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TGI candidate profile: Nadine Nakamura

Nadine K. Nakamura

• Age: 60

• Occupation: State Legislator

• Town of residence: Kapa‘a

• Duration of Kaua‘i residency: 30 years

• Prior experience in govenrment/leadership: Elected and appointed offices: 2016 – current state Representative, state of Hawai‘i; chair, Housing Committee member; Judiciary & Hawaiian Affairs Committee member, Transportation Committee member; 2013 – 2016, managing director, County of Kaua‘i, 1,200 employees, 72,000 residents; 2010 – 2013, vice chair, Kaua‘i County Council; Chair, council Planning Committee; vice chair, Finance & Economic Development Committee; volunteer work: Current: Board Member, Pacific Housing Assistance Corporation.

Past: Board Member, Hawai‘i Community Reinvestment Corporation; Chair, Kapa‘a Middle School Community Council; Board Member, Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative Foundation; Vice Chair, Board Member Hawaii Tourism Authority; Chair, Kapa‘a Elementary School Community Council; Vice Chair State Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawai‘i.

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. (Meaning their housing costs exceeded 30% of their income.) How will you address the affordable housing crisis in your district?

This past legislative session, we approved $600 million for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands; $300 million for the Rental Housing Revolving Fund; $40 million for the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund, $15 million for the ‘Ohana Zone homelessness programs, and $5 million for the Affordable Homeownership Revolving fund.

Taken together, these funds will help to build over 6,000 units of affordable housing in the State of Hawai‘i.

In my district, I’m supporting the development of affordable housing in the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital Master Plan. The State has the opportunity to address housing needs for the east side on over 35 acres of vacant ceded lands. In addition to expanding long-term care beds and acute psychiatric beds, we are planning to develop workforce housing, including rental housing for teachers and health care workers, kupuna housing, and supportive housing. The state has approved $19.7 million in water improvements to match county funds to support this development.

On the north shore, the County is aggressively pursuing affordable housing in Kilauea, which I support. There are many excellent nonprofit organizations, including Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity and PAL Kaua‘i, that are pursuing affordable housing projects and scattered site developments throughout the district.

Q: The coronavirus pandemic decimated the tourism industry Kaua‘i – and the state – is so reliant upon. Should your district make economic diversity a priority, and if so, how?

I believe we should continue to support economic diversity in my district, the island of Kaua‘i, and State of Hawai‘i. Economic clusters that we should support include creative technologies, arts and culture, renewable energy, recreation, and food and agriculture. We should also promote niche tourism markets, including health and wellness, ecotourism, cultural tourism, and volunteer tourism.

Every small business should have access to business planning assistance to establish and grow their business. We must prepare our workforce and provide students with career planning and skill-building from K-12. Key to economic diversification is adequately funding the University of Hawai‘i and community colleges to prepare our young adults for diverse career opportunities along with small business training and education.

This past legislative session, we funded the High Tech Development Corporation, and Natural Energy Laboratory of the Pacific. The budget also included funding for Manufacturing Grants, Accelerator program, workforce development, increasing international sales of local products and services. I voted in support of the Motion Picture, Digital Media, and Film Production Tax Credit. I also voted in support of the Conservation Corp. Jobs Program that allows young adults to learn skills such as clearing fish ponds of invasive species, restoring taro fields, and installing fencing to protect watersheds.

Within my district, I have supported funding to assist ‘Aina Ho‘okipa O Kilauea with irrigation infrastructure, assisted Wai‘oli Taro Farmers with funding for stream improvements, and most recently funded Malama Kaua‘i’s food hub in Moloa‘a.

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?

One first step that was taken this session was to ban campaign fundraising during the legislative session. This could be strengthened by not allowing campaign contributions during the state legislative session.

A second step would be to amend conflict of interest procedures in the legislature.

A third step would be to promote public financing of campaigns.

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?

Governor Ige signed the minimum wage bill into law on June 22, 2022. We could tie future increases to the Consumer Price Index or revisit the minimum wage at a future date. My preference is to revisit the minimum wage, as there are many other bills that could impact employers, including paid family leave and paid sick leave.

Q: What is driving you to seek re-election, and why should voters give you their vote?

I’m truly honored to be the State Representative for District 15 (Wailua House Lots to Haena). I’m fortunate that my two children are adults and I’m able to be full-time legislator. I’ve worked very hard with the community, county, and visitor industry to develop a model for regenerative tourism at Haena State Park; championed master planning on vacant state lands surrounding Mahelona Hospital; and secured funding for coordinated stream maintenance and flood control efforts on Kaua‘i’s north shore.

My work, however, is not done. Developing a Kaua‘i pilot for universal three- and four-year old education; creating mobility hubs to reduce visitor use of cars and reduce traffic congestion, and building more affordable housing are some of the efforts I look forward to pursuing in a new term in office.
Source: The Garden Island

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