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

As we have seen from the first three articles in our series on the Honolulu City Council candidates, they have varying personalities, political approaches and ideas regarding the city’s future.

Voters are being offered 21 different candidates with 21 different perspectives – a tangle for even the most politically savvy citizen.

Not aiding in the confusion was Tuesday’s announcement by Council Chairman Todd Apo, who represents District 1, that he will resign after the November general election to pursue a job in the private sector. The council will likely arrange for a special election to replace Apo within 10 days of the chairman’s departure. This adds a fifth opening to the nine-member council.

The change in the makeup at Honolulu Hale comes as the city wrestles with a serious problem about what to do with its trash, especially after a plan to ship 100,000 tons to the mainland was blocked.

The three districts in contention on Sept. 18 are Districts 2, 4 and 6. Breene Harimoto is running uncontested in District 8.

To help voters better understand the candidates, Civil Beat sent out a 10-point questionnaire to every political-hopeful 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 are reporting on what the candidates think Honolulu should do about its trash dilemma.

Five candidates did not respond after a month, despite repeated e-mails and phone calls. The candidate’s responses in their entirety will posted on their topic pages today.


There is little consensus among the candidates in terms of drafting a single, fix-all solution to Honolulu’s trash problem but certain themes keep recurring.

Specifically, increase individual recycling, expand the waste-to-energy H-Power plant and seek out new, more effective technologies in the meantime.

District 2

Before anything is done to address garbage issues, candidate Ben Shafer says the council should go over Honolulu’s current waste programs line-by-line.

“We need an audit to tell us where we are right now and what we need to do to become sustainable in taking care of our trash,” Shafer said.

He also pointed out that the new third boiler being installed at the H-Power plant would not suffice and that alternative energy sources should be placed in all government buildings to set an example of conservation.

“We should build another H-Power plant,” Shafer said. “Expand and incentivize recycling and immediately install distributed solar and wind energy equipment on all C&C and state buildings.”

Shafer finished by citing a familiar mantra: “Reduce, reuse, recycle.”

Ernie Martin also emphasized recycling, saying “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 be better.”

Candidate John White echoed the same, believing that expanding recycling and H-Power were essential for the “short-term.”

Over the long-term, however, he said, “we must support new technologies that will substantially reduce the amount of trash going into the landfill and promote the development of local businesses that can convert waste to reusable products.”

Regardless of who is elected to the District 2 seat, it appears that the winner will want more recycling.

District 4

District 4 candidates branched out some in terms of their suggestions.

“State of the art technology should be utilized, such as ‘laser arc,’ ‘gasification,’ and ‘methane to energy’ to turn our garbage to energy without filling up our landfills,” said Rich Turbin.

Turbin also said that to save Oahu from the need of a second landfill (the first being Waimanalo Gulch), H-Power must build its third boiler and that “greater recycling measures need to be done.”

Frank De Giacomo recalled his days with Greenpeace for inspiration as to how Honolulu should manage trash.

“Oahu can recycle a greater percentage of its garbage,” De Giacomo said. “I studied the issue in depth decades ago in NJ, and later while working at Greenpeace. NJ recycles 50-75 percent of their garbage. We can do better than that.”

He said that “education and outreach” were essential to a trash solution and that taking waste to the mainland would be more damaging than beneficial.

“Shipping recyclables from here can be more polluting, and unfortunately, can just end up dumped on developing countries and actually cause an increase in consumption of virgin materials,” De Giacomo said. “It’s time to elect a Green for this and many other issues. Honolulu should be setting a model of environmental responsibility to be followed globally.”

Jeremy Low said the government should eventually police recycling.

“Expand H-Power and home pick-up recycling programs,” Low said. “Gradually implement stricter mandatory recycling programs.”

Finally, Stanley Chang has high hopes for Oahu when it comes to garbage.

“With the construction of a third boiler at H-Power and technological improvements, Honolulu will be a national leader in diverting 80 percent of our solid waste from landfills,” Chang said. “We must continue to find fresh ideas to divert waste, including plasma arc gasification, responsible shipment, recycling and in-vessel conversion.”

District 6

District 6 candidate Larry Fenton, like District 4’s De Giacomo, also points to his past as he looks to solutions for the future.

“When I was in the Army, I served as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division,” Fenton said. “We were assigned to the Sinai peninsula in Egypt for six months. There we disposed of our trash and waste products by separately burning them using diesel fuel. The trash and waste were converted into ash and then buried. Why can’t we do the same thing here?”

Fenton added that “we could recycle the wasted metal items right here in Hawaii as well.”

Shawn Hamamoto, like several candidates, believes H-Power is still the best option today.

He said: “As an island community, we need to take care of our municipal solid waste in a suitable manner. Waste to energy plants need to be expanded and landfill use reduced.”

Chris Wong said essentially the same thing.

“Efficient waste management requires streamlining of existing programs. We can achieve this by increasing efficiency at H-Power, increasing recycling initiatives and providing education programs for our keiki.”

Wong did not think that shipping was an option, though. He said, “We should not spend our resources to sending our trash away to be someone else’s problem when we can deal with it efficiently and at a lower cost here at home.”

Sesnita Moepono, on the other hand, argued that Oahu may not have another alternative other than shipping.

“Unfortunately, we are in a dilemma,” Moepono said. “Waimanalo Gulch is scheduled to close… H-Power cannot handle our trash completely and we must find ways to deal with the residue. Presently, shipping our trash may be the only alternative.”

She admitted, though, that shipping trash is not popular with residents of the communities that would receive Oahu’s waste. So, she said, “shipping may not be a viable alternative for the future.”

“Given these problems,” she said, “we should continue to recycle and increase the use of recyclables in other products.”

Moepono also expressed support for “plasma arc and bio-conversion” for trash and H-Power residue.

Tulsi Tamayo said that she believes in a “diversified ‘green’ economic engine” for Honolulu. This includes exploring new waste-to energy technology, an increase in curbside recycling, expanding H-Power and being “creative and do more as a community to deal with our trash responsibly.”

Frank Lavoie said that “multiple angles” would have to be addressed to solve the problem. He believes that making recycling programs more accessible and convenient would maximize community participation.

Lavoie pointed out that “all ideas need to be studied since we live on an isolated island.” He was also a proponent for H-Power.

District 8

Breene Harimoto, who is running uncontested for the District 8 seat, said that education was key for Honolulu.

“First, we must do more to educate and encourage our residents to ‘reduce, reuse and recycle,'” Harimoto said. “Second, we must fast-track investment in new technology to eliminate more of our solid waste. The third boiler being added to H-Power will help, but there still would be substantial residual solid waste that must go into the landfill.”

Harimoto said that he does not support shipping waste and that the Waimanalo landfill needs to be closed.

“We must be responsible citizens of the world and take care of our own waste,” he said.

(For a deeper look at trash, check out Reporter-Host Michael Levine’s article

This is the last article in the City Council series.