Following The Money In Oahu Legislative Races

As published in Civil Beat on July 13, 2018

"...In the race for the Kaneohe Senate seat, Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole has raised more money than Rep. Ken Ito, who’s represented the area for an additional two decades. ...

Rep. Ken Ito, elected in 1994, and Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole, elected in 2014, are vying to replace Tokuda. Keohokalole seems to have the financial edge, though Ito has an additional two decades of name recognition on his opponent.

Keohokalole had $68,000 as of June 30, according to campaign finance data. He’s raised $49,000 and spent $36,000 this year.

Ito’s campaign fund had $55,000 has of June 30. Ito raised about $20,000 less and spent $11,000 less than Keohokalole, by comparison."

To read the whole article, go here.

Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole Candidate for State Senate District 24 Kaneohe, Kailua (Community Matters)

As aired on Think Tech Hawai'i on July 9, 2018:

Ige signs $570M bill for affordable housing

Lawmakers attending the bill-signing ceremony for an affordable rental housing program Friday include House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti (front row, from left), Kauai Rep. Nadine K. Nakamura (second from left), House Housing Committee Chair Tom Brower, and Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole (back row, wearing lei), with Gov. David Ige.

"A step forward in addressing Hawaii’s affordable rental housing crisis on all islands was taken by the Legislature this session with the passage of House Bill 2748 HD2 SD2 CD1 and Friday, that bill was signed into law by Gov. David Ige.

The bill provides a total of $570 million which will generate more than 25,000 affordable units by the year 2030. This will fulfill the goal of 22,500 affordable rental housing units set by the Legislature in 2016 via Act 127, Session Laws of Hawaii 2016.

'I want to thank everyone involved for having the courage to take this historic action to provide affordable housing so desperately needed in Hawaii,' said House Housing Chair Rep. Tom Brower. 'This is an investment in the future that will allow our working families a chance to save money to buy a home of their own and will contribute to lawmakers’ efforts to end homelessness.'

The measure supports development of affordable rental housing for a wide range of households spanning low income families to those making up to 140 percent of the area median income. House Bill 2748 HD2 SD2 CD1 contains four parts:

Appropriates $200 million into the Rental Housing Trust Fund to generate about 1,600 affordable rental housing units for families at or below 80 percent AMI.

Expands the general excise tax exemption for construction of about 24,000 affordable rental units for families at or below 140 percent AMI.

Appropriates $10 million into the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund

Appropriates $50,000 to prepare an assessment of housing needs for persons with low or no income, such as the disabled and functionally challenged populations."

Health officials blame cesspools for contaminated water, but solution unclear

As reported on KHON2 News on January 10, 2018:

The Hawaii Department of Health is blaming 88,000 cesspools statewide for high levels of bacteria in the water.

...In Kahaluu, officials found 740 nearby cesspools contributed to sewage contaminated surface waters, where there have been reports of skin infections.

The health department told lawmakers that federal guidelines state all cesspools, including residential, must be eliminated by 2050. It will cost $1.75 billion.

But the DOH says there are a lot of unknowns, which don't sit well with lawmakers.

'What they admitted is they're not sure how bad the problem is,' said Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole, who represents Kahaluu, Kaneohe, and Waiahole. 'I don't know what's worse, what we do know, or what we don't know. It's pretty clear we need to come together and figure out a solution because we've been ignoring it for too long.'

Keohokalole says he will be introducing legislation to fix the issue.

The health department says it will be meeting with the community to come up with solutions.

You can check the quality of your home's drinking water online.

Input your address and the Board of Water Supply's website will first tell you if your water's safe, and gives you the option to view the full report.

You can view test results, what kind of contaminants have been found in your water, and where your water is coming from."

Island Focus - Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole

As published on Olelo Community Media on Nov. 28, 2017:

State Rep. Keohokalole to vie for seat in Senate

As published in the Star Advertiser on Aug 4, 2017:

"State Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole announced Thursday he will seek election to the Windward Oahu state Senate seat that will be vacated by Sen. Jill Tokuda. Tokuda announced Wednesday she is running for lieutenant governor.

The District 24 Senate seat includes Kailua and Kaneohe, and Keohokalole said he is a member of a family that has lived in the Kaneohe area for generations.

Keohokalole, 33, was first elected to the state House in 2014 and was unopposed in the 2016 election. He is a Democrat.

'In the Senate, I will continue to work hard to tackle the tough issues that affect our community — illegal drugs, homelessness, the urgent need for affordable housing, and the lack of economic opportunity,' Keohokalole said in a written announcement. 'Together, we can work to get results to make this district a prosperous, safe and enjoyable place to live, work and raise a family.'

Keohokalole has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a law degree from UH’s William S. Richardson School of Law.

He served as a legal fellow working on invasive species law and policy within the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, and is a former member of the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board. He and wife Kuulani live in Kahaluu with their three children."

Saiki unveils new House leadership team

As published in the Honolulu Star Advertiser on November 28, 2016:

House Speaker Scott Saiki (D, Downtown-Kakaako-­McCully), who took over House leadership earlier this month after members effectively ousted Rep. Joe Souki, has announced his leadership team, emphasizing its inclusion of women and a younger generation of leaders.

Three out of the top four leadership spots will be held by female legislators, while seven of the 11 leadership positions will be filled by lawmakers in their early 40s or younger.

“As we look to build and reform the Hawaii State House of Representatives, it is important to ensure that women and the next generation of leaders are given the opportunity to lead under my tenure as Speaker,” Saiki said in a press release. “We have a real diversity of perspective and life experience in this leadership team that will position us well to lead the state on the many critical issues facing us today.”

Rep. Della Au Belatti (D, Moiliili-Makiki-Tantalus) will take over as vice speaker, a position held by Rep. John Mizuno (D, Kamehameha Heights-Kalihi Valley). Mizuno will likely be given a committee chairmanship, Saiki said.

Rep. Cindy Evans (D, Kaupulehu-Waimea-Halaula) will become majority leader, a position held by Saiki before he rose to become House speaker.

Rep. Dee Morikawa (D, Niihau-Koloa-Kokee) will take Evans’ place as majority floor leader.

Saiki also has appointed two majority policy leaders: Reps. Jarrett Keohokalole (D, Kahaluu-Ahuimanu-­Kaneohe) and Kaniela Ing (D, South Maui).

Saiki said the position of policy leader is something the House has had off and on over the years, but this is the first year two people have been appointed to that position. He said their job will be to help develop the House majority agenda for the 2018 session.

Saiki also has appointed five majority whips who will replace Rep. Ken Ito (D, Kaneohe-Maunawili-Kailua).

They include Reps. Henry Aquino, Aaron Ling Johanson, Chris Lee, Mark Naka­shima and Justin Woodson.

Aquino, Johanson and Lee represent Oahu districts, while Nakashima is from Hawaii island and Woodson from Maui.

The majority whips will help count votes and monitor committees and membership, Saiki said. He noted the five whips represent different geographical areas and different generations.

The next legislative session doesn’t convene until January, but legislators could reconvene in the coming weeks for a special session to debate a bill to fund the cash-strapped Honolulu rail project.

Saiki said nothing has been scheduled yet, and there’s no signs of an agreement between the Senate and House on how to move forward on funding the project. For now, he said, legislators are in a much-needed cooling-off period.

Souki resigned as House speaker on the last day of this year’s legislative session after House members affirmed they had enough votes to remove him.

Studies leave Kahaluu lagoon polluted

As published in the Honolulu Star Advertiser on November 28, 2016:

"Two years after the Department of Health warned residents to stay out of Kahaluu Lagoon and the channel leading to Kaneohe Bay because tests indicated raw sewage from cesspools was likely polluting the water, there’s no indication that the water quality will improve anytime soon.

Health officials say that while hundreds of cesspools in the area are likely causing the high bacteria counts, they are still studying the issue. Meanwhile, a statewide effort to provide incentives to homeowners to switch out their cesspools by offering tax credits is falling far short of expectations, and any effort to connect areas in Kahaluu to the city’s sewage system is likely more than a decade out.

State Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole, who represents the area, said he’s disappointed at the slow pace of addressing the problem. He said it seems clear that homeowners, many of whom have lived in the area for generations and don’t have a lot of money, will have to convert their cesspools, and that the state needs to do more to help them financially.

“There comes a point when you know enough about what the problem is that it is time to start looking at how you are going to fix it,” said Keohokalole (D, Kahaluu-Ahuimanu-Kaneohe)."

Read more here.

Ending the war on drugs: The debate shifts to decriminalization

As published in the Honolulu Star Advertiser on May 1, 2016:

"Thirteen years after Hawaii legalized medical marijuana, the state is finally forging ahead with licensing marijuana dispensaries, issuing licenses to eight applicants on Friday. As it has in other states, that policy shift could usher in a new era of social norms...

It’s unclear whether Hawaii will go that route. But already, at least a few policymakers believe the notion of decriminalizing personal use of marijuana — as well as other illicit drugs — and focusing more on treatment, is worthy of study and serious discussion.

ʻAt first glance it comes off as a pretty radical ideaʻ — the idea of decriminalizing personal drug use, said state Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole (D-Kaneohe, Kahaluu, Waiahole), but ʻthings become ripe for discussion based on circumstances.ʻ In Hawaii, drug use often is an underlying factor that feeds the nation’s highest per-capita rate of homelessness, underscoring the need to move the discussion toward treatment rather than imprisonment, he said.

It was Keohokalole who introduced House Concurrent Resolution 127, adopted Thursday, which asks the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) to study decriminalizing drug possession for personal use in Hawaii. The final version of the resolution limited the study to marijuana and other harmful drugs — excluding dangerous drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine. The resolution asks for an LRB report before the start of the 2017 legislative session.

HCR 127 references a 2009 Cato Institute study that reviewed drug decriminalization policies in Portugal, where drug use has declined and resources have shifted to treatment rather than incarceration."

Read more here.

The Hawaii House: Where Factions Determine Power And Influence

As published in Civil Beat on April 28, 2016:

"Loyalists, Dissidents, the Fab Four and the Three Amigos. 

These four factions, and others within the 51-member Hawaii House of Representatives, form alliances that determine leadership structures, influence what bills become law and affect who wins elections.

It’s about political power at the Capitol. But these allegiances also can have dramatic effects on constituents back home. The ruling faction’s leaders decide who serves as committee chairs — the gatekeepers of legislation — and what projects receive funding, whether that’s a new school, prison or hospital....

Some issues present internal struggles that make it hard to follow a particular faction.


Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole, courted by Luke and Saiki, is still considered a question mark when it comes to factional allegiance. He’s said to have struggled with the Maui water-rights bill.

Keohokalole, for instance, is said to be torn between following Souki’s lead or standing up for Native Hawaiians when it comes to the Maui water-rights issue. 

Alexander & Baldwin agreed to restore some streams for taro farms last week, and an agreement was reached days later between the House and Senate on a bill to let the company continue diverting water from East Maui to Central Maui. 

Keohokalole voted in favor of the bill, but with reservations."

Read more here.

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