Ernie Martin is the District 2 representative on the Honolulu City Council and served as chair of the full council from 2011 until 2017.
District 2 covers Mililani Mauka, Wahiawa, Whitmore Village, Mokuleia, Waialua, Haleiwa, Waimea, Pupukea, Sunset Beach, Kahuku, Laie, Hauula, Punaluu, Kahana, Kaaawa, Kualoa, Waiahole, Waikane, Kahaluu, Ahuimanu and a portion of Heeia.
Before joining the Council, Martin worked for the Honolulu Department of Community Services, eventually rising to the level of director.
In the Nov. 2, 2010, general election, Martin faced off against John White in a race that went down to the wire. Martin won by 48 votes, with 11,056 votes, or 42.5 percent. White received 11,008 votes, or 42.3 percent.
1) What should Oahu do with its trash?
Reduce, reuse, and recycle are the three most important strategies to addressing our solid waste issues, but those ideas need to be convenient, accessible and affordable for most people and businesses to embrace. I would allow the curbside recycling program to take root with the goal of expanding the program through public-private partnerships and using incentives and penalties to motivate residents and businesses to do better.
2) How would you address the bed-and-breakfast permitting issue? Is this a viable industry that benefits Oahu?
Bed-and-breakfasts (B&Bs) require a caretaker on the premises at all times and usually it is the owner. However, transient vacation rentals (TVRs) are vacant homes – often by investors – the majority of which are beachfront or near the beach which make them attractive alternatives to tourists looking for a more local Hawaii experience. B&Bs – because the owner lives on the premises – don’t pose the same kinds of perceived problems as TVRs. I believe there is a need for both B&Bs and TVRs and with appropriate regulation, mandatory licensing, and mutual respect (by owners, visitors and neighbors); they can co-exist peacefully within the community. The best example of the important role TVRs can play on Oahu is the annual visit and windward rental by President Obama and his family. Our visitors have diverse needs and we need to be able accommodate a variety of interests.
3) Where do you stand on the city’s planned rail-transit project? Are its funding mechanisms sufficient? Will it really attract riders and ease traffic congestion?
I support rail transit and the accompanying Transit Oriented Development as they provide a blueprint for how our island will grow. Instead of expensive urban sprawl that encroaches on our important and diminishing agricultural lands, we will provide our residents with a reliable transportation alternative and affordable housing opportunities for our children and grandchildren. Although the cost is an investment in the future of this island, I support policies that ensure that the City is operating in the fiscal best interests of the tax payers, including competitive bid processes and the oversight of a semi-autonomous Transit Authority to manage the project. Across the country, rail transit ridership is growing despite criticism by opponents about its costs, and with a concentrated rail line providing traffic relief to the largest growing community on the island – west Oahu; I expect that the trend will continue. Dollar for dollar – doing nothing will be a greater cost to future generations and to the future of this island.
4) How would you deal with the growing problem of homelessness?
Establishment of a dedicated City agency on housing would ensure development and prioritization of strategies to address homelessness including collaboration with other public and private agencies and organizations. The City can help reduce the cost of housing by providing developers with access to public lands which may otherwise sit undeveloped or underutilized. They can also assist in navigating the cumbersome planning and permitting process and access federal funds to assist with infrastructure costs. As an interim solution, I would support creating humane, safe zones that provide the homeless with structured programs and services and other necessities such as water, electricity and restrooms, near transportation centers, and free from city displacement.
5) Should Oahu restrict and enforce the use of fireworks? Why or why not?
Stronger enforcement is our greatest challenge in fighting the use of illegal fireworks, so I would support providing our police and fire departments with greater resources to do their job. Although I would support a ban from a public safety perspective, I believe common ground is achievable by proposing more stringent permitting requirements and increasing permit fees to make fireworks use less attractive and ensure users are more transparent to law enforcement and neighbors. Reducing the number of people using fireworks will enable the police to better target the illegal users.
6) How can Honolulu best clean up its troubled Liquor Commission?
It may be prudent to consider transferring the management of the Liquor Commission from the Department of Budget and Fiscal Services to the Honolulu Police Department as the problems of the Commission has primarily been concentrated towards the enforcement of liquor laws and unscrupulous public employees. In addition to bringing more accountability and consistency in the enforcement of the liquor laws, the Liquor Commission would also benefit from HPD’s internal investigative capabilities which could be used to detect and/or deter mismanagement, corruption and other unethical opportunities.
7) Residents have seen property taxes and fees increase to meet budget shortfalls. What’s your big idea for improving the city’s revenue picture?
Balancing the budget starts with identifying the operational necessities of the City and opportunities to reduce administrative costs. Energy efficiency cost savings could reduce the City’s utility budget including water and electricity by millions of dollars so I believe that is an appropriate place to start. Fee increases for services utilized by visitors are a reasonable option because the burden doesn’t fall on the shoulders of most of our local families. Raising taxes should always be a last resort but it remains a necessity in today’s economic climate.
8) Where do you stand when it comes to the use of agricultural land on Oahu? Should the council tighten zoning regulations, or loosen them?
We already have in place a law to preserve and protect our important agricultural lands, so we need to ensure that it is implemented first. I believe rail transit will reduce encroachment on agricultural lands by focusing development along the urban core and specifically along the rail line. Although we sacrifice some agricultural lands in Kapolei, I believe in the long run it is a necessary compromise to providing affordable housing and supporting the targeted growth strategy that the community chose for that area. Our biggest problem will be the proliferation of “fake” farms. Our farming community is aging and fewer children are interested assuming the family farming operations. We must address the potential sale of those agricultural lands to wealthy investors interested only in building million-dollar vacation and retirement homes. I believe building and permitting processes – not zoning – can address the concerns.
9) Relations between the mayor and the Council have usually been contentious. How would you work to improve those relations?
Simply – it’s the nature of the beast that these two branches of government propose different strategies on how to best meet the needs of the people and the island. And it happens at all levels – between the Governor and the Legislature, and even the President and Congress. With nine different council members, finding common ground will continue to be a challenge. But I believe that open and honest dialogue between the administration and the City Council is necessary to first agree on the island’s most pressing priorities. We are likely to disagree on some issues, but for the sake of the people, it would be refreshing to propose a collaborative approach to problem solving. I would be open to more frequent meetings with the administration and cabinet as a first step and believe that my own experiences as a member of the administration and cabinet provides me with the credibility to convene such meetings.
10) Name one or two issues the Council should be giving more attention to, and explain why.
(1) I would like to see more discussion on the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum that will be held in Honolulu in November 2011. In particular, we need to discuss its potential impact on our island as well as our City’s ability to manage this event. APEC represents a significant economic opportunity for our county and state, not just with the revenues that we will gain during the forum, but also through the future tourist–related revenues that may be generated if this event is showcased throughout the world in a positive manner. However, we need to initiate serious discussions within the county and between the applicable federal agencies, state government, sister counties, private businesses, and tourism-related industries to ensure that we will have the necessary resources to ensure for a safe and successful forum as well as how we, as a state, can use this event to promote our state as a world class tourist destination.
I also hope that this discussion would extend to all communities and counties so that we can offer the APEC forum attendees with a diversity of attractions and resources that will allow our state to be put forth in the best possible light to the rest of the world.
(2) I would also like to see the Council be more steadfast in following the vision and recommendations that are detailed in the Sustainable Communities Plans that have been discussed in and developed by the respective communities. While there may be some instances whereupon we may have to deviate from what is detailed in these plans, such deviations should be an exception as opposed to a rule. Additionally, there should be a commitment from both the Council and Administration to update these plans on regular and timely basis to account for any changed social, economic and/or natural circumstance.