Sonny Ganaden for State House of Representatives – Kalihi Kai, Pearl Harbor / Hickam

‘Olelo Interview July 8

District 30 will experience significant change in the coming years: four stops of the Honolulu rail project, the redevelopment of Puuwai Momi housing in Halawa, the possible replacement of the Oahu Community Correctional Center, and business and housing development along the Dillingham corridor.

As these changes happen, the state government must prioritize people over corporations and special interests, and respect the diversity and dignity of working people who live in the district. Honolulu has a service-based economy, and the people of Kalihi and Halawa do much of that service. It is a wonderfully diverse community, representing nearly every ethnic group of Asia and the Pacific, and many of Honolulu’s first and second generation Filipino diaspora.

To ensure that the district thrives into the 21st century and the state can fund its liabilities, we will invest in basic infrastructure and education. For at least a generation, residents and neighborhood boards have complained about constant street flooding, the safety of children going to and from school, the strain of mobility for our elderly family members, and a lack of sidewalks in south Kalihi. Almost every street floods in Kalihi, parking is abysmal, and entire blocks have been mismanaged by neglect. In Halawa, simple improvements such as parking enforcement and community engagement have been ignored.

While it is true that many fixes will require the City and County of Honolulu, the state must to step up to improve infrastructure. At the state level, we can push to designate streets from private to public, develop capital improvement plans with colleagues, expand oversight and community involvement of the rail project’s Transit Oriented Development, and convene stakeholders and non-governmental service providers to ensure public safety and an improved way of life.

As storms have increased in intensity and frequency across the Pacific, we must take the precaution of clearing streams and preventing the loss of life and property. Kalihi stream has flooded several times in the last decade. Halawa stream has invasive species such as mangrove nearly a mile upstream, and homeowners have been forced to purchase flood insurance. We cannot afford a foreseeable urban natural disaster. The damage this year in East Honolulu, the north shore of Kauai, and Houston, Texas warn us to be prepared.

Like many immigrant families, mine believes that education is the basis of equal opportunity, and opens doors not yet visible. Schools have improved in recent years, but we have far to go to ensure that each child in the state is afforded an excellent, safe, and nurturing experience. Teachers must be supported and given a living wage. School buildings must meet the demands of a 21st century education, with all the access to success that has become common in private schools.

As these changes happen, the state must embrace the Housing First model for our houseless brothers and sisters, with empathy. If we ensure that people have a safe place to sleep and gather themselves, other services fall into place and the community becomes safer. We now know that sweeps don’t work, and neither does the criminalization of poverty. As reported by the Department of Public Safety and the ACLU, half of the population in the Oahu Community Correctional Center is simply too poor to pay their bail- they aren’t a danger to themselves or others- they just can’t afford to get out. Instead of wasting money and putting staff and inmates in danger, we can adopt the models of other first world nations and 20 other states and enact bail reform immediately, putting those funds into services and education, to do the hard work of closing cycles of poverty and trauma. This will make our streets safer, as most of the inmates at OCCC will be released into the arms of community and their families.

The replacement of OCCC must not be done through a $500 million land grant to a corporate prison, as is currently planned. Any possible development at the OCCC site must have absolute democratic transparency, community involvement, and a dedication to resident needs over corporate and specific interests, in order to avoid another procurement debacle in the style of the rail project, the superferry, or numerous other state projects.

Our campaign has received the endorsement of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the International Longshoreman and Workers Union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Sierra Club, Americans for Democratic Action, and several other organizations. Our campaign appreciates their endorsement, however the dignity and diligent representation of the people of the district comes first over any one interest.

They say politics is personal. Filipinos I’ve met on the campaign recognize my last name as Illocano- my lolo was born in La Union, was a Filipino Scout in the war for the US Army, and his service as well as my lola’s work as a nurse allowed my father’s side to become American. I was raised by a mom who teaches special education and a dad in business. I am the lawyer of the family. Like many local people in Honolulu in their 30’s, I have taken several jobs to get by. For the last decade, I have practiced family law assisting victims of domestic violence, juveniles, and small businesses, I teach in the Ethnic Studies and American Studies Departments at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, am a journalist for local publications, and have been a server at several restaurants.

It would be the honor of my life to serve the diverse people of District 30. Voter turnout in the district is among the lowest in the state, a statistic I believe to be unfair. Remember: this is the first year we have same-day registration, so citizens can simply show up with a form of state identification. I look forward to seeing the community at the polls on August 11 for the primary, and the opportunities for a bright future to come.