?
As leaders, we must set the example and have the courage to do things differently. Improving transparency and accessibility to the Legislature could be enhanced through publicizing conference committees and lobbying and lobbyists’ disclosures. I recommend modernizing our current systems and methods, particularly when drafting, viewing, and publishing bills, into a more coherent and simplified one to help track and understand the changes made, when they are made, and by whom. I would also suggest a centralized committee voting data system for the public to access to improve the transparency and accountability of their legislators. If we want more people to be actively engaged in the process and hold their legislators accountable, we need to equip the public with a user-friendly system that shows how their legislators voted.
What should state government do to support and improve public education in Hawaii?
Improving public education requires committing to quality education, starting with our youngest PK learners. As each year passes, a vicious cycle impacting Hawaii’s future continues to repeat itself. Our keiki, in its most critical developmental years, are left behind with limited or no access to affordable quality early learning opportunities. We are failing to invest in this crucial stage of child development that will yield significant returns in the future! We further need to ensure we care for our teachers and recognize and compensate them as professionals. We must be able to attract and retain qualified classroom teachers—our students deserve nothing less. We ask our teachers to help prepare our students to compete in a global society, yet we fail to provide our teachers with competitive salaries. Additionally, we must prioritize modernizing the infrastructure of our schools, leveraging technology to allow for an agile educational system that produces innovative digital solutions to local and global challenges.
What, if anything, should state government do in response to the expected decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade?
I believe one of our greatest God-given liberties is our free agency to choose. We supposedly live in a free world, and I believe where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom—therefore, we must ensure that the government does not infringe on our personal life choices—for anyone. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, I think we all can agree that abortions should be rare, women should be treated with dignity and respect, as well as individual religious beliefs. Some religious traditions believe life begins with the first breath, and others regard a fertilized egg as a human being. Ultimately, the government’s only job here is to ensure all people can make their own decisions and have access to health care. Therefore, we must continue to press for reproductive justice to include adequate medical care, family leave, and other resources necessary to raise healthy families. Additionally, we must invest in age-appropriate sex education and have open-honest conversations in our homes, churches, and schools.
Hawaii isn’t likely to see a repeat of this year’s $2 billion revenue surplus, which allowed higher-than-normal spending on state programs and projects. If elected, what will your top spending priorities be?
If elected, I want to ensure our legislative body effectively and collectively works to advance and strengthen Hawaii’s hardworking families; therefore, my priority spending will be aligned with high-impact sustainable solutions supporting that tenet. We have to work together to ensure our investments ultimately serve the people. Furthermore, I will be looking to ensure responsible austerity measures are in place when evaluating and developing Hawaii’s budget and governmental initiatives. Our government entities must be transparent and accountable through improved policies, responsive programs, and enhanced service delivery across our state.
What would you propose to help protect Hawaii residents’ health during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a healthcare crisis that impacted everyone. From the early days to today, we have been in constant uncertainty and hope as we journey together through all of the challenges Covid-19 continues to bring into our daily lives. As we navigate its variants, our state government agencies should have sufficient understanding and data to respond more to our community’s questions and concerns. We all know that each of us has a role in staying safe and healthy. With Aloha for each other, we must always be cautious and make choices that ensure the lives of our loved ones are protected. My sincerest, heartfelt condolences to those in our community who lost loved ones to Covid-19.
What is your plan to increase affordable housing in Hawaii, and to help the counties deal with homelessness?
A clear, collective commitment to developing sufficient, stable housing is imperative if we desire to secure residency for future generations here in Hawaii. The last legislative session appropriated nearly $900M for housing, so we must hold respective agencies accountable. Development and developers must be held to standards that ensure sustainability and respect for our cherished ‘aina; likewise, we must secure the necessary infrastructure and ensure the permitting process is not overly burdensome to build these essential homes. We must diversify the type of units we produce, as home ownership will become increasingly less attainable for residents. The shifts we make moving forward should allow us to honor and give life to our ‘aina by perpetuating a rightful place for our children to live and work.
Addressing homelessness requires a collective commitment by everyone. Our hospitals are not long-term solutions for persons suffering from mental health and/or coexisting substance abuse issues. Temporarily diverting people to emergency rooms is costly and impacts access to healthcare. We must strengthen a seamless system of care that includes quality stabilization treatment. Resources are integral to addressing the multi-faceted challenges these individuals endure and promoting the overall vitality of Hawaii’s communities. As a volunteer who works directly with our homeless and houseless friends in our communities, I will continue to work with respective agencies and support measures that would provide funds to address homelessness that yield high-impact results.
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.
I have a solid track record of professional accomplishments and a history of dedicated public service. I am a retired educator. I’m not running for a career, not to collect a paycheck, not for recognition or any gains, but to serve the people. I am not taking any monies from large corporations or political action committees, including unions. My commitment is to the betterment of our communities and building a stronger Hawaii for generations to come. Together I believe we can change the political, economic, and cultural environment we can proudly pass on to our children and grandchildren.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
Hawaii deserves better, and I believe we can do better. The people of Hawaii are beckoning for leaders with integrity. I want to ensure we put people before politics. I want to provide policies and legislation that support and protect Hawaii and its people, not private entities. I welcome the challenge of working collaboratively with others committed to seeking long-term sustainable solutions for a better Hawaii.
An estimated 60% of Hawaii residents are struggling to get by, a problem that reaches far beyond low income and into the middle class, which is disappearing. What ideas do you have to help the middle class and working families who are finding it hard to continue to live here?
Early in my career, I learned that a strategy is only a strategy if it works for the individual. Similarly, ideas to help the middle class and working families who are finding it hard to continue to live here are just ideas unless it helps them recover and advance out of ALICE-like circumstances. The hard truth is that we will continue losing our local families to a more affordable mainland lifestyle if we do not commit and collectively take action. We must stop giving lip service to public policy changes that will anchor our people here so generations can successfully thrive. We all know what we must do; we’ve been talking about it for decades.
Hawaii has the most lopsided Legislature in the country, with only one Republican in the Senate and only four in the House. How would you ensure there is an open exchange of ideas, transparency, and accountability for decisions? What do you see as the consequences of one-party control, and how would you address that?
I have always advocated for inclusion and a leader willing to listen and collaborate to achieve outcomes necessary to achieve shared goals regardless of the person or party affiliation. Accountability requires transparency on how and why decisions are made, particularly what data is informing those decisions. My training and background as a doctorate defaults to seeking evidenced-based research and data integrity when making decisions. I welcome healthy, honest, fact-based debates as we seek to problem-solve Hawaii’s many challenges together.
I would undoubtedly consider Hawaii a predominant party system, but not a one-party. A one-party system is non-competitive, which is just not the case, as seen in this year’s electoral races. In my race alone, there are three Democrats, all of whom are committed to representing our District and state.
Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I do not oppose a statewide citizens initiative process; however, I do not feel it is necessary. I still believe the power lies with the people of Hawaii—however; residents must civically engage in the electoral process.
Thanks to their campaign war chests and name familiarity, incumbents are almost always re-elected in Hawaii legislative races. Should there be term limits for state legislators, as there are for the governor’s office and county councils? Why or why not?
Term limits would increase the opportunity for others to run for office and essentially deter the potential for a monopoly by an individual. However, I am not in support of term limits because it takes away the power of the people to choose who they want as their representative. Choosing our government representative is a fundamental principle of our government. I tell people they need to vote if they are unsatisfied with their elected representative.
There are other opportunities to improve our elections other than term limits. I’m particularly in favor of ranked-choice voting, where voters rank their preferred candidate. More significant contribution restrictions are another way to improve our elections. In February, I decided not to take monies from large corporations or any political action committees, including unions. Elections need to be determined by the people, not predetermined by any other outside influence.
Hawaii has recently experienced a number of prominent corruption scandals, prompting the state House of Representatives to appoint a commission tasked with improving government transparency through ethics and lobbying reforms. What will you do to ensure accountability at the Legislature? Are you open to ideas such as requiring the Sunshine Law and open records laws to apply to the Legislature or banning campaign contributions during session?
The problem is that no accountability metrics exist for legislators other than elections. If elected, I want my District to provide me feedback on my performance throughout my tenure. We have performance appraisal reviews (PAR) and evaluations for almost every other state position; why not institute a PAR for legislators? Improving transparency and maintaining the highest ethics in the government must be a shared responsibility. I am open to exploring any measure that will improve our political environment and rebuild trust between our residents and government. Transparency increases accountability and ultimately improves serving the people, so we must work towards greater transparency.
Hawaii has seen a growing division when it comes to politics, development, health mandates and other issues. What would you do to bridge those gaps and bring people together in spite of their differences?
As leaders, we have a responsibility to ensure that we are not perpetuating division. As a newcomer to the political scene, I’m often taken back by some and frankly disappointed by others who continue to point fingers and bash individuals and political parties. I believe, regardless of party affiliation, collectively, we all have more values in common than not. We need to do politics differently. I choose not to engage in the negativity, untruths, and indecency of politics but to focus on listening and learning about common-sense sustainable solutions to strengthen Hawaii.
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, from outdated technology to economic disparity. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, build on what we’ve learned and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share One Big Idea you have for Hawaii. Be innovative, but be specific.
With so much uncertainty and hardship, we have experienced in the last two years, rebuilding trust through transparency and delivering equity is paramount. Hawaii deserves better, and together I believe we can do better. Building on what we’ve learned to create a better state and a better way of doing things, I would promote a new social contract governing the use of data to ensure we understand and prioritize the role data plays in Hawaii’s vitality. We must prioritize and invest in developing a statewide comprehensive, integrated data system. The Hawaii Data Collaborative (HDC) is an incredible resource for decision-making, and it’s a start. Still, it will need to be expanded and designed with a multistakeholder, purpose-driven approach to data management and governance to help keep pace with our ever-evolving data and strengthen the legitimacy, transparency, and accountability of all decisions. Addressing Hawaii’s challenges and doing things better requires us to leverage and value data to inform our public policies moving forward.
Should transgender students be allowed to compete in sports?
Currently, regrettable policies are evidenced in recent competitions that conflict with decades of history and achievements for female athletes. While I support transgender students competing in sports, greater regulations on competition, particularly with females, must be addressed, whether it be suppressing testosterone to be eligible to compete or creating separate races.
How should public school curriculum be developed – and by whom?
The general public needs to understand the difference between standards and curriculum. The Common Core Standards govern educators (what is to be learned by the end of the year or grade-level standards). The curriculum is the detailed plan of how and what will be taught to reach those standards. Therefore, teachers should be the only individuals developing their curriculum for their students. Teachers know their content and students; therefore, they are the professionals who know best how to tailor and deliver each lesson to their students. With that being said parents should always be considered and have the option to ‘opt’ out on what they may deem controversial.
Would you change the tax system and if so, how?
I would support legislation that distributes the tax burden more evenly among all income earners, particularly large corporations. I realize tax policies are enormously complex, and I do not pretend to understand their nuances. However, as a legislator, I would most certainly research guiding principles that serve as a framework when evaluating tax policy proposals, specifically with the intent to ensure all residents contribute their fair share of state revenues to stabilize our economic position as a state.
What do you believe are acceptable sources of electric power and what are not acceptable?
I think there is an acceptable and appropriate space for all sources of electric power; however, I believe renewables (wind and solar) are the direction we should be moving into to support sustainable development and hedge against rising fuel prices.
What do you think should be done with sea level rise?
As a legislator, I would support high-impact actions that prepare and transition us as a state for the inevitable climate changes that we see already occurring; however, we must all be a part of the solution and start today. To address the rising sea level, we must commit to a transition plan to protect our coastlines, the families, and the facilities (highways) aligned to these coastlines. I would prioritize a plan for areas most vulnerable and plan for shoreline retreats and update zoning codes as we face the future of devastating sea-levels rising and shoreline erosion. As an educator, I would be remiss if I did not include a plan to develop climate and clean energy solutions and policies without first prioritizing the education and training needed to heighten the awareness of our residents. I would encourage ongoing conversations and community involvement to promote opportunities to increase knowledge and take action in our efforts, big and small. We must act boldly, innovate broadly, and equitably when caring for our land, water, air, and each other. A green future is a prosperous and sustainable future!
What are your thoughts on the trend of censorship and book banning in school and public libraries?
As a lifelong educator and learner, I’m inclined to oppose censorship and book banning in schools and public libraries. It is important to showcase diverse literature to our young readers. I’m a proponent of freedom of speech and expression and believe we all have a reserved right to intellectual freedom. This intellectual freedom is particularly demonstrated in libraries, as students have the freedom to read what they want or not. I would encourage School Library Media Specialists to be mindful of the trusted responsibility they have been given and be open, objective, and professional about the book selections they offer in our libraries.
College going remains flat, with roughly 50% of recent Hawaii public high school graduates going on to college (2 or 4 year). How do you propose to raise these levels so Hawaii is more competitive with states like California, which has a nearly 65% rate?
We must invest in early learning opportunities for our youngest children and those pursuing post-secondary education. I strongly advocate for early childhood education and support access to free universal preschools. This investment in our youngest learners will promote an equitable workforce by addressing the barriers so many young families face regarding high childcare rates to participate in the workforce or pursue post-secondary education. The investment we make in committing to free universal preschools will yield significant and sustainable outcomes—lower special education needs and crime rates and higher earnings, tax revenues, and college opportunities, to name a few.
Post-secondary affordability is another area we must invest in if we are committed to raising our college-going rates, strengthening Hawaii’s economy, and securing a place for our residents to work and live at home. Post-secondary affordability for our local students strategically keeps our homegrown talent and increases their opportunities to enter the workforce in areas of need. As a legislator, I would support increased funding of dual credit programs to encourage continuing education and support families by reducing the burden of college tuition for our high school students. Early College and Running Start are great programs that are catalysts to support our young students transitioning from high school to college and truly changing the trajectory of their lives. We should expand these opportunities to more students. I would also like to explore a college tuition freeze for residents and make community college free for our high school students.
What is the biggest workforce challenge young workers face after high school or college graduation?
I believe the most significant workforce challenge Hawaii’s high school and college graduates face can be categorized into two areas. Recent high school or college graduates are either unprepared for today’s modern workplace or overqualified for Hawaii’s workplace(s) that have not emerged into the 21st century. A thriving Hawaii economy requires recognizing the shifts of today’s modern workplace and ensuring our education, private, public, and governmental sectors are aligned to respond to its demands. Some policy proposals to mitigate such challenges include prioritizing the modernization of Hawaii’s infrastructure to leverage technology. We must act urgently and expeditiously to upskill our workforce and, at the same time, identify and address the barriers that challenge our progress. Hawaii must redefine an equitable workforce system that presents numerous and competitive options to access training and employment so our citizens can participate in the workforce and support their families.
What does “serving the people” mean to you?
For me, serving people is a responsibility. In the Bible, Luke 12:48, teaches us, “To much is given, much is expected.” I have been given much—I have been blessed with the gift of leadership and the capacity to help and serve others. For me, ‘serving the people’ is not merely the act of helping; it’s more about HOW we serve. You see, serving the people means we serve with humility, without judgment of others, and be willing to do what needs to be done to help others in need; and most importantly, not expecting anything in return, not personal recognition or any type of gain—other than doing what’s right for the people.
If you win and can accomplish 2 things while you’re in office, what would they be?
I truly believe a quality education system is the key to Hawaii’s prosperity and the answer to many issues we face. I intend to be a voice that advocates for a quality education system in every aspect. Education is my passion and field of expertise, so I hope to offer that to the House.
Secondly, if elected, it’s important for me to maintain a healthy relationship with my constituents. I want our residents in District 42 to know they have a trusted friend as their representative. In speaking with people, many have become jaded and disengaged because of the ill-behaviors of a few. So, I want to repair and restore their trust in government because I believe TOGETHER we CAN change the political, economic, and cultural environment that we can proudly pass on to our children and grandchildren.