KAPAA — For Nadine Nakamura, finding solutions to the Kapaa crawl and affordable housing, preserving cultural lands and supporting education are priorities for the House of Representatives this term.
“This is an incredible opportunity to serve my district, Kauai and the state,” she said. “Now, the perspective is much broader. I was hoping to have that opportunity to take what I learned from the county and to figure out how we can do things differently, how we can better partner together, and really the bottom line is how do we better serve residents on Kauai.”
Nakamura, the newly elected representative for District 14, will be sworn into office on Jan. 18, but has already been to Oahu for meetings to appoint committee chairs and vice chairs.
During a caucus meeting last week, Nakamura was named vice chair of the housing committee. She also will be serving on the finance and transportation committees. Orientation and training starts Jan. 3, and then it’s the homestretch to Inauguration Day.
“There’s a lot of resources, from the research office to the auditors office, to help us get the job done,” the 54-year-old said.
While she has attended other swearing-in ceremonies at the Hawaii State Capitol, Nakamura said this one will be special because her family will be there.
Nakamura, a former Kauai County councilmember and managing director, ran as the Democratic nominee for District 14, which covers Hanalei, Princeville, Kilauea, Anahola, Kapaa and Wailua Houselots.
On Nov. 8, she received 6,057 votes, or 65.5 percent. She defeated Republican candidate Sandi Combs by almost 4,000 votes.
“I was really happy with the results and really thankful that the voters are confident in the work that I did,” she said.
As a representative for Kauai, Nakamura promises to find ways to partner with every stakeholder involved in an issue.
“I don’t think the government can do things alone,” she said. “We need to get everyone involved.”
It will take partnerships to solve traffic congestion, especially in the Wailua and Kapaa corridor, she said.
Following up on key traffic relief projects, like the additional lane in front of Coco Palms and a northbound lane on the roundabout on Olohena Road, is also important, Nakamura added.
Another way to relieve traffic congestion in District 14 is coming up with the funding to make a shuttle a stable mode of transportation for the North Shore, she said.
“We need to figure out if we can do a state, county, federal and private sector partnership to have a permanent North Shore shuttle,” she said. “The whole visitor industry will benefit and so will locals.”
The North Shore shuttle ran for three months, from August to October, on a trial basis. Funding for the $160,000 program came from the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
When it comes to protecting cultural lands, Nakamura said it’s important for the Legislature to support groups like the Waipa Foundation and Hui Maka‘ainana o Makana that are working to preserve cultural sites.
“We need to look at how we support these community-based efforts to preserve Hawaii’s unique culture. And this is what sets Kauai and Hawaii apart from anywhere else. Every place you go is going to have a McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut,” she said. “But what sets Hawaii and Kauai apart is our natural beauty and it’s our cultural resources. That’s what we really need to hold up.”
Nakamura believes the state needs to take a look at the range of homelessness and affordable housing.
“The big need to get people out of houselessness is affordable rental housing. And then you also need single family affordable housing for people in rental houses, but can move on to home ownership,” she said.
Nakamura said the Legislature should focus on elementary school readiness.
“Only 50 percent of our kids attend preschool statewide, so I think it’s important we work to increase that number,” she said. “Everything we know about brain development and how important it is to get to kids at 3 and 4 years old. If they don’t go through preschool, they’re not going to be ready for kindergarten.”