Editor’s Note: In June 2012, Civil Beat sent 10 questions to each of the candidates registered to run for Honolulu City Council District 9. Two of four responded, including former Hawaii state Sen. Ron Menor. The questions and answers are reproduced below in full, and will serve as a resource both to voters deciding for whom to vote at the Aug. 11 primary but also to constituents so they can hold Menor to his words should he be elected. To see how Menor’s responses compare to those from his main competitor, click here. Click on each topic listed below to read Civil Beat’s question and Menor’s response.

Preferred Candidate Name: Ron Menor

Date of Birth (MM/DD/YYYY): 9/29/1955

Place of Birth/Hometown: Hilo, Hawaii

Current Profession/Employer: Attorney, sole practitioner

Education/Alma Mater(s): Iolani School (High School); UCLA (BA); Georgetown University Law Center (JD)

1. Do you believe that Honolulu should proceed with the 20-mile elevated rail project from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Shopping Center? Why or why not?

Yes, we should proceed carefully and with greater transparency than has been provided by  the City in the past.    In the absence of an effective alternative, I believe rail will help to alleviate congestion on the road, reduce the hours and money lost to traffic, and improve our quality of life over the long term.  I view rail as part of a multi-faceted and multi-dimensional transportation system that will be used in conjunction with the bus system and other traffic management initiatives to address our traffic problems on Oahu.

In addition, rail will create jobs and stimulate the economy, and help us manage and direct future growth and development on Oahu and help us preserve valuable agricultural lands in a way that was never available to us before.  However, I understand the concerns of many in the public about the cost of rail. If we proceed with rail, it needs to be done as efficiently and cost effectively as possible–and within budget.  In this regard, I plan to monitor implementation of the project very closely from a cost standpoint. ↩ back to top

2. Should the city continue to send municipal solid waste to Waimanalo Gulch Landfill until it reaches capacity, should it site a new landfill elsewhere as soon as possible, or should it pursue a different path? Why?

For the present, I don’t believe the city has a choice but to continue to send solid waste to Waimanalo Gulch.  But it should not wait until it reaches capacity to find a new landfill site elsewhere.  The question of location for such a site has never been an easy one, but must be tackled with the full involvement of the community.  At the same time, exploring new solid waste disposal and recycling technologies, expanding H-Power, seeking other alternative waste management options, educating the public about waste reduction, recycling and sustainable lifestyle changes, and implementing laws that support the reduction and management of waste should all be pursued. ↩ back to top

3. 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?

It has had small successes, but a ban, in essence, attacks the symptoms but not the underlying source of the problem.  Homelessness is the real issue and any ban simply dances around the problem.  I would like to see the city work more closely with the State, the business community and the private nonprofit sector in a joint and coordinated effort to tackle the problem of homelessness.  To do that, we need to first make distinctions among those who are homeless.  They are not one undistinguishable homogenous group.  The reasons for homelessness vary and to resolve it, solutions must fit individual situations.  For some, it may simply require a temporary helping hand.  For others, it may require a long-term training and employment solution.  Some of our homeless also need medical intervention.  And of course we need to do more to create affordable rental housing and home ownership.  Clearly, none of the concerned groups (the City, State, private social services network) can do it alone.  We need a better coordinated and comprehensive solution that taps into all of our resources.  The City can take a leadership role in bringing us together. ↩ back to top

4. Should the city consider eliminating property tax exemptions for homeowners, nonprofits and other special interest groups if it means lowering rates? What other steps should the council take to improve Honolulu Hale’s financial picture?

It is not clear that eliminating those exemptions would definitely or significantly lead to lower rates.  I believe the better question would be whether eliminating those exemptions would lead to “fairer” property tax rates for all.  Periodic reviews of tax exemptions should always be considered–the public purpose they serve as well as those who benefit.  For the same reasons, the City needs to be constantly looking at how it spends taxpayer dollars, and seeking ways to do it more effectively and efficiently.  That doesn’t always mean doing things the cheapest way, but rather in ways that maximize taxpayers dollars for the long term and providing the best product or service for each dollar spent.  The City should also be looking at ways to access dollars available from the state and federal governments and  to work with them to leverage those partnerships. ↩ back to top

5. Relations between the mayor and the City Council have been at times contentious. How would you work to improve those relations?

Honest and open communication has always been the key to breaking down walls.  I would work to create opportunities for more frequent and  productive communication between the Mayor and City Council so we can have a better understanding of our goals and agenda and explore areas where can find common ground.  The time immediately following the upcoming election, with a newly elected (or reelected) mayor and a partially reconstituted City Council would provide a perfect opportunity to wipe the slate clean and inaugurate such a process. ↩ back to top

6. Should the city wait until July 2015 for the recently approved plastic checkout bag ban to take effect, implement something sooner or go a different route? Why?

I would have hoped the city would have chosen an earlier implementation date, while still giving businesses sufficient time to prepare for the new law.  I believe two years would have provided sufficient notice (July 2014).  This is one of those laws that essentially addresses concerns over moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle for us as a community.  But a lifestyle, by its very nature, is comprehensive.  It touches all aspects of our lives.  The key to changing that lifestyle must also be comprehensive and multi-purposed.  In other words, there is no single magic bullet.  We still need to do more along multiple routes:  greater education at an earlier age, the use of incentives as well as disincentives, and an approach that calls on not just consumers to participate, but business, government, and community organizations alike. ↩ back to top

7. Do the Oahu General Plan and regional planning documents as currently written need to be overhauled to protect agricultural resources and manage growth or are they sufficient as is? What other steps should the city take to control or promote development?

I believe an update of the Oahu General Plan is currently underway.  It will look at issues of growth, development, quality of life, economic health, affordable housing, and sustainability.  Concerns relating to agricultural resources could and should be addressed within this process.  Often, it is not the planning documents that are at fault but the failure to implement and follow through with the vision and broad goals outlined in those documents.  Tying our day-to-day decisions more closely to those documents will go a long way in ensuring that they are consistent with the General Plan and our regional planning documents. ↩ back to top

8. What do you see as the largest long-term challenge facing the city — sewers, water, roads, traffic or something else? What immediate steps will you take to put Honolulu in a stronger position to deal with its largest long-term challenge?

All of these infrastructural improvements are important for our citizens because, cumulatively, they create a more livable city.  But the key to meeting all of these challenges is fiscal prudence, responsibility and accountability.  Consequently, one of the first actions that I will take as a City Councilman will be to conduct a thorough analysis of our City budget to identify areas where cost savings and greater efficiencies can be achieved so funds can be maximized to finance the infrastructural improvements that our City needs. ↩ back to top

9. What would you want to be remembered for as a member of the City Council?

I would want the council that I’m a part of to be remembered for the strong and clear vision it has for the City and that our collective decisions were made with a positive long term view in mind and were good for our citizens. ↩ back to top

10. If you could change one city decision of the last two years, what would it be and why?

There’s no one decision I would change, but rather how a series of decisions were made over the last two years relating to rail.  These decisions on the implementation of rail were handled poorly and with insufficient transparency, public input and public education.  I believe the new director of HART understands this past history and is trying to rectify it.  But it shouldn’t have come to this. ↩ back to top