One of the City Council’s anti-rail crusaders in an election matchup versus a Parsons Brinckerhoff engineer? It sounds almost too good to be true.

Yet that’s what District 5 voters will be looking at come November.

Ann Kobayashi, 75, has represented the area for almost all of the last decade but is technically looking for a new term after taking over when Duke Bainum died in 2009. Her challenger is 45-year-old Jim Hayes, a geologist and environmental planner. He didn’t specify if he works on rail issues for the firm.

Neither Kobyashi nor Hayes will be on the ballot Aug. 11. Because there are only two registered candidates, the primary is deemed unnecessary and both candidates advance to the Nov. 6 general. The four other council races this year each have at least three candidates, as does the mayor’s race. When it comes to county elections on Oahu, only the Honolulu prosecutor’s race will similarly skip to November.

But voters still need to know where the two candidates stand on the key issues facing Honolulu, so today you can find their questionnaire responses. Civil Beat asked Kobayashi and Hayes to explain their positions on 10 major issues facing the city. There were significant differences on rail, homelessness and sewage.

You can find links to the full responses at the bottom of this article.

Rail

Kobayashi’s concerns about rail have been well-documented on Civil Beat and elsewhere.

She’s voted in recent months against the line of credit rail planners said they wanted as a stopgap funding mechanism for the project. She’s backing Gov. Ben Cayetano‘s candidacy for mayor, and he says he’ll kill the project. She’s grilled new rail chief Daniel Grabauskas every chance she’s gotten and she’s advocated for using the fixed guideway for rubber-tire buses.

Some of those ideas came up again in her response to Civil Beat’s questionnaire, though her exact wording — “The City should proceed cautiously” — shows that she’s still not expressly opposed the same way that, say, Tom Berg or Cliff Slater or Cayetano are.

Hayes leaves no such ambiguity in his response, which begins:

Yes, the big decision was made by the voters in 2008; it is time to speed up, not slow down or second guess. The City Council should be diligent in monitoring HART’s progress, but rather than erecting obstacles that only serve to delay and increase costs, the Council should be enabling progress while seeking to reduce costs and involving communities to help shape “their” project.

Homelessness

Civil Beat asked the candidates: “Has the sidewalk ban on stored property, in effect for six months, been a success? What should the city be doing to help Honolulu’s homeless population?”

Kobayashi said the ban “has been successful” and “has been effective in making our streets safer for pedestrians to walk during the day and night.” The district she represents includes McCully and Moiliili, where many of the city’s homeless congregate.

“Our businesses in high use areas have also benefited from the ban as it has helped to deter loitering or camping on sidewalks fronting stores, businesses, and parks,” she wrote.

Hayes disagrees. First, his conclusion: “In short, currently being homeless in Honolulu is too easy a life.” Now, the meat of his statement:

The sidewalk ban on stored property was an attempt by the City Council to address how the homeless degrade the public’s use of these facilities. Members of the council said the bill was not about homeless people; it clearly was and the fact that they refused to admit it was offensive. In my opinion the bill should have been stronger and clearer and enforcement should be swift and constant. The current bill makes enforcement too laborious, and therefore its effect is muted.

Civil Beat covered the effects and costs of the ban after half a year of enforcement: A Look at Honolulu’s Sidewalk Ban Six Months and at Least $100K Later

Sewage

Civil Beat did not ask specifically about the second digester at the Sand Island sewage treatment plant, but Hayes identified the council’s handling of that issue as the one he’d change if he could because capacity issues are creating real problems.

And, Hayes took a shot at Kobayashi in the process.

City council members do not become experts in wastewater treatment just because they visit a few treatment plants on the mainland. The experts, professionals within the City’s Department of Environmental Services and their consultants, have considered the alternatives and continue to recommend the original course of action. This has been documented sufficiently. Further study only serves to waste time and money. The budget for this needed sewer improvement should have been made available.

Kobayashi, as chair of the Budget Committee this year, was behind the proviso that requires the administration to study alternatives and report back before spending money on a second fertilizer-pellet-producing digester at Sand Island. Read more about that:

Last month, she introduced a resolution that, if adopted, will encourage the city auditor to investigate the Environmental Services Department’s procurement practices with regard to the Sand Island project.


Read the full candidate responses here:

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