Second in a series on City Council candidates and the issues.

There’s a changing of the guard coming to Honolulu Hale.

Not only will voters elect a new mayor in September, they’ll also welcome four new members to the the nine-member City Council, either in the primary or the November general election. The [[Honolulu City Council Elections 2010|City Council election] comes as Honolulu grapples with deep financial issues such as city furloughs, a $5.5 billion rail project and how to pay to fix the city’s aging sewers. A worsening homelessness problem, trash and zoning issues also need to be addressed.

The three districts in contention are Districts 2, 4 and 6. Breene Harimoto is running uncontested in District 8.

To help voters wade through the 21-candidate pool, Civil Beat sent out a 10-point questionnaire to every candidate running for the council. Their answers help paint a picture of their priorities and their ideas for solving Honolulu’s biggest problems.

The responses revealed four major areas of concern: Rail, homelessness, infrastructure and trash.

Today, we look at the issue of homelessness.

Five candidates did not respond after almost a month, despite repeated e-mails and phone calls. We will post the complete answers from the 16 who did by the end of the week.


Most council candidates say the solution to homelessness depends on an increase in affordable public housing options. Some, however, believe that if police enforced current law, there wouldn’t be a problem to begin with.

District 2

In District 2, candidates called for an increase in soliciting federal money to help with the homeless problem.

Ernie Martin even advocated for the creation of a city agency to specifically monitor the issue.

The city needs to “access federal funds to assist with infrastructure costs,” Martin said. “Establishment of a dedicated city agency on housing would ensure development and prioritization of strategies to address homelessness.”

John White agreed that federal funds were paramount. “We need to better coordinate with the State to leverage federal housing money to create transitional housing units,” said White.

Ben Shafer didn’t mention federal funds but did say that Hawaii is “failing miserably” in terms of taking care of the vulnerable and that “affordable rentals are almost nonexistent.”

“We need to expedite affordable rentals for our people now,” Shafer said.

District 4

District 4 is “Oahu’s fastest growing area for homelessness,” according to candidate Stanley Chang.

He explained the city’s problem, agreeing that Honolulu is lacking in public housing and that appropriate mental hospitals are non-existent.

“We have the least affordable housing in the country,” Chang said. “Hawaii is the only state without a mental hospital for noncriminals. If you break the law, you go to the state hospital. If you don’t there’s nowhere to go, which is why so many of them end up on the street.”

Jeremy Low said that shelters were important but also pointed out that by enforcing the law, the homeless situation could be pacified.

“Through the council’s control of law enforcement budget, the council should encourage the police to enforce laws much more strictly,” Low said. “Anti-camping and anti-loitering laws need to be enforced. Drug laws need to be enforced. Drug addiction and illegal drug sales should not be tolerated.”

He did say that the council should “encourage the use of shelters and social services” and “for those who refuse such assistance and have not broken any laws, they should be encouraged to move along.”

Rich Turbin agreed with Low to an extent.

“Illegal camping in parks, sidewalks, and other public places cannot be allowed,” Turbin said. “A ‘Housing First’ solution should be utilized to provide housing for the involuntarily homeless.”

Turbin also agreed with Chang that the city needed to provide places for the mentally ill.

“Facilities such as the River Street Development need to be developed for the mentally ill homeless, if not on River Street, then elsewhere,” Turbin said.

District 6

District 6 candidates were more varied in their answers, but most still said the solution was more public housing. Again, federal and state partnerships were considered a necessity.

“Any solution to our homeless problem must involve a partnership of city, state, federal and private agencies,” said Shawn Hamamoto.

“The city can offer housing and employment assistance through its Department of Human Services. Also, city properties can be offered for appropriate public/private initiatives,” Hamamoto said.

Candidate Frank Lavoie offered that moderate and low-income housing was the best solution for the city. He also warned that current public housing had to be maintained.

“Let’s be proactive with plans that can help and gather public support,” Lavoie said. “The existing city owned properties must be kept affordable for perpetuity.”

Tulsi Tamayo said: “The homeless issue is prevalent within urban Honolulu, and the city and state need to work together and implement long-term solutions, create more affordable housing, and a place where those who are chronically homeless can go for shelter and treatment.”

Taking a slightly different approach, Chris Wong felt one solution for the homeless issue could come through faith.

“I do not believe in the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach the now former mayor utilized,” Wong said. “My hope is to bring hope through faith, success through self-respect, self-responsibility and by embracing self-dignity.”

Tim Garry‘s approach was concrete. “The mentally ill, we put in facilities. The career criminal, we put in jail, the out of state we send back.”

District 8

Breene Harimoto, who is running uncontested in the District 8 race says that homelessness will “be one of my top priorities.”

“Many non-profits and faith-based organizations do wonderful work in helping the homeless. Government’s role should be to provide federal, state and city resources to assist these organizations to continue the good work they do,” Harimoto said.

Coming Wednesday: Council Candidates on Infrastructure.