Friday, Aug. 19, 2022 |
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James Kunane Tokioka
• Age: 60
• Occupation: state representative (since 2006); new business manager, Spectrum Hawai‘i (Since 2011)
• Town of residence: Lihue; duration of Kaua‘i residency: 46 years
• Prior experience in government/leadership: 10 years on Kaua‘i County Council; coaching at Lihu‘e Baseball Association; volunteered with the Hawai‘i State Junior Golf Association, and numerous community cleanups.
Q: The median price of a single-family home on Kaua‘i is over $1 million, and the County’s 2018 General Plan reported 44% of all households are cost-burdened. How will you address the affordable-housing crisis in your district?
I will continue to work with the Kaua‘i delegation to support infrastructure with the County of Kaua‘i to develop affordable housing. Support includes millions of dollars over the years to the Kaua‘i Department of Water and hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax credits for affordable-housing projects on Kaua‘i. This year, $600 million was appropriated for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and I certainly will be lobbying for more than Kaua‘i’s fair share. With this $600 million, it also allows families to get funding for mortgage down-payments and/or rental assistance. I supported and voted for SB3048, which provides $300 million to the Rental Housing Revolving Fund, amongst several other bills that were passed this year that totaled almost $1 billion for affordable housing.
Q: The coronavirus pandemic decimated the tourism industry Kaua‘i and the state are so reliant upon. Should your district make economic diversity a priority, and if so, how?
Yes, we should certainly try to diversify our economy.
Many people throughout the years have tried to achieve this on the county and state level, and it has been difficult. Due to the amount of fallow agricultural land we have available on Kaua‘i, I will continue to support farmers and ranchers big or small. I have also been working with Department of (Business,) Economic Development and Tourism to attract hi-tech companies that offer remote-employment opportunities for members that live in our community. I am open to listening to other ideas and will continue to focus on providing opportunities to keep families on Kaua‘i.
Q: The legislature was rocked this year by bribery allegations against two former legislators, leading many to call for reforms to the campaign financing system. What steps, if any, would you take to reduce the influence of money in politics? Would you take to reduce the influence of money in politics?
I support not having political fundraisers during the Legislative Session. I will also continue to work with the Ethics Commission to support their budget on investigations for complaints and concerns that are brought to the commission.
Q: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Living Wage Calculator reports the living wage in Hawai‘i is currently $21.99 per hour for a single adult working full-time with no children. This year, the State Legislature took action by increasing the minimum wage to $18 an hour by 2028. How would you build on this recent accomplishment, to ensure Hawai‘i’s workforce can afford to live in Hawai‘i?
In my opinion it is too early to answer this questions. We need to see the full impacts of the minimum wage bill that was passed in the 2022 Legislative Session before I can come up with concise response. I certainly know that small mom and pop business will be impacted by this increase and in the future we may need to rethink the minimum wage bill that would allow us to carve out small mom and pop businesses that are going to be impacted by the future increases.
Q: What is driving you to seek re-election, and why should voters give you their vote?
Over the years that I have been elected, I have developed the respect and trust from several government agencies and community members. When COVID pandemic hit our state it took a major toll on the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR). With many industries being shut down, community members turned to the DLIR to get financial relief. During that time, my office received hundreds of calls from constituents that were having difficulties connecting with the DLIR to get their unemployment issues started or corrected. My office was able to get the information that was needed for the DLIR to process their unemployment and to finally get the financial relief that was owed to them. Many of these same constituents would text, email, or call me with tears of relief as it was a scary time and they were unsure on how they were going to continue to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. This is a small example of me helping our community and what drives me to do what I have been doing for the past 26 years in elected office.
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