James Tokioka: Incumbent is proud of service, wants to keep working for island’s future

LIHUE — James “Jimmy” Tokioka (D-15) is seeking his sixth, two-year term as a state House representative for Kauai.

The 1979 Kapaa High School graduate says he wants to make sure the island’s children have opportunities here on the Garden Isle.

“One of the biggest reasons why I do this is for the future of our island,” Tokioka said. “I have two children. Their future is always on my mind on the things I vote on.”

Tokioka left Kauai Community College after a year and excelled in the visitor industry, where he started as a busboy at the Holiday Inn Coconut Beach in Waipouli and later became general manager at the Holiday Inn in San Francisco.

Eleven years later, he moved back to Kauai and became a partner in three restaurants: the Box Lunch Place in Lihue, the Terrace Restaurant at Kauai Lagoons, and Fishbowls, which is now Wahooo Seafood Bar and Grill, in Waipouli.

Then Hurricane Iniki hit.

“At the time … a lot of the businesses were struggling,” Tokioka said. “Because of my background in the visitor industry, a lot of people from the business, restaurant and hotel community suggested I run for County Council.”

Tokioka served on the council from 1996 to 2006.

“I was proud of the legislation I passed on the council, whether it was an open space fund to purchase public lands, smoke-free restaurants that went statewide, and a lot of affordable housing projects that are in place now throughout the island,” he said.

His tenure on the council gave Tokioka the learning experience for the next chapter of his political career: serving 10 years in the state Legislature, representing District 15.

“What I’ve done and what I’m proud of was all the things I promised to do when I got to the state House, we’ve accomplished or are in the process of completion,” Tokioka said.

Two issues Tokioka have worked on during the last decade, and which he continues to work on, are infrastructure and affordable housing.

“Everything else is well over $100 million to $200 million in infrastructure improvements just in that Lihue, Kukui Grove area,” Tokioka said. “That started from the time I got up here. I always focused on bringing projects home to Kauai.”

Tokioka also supported a $15 million Westside project to create 550 residential units, even though the area is not in his district.

“if it’s good for Kauai, then it’s good for whoever’s in that district,” Tokioka said. “That money will go to the county and the county will decide how to put in the infrastructure.”

Another key legislation was the creation of a bill that enables closed captions in movie theaters for the hearing impaired and people who speak English as a second language.

“We passed that bill, (and) Hawaii was the first state to mandate anything like that,” he said.

Tokioka said the Kauai delegation knew how difficult it was to change the formula of the Transient Accommodations Tax, or TAT, that went to the counties, so the delegation made sure to allocate more funds for county projects.

“One being the bus stops; the other being $2.1 million for an 800 megahertz radio for the Civil Defense; and the money we put in for housing to Lima Ola,” he said. “It’s not about whether it’s a state project or a county project, if it’s good for the people of Kauai. We knew we weren’t going to be able to increase the TAT that went into the county, but we also knew that we wanted to help the counties.”

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