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

The City Council is going to change big time this fall.

Tuesday’s news that Council Chairman Todd Apo is resigning threw the future shape of the City Council into even more doubt. The nine-person body was already set to have four new members, either after the primary or after the November general election. Apo represents District 1, and there will be a special election to fill his seat after the general election.

The change in the makeup of the council comes as Honolulu wrestles with financial challenges, a $5.5 billion rail project and how to pay to fix the city’s aging sewers and roads.

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’ll take a look at the candidates’ views on infrastructure.

Five candidates did not respond after 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.


There is at least one issue that most of the council candidates seem to agree on this election: the city needs to get back to the basics.

The bulk of the candidates said that roads and sewage in Honolulu have become an embarrassment and several even claimed infrastructure would be their main emphasis of concern if elected. An important note is that Civil Beat did not specifically ask about roads or sewers in our questionnaire. Most of the candidates brought the topic up voluntarily.

District 6’s Frank Lavoie may have summed up the mood of the candidates best, saying: “One trip down School Street risks losing your tires as the roads are barely competitive with Third World nations.”


District 2

District 2 candidates had the most tepid responses regarding infrastructure, but Ben Shafer still has it on his mind.

He intends to keep Oahu’s roads tidy on the basis that tourists visiting Hawaii expect and deserve an unsullied Honolulu. He suggested increasing the fines for litterers to help his cause.

“Wherever the tourist travel around this beautiful island, the roads should be kept clean 24/7,” Shafer said. “On the main streets, the fines for littering should be much higher than those of side streets to keep these streets litter free.”

Ernie Martin and John White were two of the few that did not cover infrastructure in their responses.

District 4

“Infrastructure is the top priority for the city today,” said candidate Stanley Chang when asked what was Oahu’s largest current concern.

He continued: “We have the second worst roads in the country — 72 percent are poor or mediocre condition. The city recently settled over ten years of litigation with the state and federal governments over wastewater, and the resulting $3.4 billion settlement will require maintenance of 640 miles of sewers and upgrading of two major treatment plants. The wastewater settlement gives us a great opportunity to initiate a master plan covering roads, sewers, water pipes, and other infrastructure.”

Chang finished by warning that the problem with Honolulu’s roads and sewers won’t be fixed by council candidates, though. The solution, instead, lies with taking them out of the equation.

“Let’s take the politicians out of the maintenance decisions and put the engineers in charge of a comprehensive and well thought out plan.”

Jeremy Low added his two cents, defining himself as a “fiscal conservative” who would “be a responsible steward of your tax dollars.” He believed that Honolulu government was too involved with pet-projects and not spending enough time ensuring infrastructure’s improvement.

“Public officials, whose kneejerk first reaction to a fiscal crisis is to raise your taxes, hurt our community by not understanding basic economics,” Low said. “The Council should be more focused on the core city services such as clean drinking water, proper sanitation of well maintained sewers and trash pick-up, taking good care of our city roads.”

“As a councilmember, these core city services will be my top priorities,” Low concluded.

District 6

Three of the District 6 candidates said that roads and sewers were top concerns for Honolulu.

Frank Lavoie seemed particularly angered by the current situation.

“The city roads are horrendous,” Lavoie said. “We collect enough taxes on our vehicles and gas to have world class roads; the city just isn’t doing it.”

Lavoie said that it was an “embarrassment” that Honolulu is planning on spending $5.5 billion for the rail-transit project when a main drag like School Street is in disrepair. City services like infrastructure need to be an area that government handles with precision, he says.

“We should do the basic infrastructure perfectly,” Lavoie said. “Before spending billions on a rail line that will only siphon off even more resources from basic city services.”

“Sewer lines and waste-water treatment need to be a high priority item,” Lavoie continued.

Tim Garry agreed.


“The big, fat budget,” Garry began. “In many instances, we are paying too much for bad services. Roads, sewers, effective driving systems… where is all the money going as things appear to get worse?” He asked.

But he was only getting started.

“How about getting something done!” Garry wrote in his response (exclamation marks, included). “How about taking care of a third world sewer system! How about fixing the overcrowded road system! How about being a public servant!”

Tulsi Tamayo also says infrastructure needs to be a priority. And that voters demand a change.

“As I am walking door-to-door throughout the district, the common message people are talking about are the poor condition of our roads, and neglect of basic city services,” Tamayo said.

She disagreed with Lavoie’s financial outlook, however, saying that the city does not have close to enough funds to handle the situation.

“The amount of money currently budgeted for road repair and maintenance this fiscal year is not nearly enough to get through the oftentimes decades-old backlog that exists,” she said.

Tamayo finished, saying that, “We need to place a higher priority on repair and maintenance of our roads, ensuring proper drainage, fixing our water main and sewer systems, providing safe sidewalks, and implement longer-term, smart solutions rather than just taking a temporary, band-aid approach.”

While Sesnita Moeopno didn’t list infrastructure as her main area of concern, she did agree that roads and sewers need an make-over.

In reference to improving the city’s revenue picture, she said: “As a councilmember, I would also look at projects to upgrade our sewer and water pipes, fix our roads, parks, police and fire stations.”

She added that these projects would generate new jobs for Honolulu residents.

Shawn Hamamoto was the only candidate to say that that the city no longer had an issue with its sewers.

“Since our sewer problems have recently been addressed via the EPA’s consent decree, and a plan to correct and upgrade our sewer system has been put in place, I believe our next issues are going to be the rail project construction/Transit Oriented Development (TOD), and our solid waste disposal problem,” Hamamoto said.

District 8

Breene Harimoto, who is running uncontested for the District 8 seat, did not mention infrastructure. He said that homelessness, sustainability and youth and elderly services would field the majority of his attention.

Coming Thursday: Council Candidates on Trash.