Editor’s Note: In June 2012, Civil Beat sent 10 questions to each of the candidates registered to run for Honolulu City Council District 5. Both responded, including incumbent Ann Kobayashi. The questions and answers are reproduced below in full, and will serve as a resource both to voters deciding whom to vote for at the Aug. 11 primary but also to constituents so they can hold Kobayashi to her words should she be elected. To see how Kobayashi’s responses compare to those from her competitor, click here. Click on each topic listed below to read Civil Beat’s question and Kobayashi’s response.
Preferred Candidate Name: Ann H. Kobayashi
Date of Birth (MM/DD/YYYY): 4/30/1937
Place of Birth/Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaii
Current Profession/Employer: Honolulu City Council
Education/Alma Mater(s): Pembroke College in Brown University and Northwestern University
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?
The City should proceed cautiously with plans to construct the 20-mile elevated rail project from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Shopping Center. I have always expressed a strong concern specifically regarding the feasibility of this project’s finances. Among these concerns is the substantial increase in the estimated cost since the advertised amount of $3.7 billion at the time of the 2008 charter amendment vote. At that time, the advertised amount was based on the original Minimum Operable Segment (MOS), which included a route along Salt Lake Boulevard with spurs to UH Manoa and to Waikiki. Today, the current estimated cost for implementing and operating the MOS from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center via the Honolulu International Airport is $5.17 billion. If the City wanted to complete the entire Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA), the total estimated cost would be $9.03 billion.
The construction of the elevated guideway for a train will run twenty miles with twenty-one stops along the corridor. As an alternative, this same elevated guideway could accommodate buses which will start in Ewa, Waianae, and Makakilo. This system would be more cost-efficient, create an equal amount of local jobs, and similarly qualify for FTA funding. Such a system would also minimize the need for transfers between stops, reduce traffic, and be used effectively during emergency situations. ↩ 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?
As the process is underway to evaluate possible landfill sites to supplement or replace the Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill, it is imperative that the Landfill Advisory Committee and the City closely consider the comments and concerns of the respective communities. As it is important for our City to identify a new landfill site, it is of equal importance that Honolulu works towards a zero waste policy that encourages the reuse of all products. Such an approach will minimize the need for future landfills and represent an economical and environmental alternative to current waste systems. ↩ 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?
The sidewalk ban on stored property has been successful since the City began enforcing it at the beginning of this year. It has been effective in making our streets safer for pedestrians to walk during the day and night. Our businesses in high use areas have also benefited from the ban as it has helped to deter loitering or camping on sidewalks fronting stores, businesses, and parks. As camping in certain areas of the City still exists, the City needs to continue to set its focus on the Housing First initiative. Housing First will provide the most chronically ill homeless proper housing and services, necessary to create a steady foundation for themselves. Last year, the City Council appropriated $6.5 million for the acquisition of land and buildings for the development of affordable housing. The goal of this particular development is to implement the Housing First policy. ↩ 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?
The elimination of certain exemptions, such as the homeowners exemption, will severely impact more than 144,000 owner-occupants of homes on Oahu. I have concerns about how such repeal will negatively affect senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, and those living on a fixed income. During these tough times, while there is a need for more revenue in order to provide essential services, I believe that the generation of these revenues must not create a burden to our taxpayers.
Additionally, nonprofits have always assisted government in providing key, essential services. Tax breaks for Oahu nonprofits are validated and measured by the benefits to give back to our communities. ↩ 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?
While we may not always see eye to eye on certain issues, it is important to always keep the wishes of the taxpayers as the main priority. Relations with the Mayor can be improved by continuing to work closely and transparently with the administration. By doing so, both branches of City government will have a better understanding of each other’s positions and goals. ↩ 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?
By ordinance 12-8, the plastic ban will take effect on July 1, 2015. In the meantime, it is imperative that the City execute initiatives that will educate the residents and businesses of Oahu on the importance and benefits of recycling plastic bags. Additionally, these initiatives should also focus on the deterrence of littering our parks, oceans, and communities with these plastic bags. ↩ 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?
While the Oahu General Plan and regional planning documents closely reflect the visions of community members of each respective area, certain plans do need to stress a higher priority of investing in agriculture over more development. With the passage of Resolution 12-023, CD1, FD1, the Council urged the administration and the City’s Agricultural Liaison to expedite the identification and mapping of important agricultural lands (IAL). The identification of IALs will ensure the support and protection of farming by stabilizing agricultural land. Further, these important agricultural lands need to be identified in future revisions to the general and regional plans. Moving forward, the City needs to continue to work closely with the State’s Land Use Commission in order to control future development, protect our island’s limited resources, and facilitate a more sustainable economy. ↩ 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?
Infrastructure is the City’s largest long-term challenge as it will affect our economy and our capability to develop and provide housing. As there is only so much money available to the City, I do not want to keep increasing fees and taxes to pay for infrastructure improvements. ↩ back to top
9. What would you want to be remembered for as a member of the City Council?
As a member of the City Council, I will like to be remembered for working to keep our City an affordable and safe place to live and raise a family. In addition, I will like to be remembered for providing well maintained recreational facilities so that residents can have an enjoyable experience at our City parks. ↩ back to top
10. If you could change one city decision of the last two years, what would it be and why?
While there is a need for mass transit to alleviate traffic congestion, this alternative means of transportation has to suitably fit our island City. If I could change one City decision, it would be the selection of heavy steel on steel technology for the rail project because it is not needed for our population size, nor can we afford it. ↩ back to top