Thomas Oi: Candidate hopes to reduce traffic, add ag park for local farmers

LIHUE — Raised in Palolo, Oahu, Thomas Oi hopes his 26 years as a land surveyor will land him a seat at the state House.

“Politics was something I always wanted to do,” said Oi, who is making a run for the office of State Representative for District 15. “I helped a lot of people with their campaigns. I always wanted to try to take office, and this is a good time.”

Oi graduated from Kaimuki High School in 1967 and attended Honolulu Community College for architectural drafting.

He moved to Kauai in 1970 with his wife and son, and received his associate’s degree from Kauai Community College.

“I found a job at Kutaka & Portugal, an engineering and surveying firm,” Oi said. “I started off as a surveyor and I stayed there for 15 years.”

He went on to work with the Department of Transportation from 1986 to 1996.

“When I was at the Highway Division, I was part of the survey crew and I got my professional surveyor’s license,” Oi said. “After, I took a position with the division in Honolulu as a licensed surveyor. I was there until 2000.”

From 2000 to 2003, Oi took a position with the Department of Accounting and General Services, Land Survey Division, as a licensed surveyor.

“Then from 2003 to 2012, I was the district land manager at DLNR Land Division on Kauai,” he said.

Oi currently sits on the DLNR land board, representing Kauai. He was re-appointed to the position this session.

Oi said he is running to reduce traffic, gain public trust in government, find ways to give local farmers agriculture land, and increase affordable housing projects.

To end congestion on the Eastside, Oi suggested infrastructure expansion east of the airport.

“We need to add another lane between Wailua River (and) Hanamaulu,” he said. “I think there’s enough land on both sides to do that.”

Oi said small parcels of all land should be allocated to local farmers.

“Right now, most of the agriculture land is acres and acres,” he said. “There’s a lot of farmers. If we can open up more agriculture parks with smaller parcels — two to five acres — that (would be) manageable for farming.”

Oi suggested an area that may be feasible for allocation is in Kekaha.

“I know one of the seed companies gave up their property. Right now those properties are on the ADC (Agribusiness Development Corporation),” he said. “When I was at the land division, the legislators made a bill to turn over agriculture land to DLNR.”

As the biggest owner of property in the islands, Oi said it is up to the state to set aside land for affordable housing projects.

“We are pushing our kids out of Hawaii because of the cost of homes,” Oi said. “Even condominiums are expensive. They cannot afford to live here.”

Oi also wants to strengthen public trust between voters and legislators.

“In the past, the public wouldn’t find out (about) anything until it’s too late,” he said. “Of course, everything is online now. Certain issues that affect the public, a lot of times the public is saying the government isn’t listening to them.”

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