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Sharon Working for you
Build housing for residents (not outsiders).
Honolulu is in the midst of the greatest housing crisis in the U.S. today. That is why Sharon, as a State Senator, fights for affordable housing and against "luxury blight." In 2021 Sharon joined with Speaker Scott Saiki to fight SB1334 stopping 400 ft. high residential development in Kakaako Makai even though there is already an adopted Conceptual Master Plan widely vetted by the Kakaako community. As a member of the Housing committee, Sharon advocates for the development of truly affordable housing and rental assistance and against special exceptions for big developers. This year she along with Speaker Scott Saiki introduced SB2811/HB1858 & SB2723/HB1859 which expands the State Rent Supplement Program to supplement rent payments for low income families.
Honolulu is nearly the least affordable of 500 U.S. housing markets, and on our island, people can't drive to the next housing market for relief. No wonder we have the nation's worst homeless problem. No wonder young folks moving out make Hawaii the only Sunbelt state losing people.
Building luxury towers for outsiders instead of homes for residents hurts not just Kakaako. It's spreading to Waikiki and Ala Moana; then on to McCully, Moiliili and Sheridan. Sharon wants to tax the big investment trusts that underwrite high-end development, using their profits to finance residential housing and advocated for legislation that taxes Real Estate Investment Trusts SB2698 (2020), SB785 (2021), HB286 (Act 78, 2021). She favors "Hula Mae" loans to independent contractors that build middle class homes, the way local contractors built homes when Sharon was growing up. That is why she introduced SB2812 (2022) which would bolster the Hula Mae Multi-Family Program by changing Private Activity Bond policy.
As Roger, one of her supporters says of Sharon, she who walks the walk, "Less Talki, Moriwaki!"
Our culture means we care about, and care for, our kupuna. Of those over 65, 90% prefer staying home to receive care rather than moving to a facility. Family members here are dedicated caregivers, but providing that care creates financial and emotional stress.
Since 2019, Sharon has served as Senate Co-convener of the Legislative Kupuna Caucus which introduces and advocates for legislation that helps our seniors. With the help of her colleagues, advocates, and community members several key measures were passed including SB20125 (2019) which enhanced the Kupuna Caregivers Program and appropriated additional funds, HB468 (2019) which appropriated funds for the Healthy Aging Partnership program to provide for the health and well-being of Hawaii's kupuna. Sharon also introduced SB2677 (2022) which expands the state rent supplement program to help seniors at risk of becoming homeless.
The well-being of Kupuna who live in care homes must be assured. That is why this year, the caucus introduced HB1824 which adds statewide staff and funding to the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program which resolves complaints by residents living in care homes.
We must support home caregiving to help seniors who want to stay at home with their families. The AARP estimates there are 154,000 caregivers in the state. Hawaii's Kupuna Caregivers Program assists family caregivers who work outside the home by providing $70/day benefits for home health care workers, extra help preparing meals, and adult day care costs. The program helps family caregivers remain employed, even as they support their kupuna with the quality care family members are best able to offer. That means in the long run, the program saves the state money. As a member of the Ways and Means committee, Sharon is advocating for a significant increase of funds to the Kupuna Caregivers Program this year.
Sharon strongly believes tobacco funds should go to health-related programs, including supporting our kupuna caregivers. That is why she introduced SB2462 (2022) that would dedicate a percentage of the Hawaii Tobacco Settlement Special Fund to the Kupuna Caregivers Program.
When Sharon ran for office in 2018 she pledged to address crime in the community. As a legislator she introduced and supported multiple measures to address crime. As co-convener of the Kupuna Caucus, she oversaw the passage of HB490 (Act 147, 2021) which enhanced penalties for perpetrators of crimes against seniors. After pledging in 2018 to enhance the state's database drug-monitoring program she introduced SB1486 (Act 230, 2019) which allowed for greater information sharing for the Electronic Prescription Accountability System. This year, she introduced several measures that would help address illegal noise pollution including SB2124 and SB2127 that allow police to greater enforce against noisy bars and vehicles respectively. In 2018 she also pledged to introduce legislation that would curb so-called "cabaret licenses" in Waikiki and elsewhere that allow patrons to drink until 4:00am. That is why she introduced SB2382 which bans cabaret license holders to operate in the mixed-use apartment district in Waikiki (mauka of Kuhio Ave). SB2125 (2022) Increases maximum allowable liquor commission fines from $2000 to $5000 for bars and clubs. This would deter establishments from knowingly violating excessive noise and other liquor rules. And this year, she also introduced "safe neighborhoods" legislation (SB790) that would geographically ban repeat criminal offenders from the commercial area they are targeting.
We heard you -- homelessness is the State’s number-one problem and we need to find long-term solutions to end it. That's why Sharon called together an informal group of state, county and community agency leaders committed to ending homelessness. We worked to identify the needs and possible solutions. The result was a number of measures to address homelessness on a statewide level. With House district partners Speaker Scott Saiki and Representative Adrian Tam, we are working to pass these bills this year:
- SB2370 / HB1648 - Establishes a permanent Office of Homelessness and Housing Solutions with a focus on long-term stable funding and staff to identify needs, gaps, innovative homeless and housing solutions to prevent and end homelessness.
- SB2371 / HB1662 - Establishes a statewide homelessness and housing data clearinghouse to collect and track real-time data related to homelessness in the State, including availability of services, shelters, and low-cost housing.
- SB2372 / HB1649 - Requires state agencies to identify and report on vacant land for potential use to build affordable housing.
- SB2373 / HB1650 - Creates a program in prisons that helps individuals prior to release with reentry, rehabilitation, employment, and housing to prevent them from becoming homeless.
- SB3368 / HB1744 - Funds building permanent supportive housing to address the needs of chronically homeless individuals and families.
- SB2374 - Extends and augments the Ohana Zones pilot program for affordable housing at the county level, including programs such as HONU which offer transitional shelter and services to homeless.
Several of these measures are on their way to conference committee, the final stage before adoption. Others that require only funding are being incorporated into the budget.
Prepare for sea level rise.
Sea level rise threatens our coastal communities and businesses including the State's economic engine - Waikiki. That is why in 2021 Sharon convened Waikiki stakeholders and community members to discuss planning for the effects of sea level rise. As a result, Sharon authored SB2724/HB1669 establishing a working group to develop a Waikiki adaptation and resilience plan to address climate change and sea level impacts. As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, Sharon worked on including $900,000 into the executive budget for UH Manoa to spearhead the working group. She also introduced SB2725/HB1672 expanding use of special improvement district (e.g. Waikiki) funds beyond business development; to improve environmental conditions and provide community benefits. For more information on what is being done about Waikiki sea level rise you can read a recent Politico article that featured Sharon along with Waikiki stakeholders.
Make government efficient and effective.
As the Chair of the Senate Committee on Government Operations (GVO), Sharon examines and hears legislation relating to government operations, procurement, state facilities, and technology. GVO reviewed 253 bills referred to the committee this session – reflective of a lot of concern about how government could run more efficiently. Some of the bills came from a special committee on accountability that Sharon chaired during the interim. The bills that Sharon authored deal with expediting and streamlining procurement of services, goods, and construction. Doing work faster and more transparently serves us more cost-effectively.
Improve urban life through parks, open space, and protected ocean views.
As former president of Kakaako United, Sharon worked hard for five years to improve our district's quality of life. The law establishing Kakaako as a special district, §206E-1, seeks remedies for "vast, unmet community development needs," including:
…residential areas which do not have facilities necessary for basic liveability, such as parks and open space.
Sharon has demanded that the law be followed, referring specifically to the National Recreation and Park Association's standard for the amount of "playgrounds, recreation centers, and athletic fields". That standard, set in the early 1900s, was one acre per 2,000 people; a standard still used by the City and County of Honolulu. More recently, the national standard has grown to 9.6 acres per 1,000 people, including for communities Kakaako's size.
Sharon knows lack of open space affects all parts of our district, from Waikiki through Moiliili, McCully, and Sheridan to Kakaako. As Senator, she fights for at least the bare minimum of open space our community should have.
Our district also lives with loss of ocean views. When developers share future plans for proposed development with Sharon, she advocates for open view planes, green space, and open public venues. She continues to fight to preserve the Kakaako Makai Conceptual Master Plan which aligns the future vision of Kakaako with the wishes of residents.