- Special Projects
Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 9 primary, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
District 6 includes portions of portions of Makiki, downtown Honolulu, Punchbowl, Pauoa Valley, Nuuanu, Alewa Heights, Papakolea, Fort Shafter, Moanalua, Halawa, Aiea, Kalihi Valley, and portions of Liliha and Kalihi.
Name: Steve Miller
Office: Honolulu City Council District 6
Profession: PBX technician
Education: Service High School, Clover Park Technical College
1. Why are you running for the Honolulu City Council?
Hawaii has the lowest voter turnout in the nation because people are so fed up with politics as usual and feel they no longer have a voice. I’m also fed up with politics as usual but have decided to take the opposite approach and will try to make a difference from the inside.
2. A recent survey found that homelessness has increased by 30 percent on Oahu in the past five years. How would you tackle the problem?
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that one of the reasons that homelessness has reached a crisis stage is due to inactivity on the part of our elected officials. When ignoring the problem didn’t work they have been trying to outlaw being poor. Both of these approaches have worked about as well as could be expected.
There are many different reasons for homelessness and the solution depends on which homeless you are talking about.
The homeless Micronesian families need the federal government to step up and pay for their share of the Compact of Free Association agreement.
The state needs to step up to fund and expand Hawaii State Hospital. This is an expense the city cannot afford. The hospital may have gotten a lot of bad press lately but there is land for it to expand facilities. Along with expanding facilities we need to lower the bar when it comes to the homeless mentally ill. Right now you need to prove to a judge that a person is a danger to themselves or others before you can involuntary commit them. This needs to be changed so a concerned family member can make life decisions for a mentally ill person. If not, we will always have to deal with the scary, crazy guy yelling at nothing. Similarly for the drug and alcohol addicts.
I support Housing First, I support the idea of safe zones with water and bathroom facilities and a 24-hour police presence for homeless people to spend the night without fear of sweeps. Safe zones would work well for those who are not mentally ill or drug addicts but simply cannot afford a place to live.
I do not support the recent spate of bills criminalizing homelessness. Like it or not the city is going to have to spend money to reduce the homeless population. Spending money on trying to solve the problem will be much less expensive than trying to deal with it through the criminal justice system.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is especially true when talking about the homeless who are in that situation due to meth addiction. Go after the people who bring and sell this poison into Hawaii. Preventing somebody from getting hooked will be much less expensive than dealing with them after they are burned out and homeless.
3. Oahu has one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. Do you think the City Council should play a role in trying to make housing more affordable?
Absolutely the city should be playing a roll.
4. Honolulu has some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation. Some see rail as part of the solution. What other strategies should the city employ to alleviate congestion?
To reduce congestion you have to give people options other than cars to travel safely from point A to point B. That is why I would propose that 10 percent of the Capital Improvement Budget allocated to paving be spent on sidewalks, crosswalks and bike lanes.
5. The mayor unsuccessfully sought to create additional sources of revenue for the city this year, including charging residents for trash pick-up and placing ads on the outside of buses. Do you think the city needs to boost its revenue? If so, what types of proposals would you support?
Legalize marijuana. Marijuana is the largest agricultural crop in Hawaii. The real crime is the millions of dollars flowing into the black market without a dime of state income or GET tax revenue being collected. Privatize refuse pickup. The city does not need to be in the garbage hauling business and will save millions of dollars immediately along with reducing our long term health and pension benefit obligations.
6. The City Council often has to sign-off on important development decisions. Where do you stand on the development of Kakaako, transit-oriented development and the Envision Laie plan?
A large percentage of the recent development in Kakaako has been done under the HCDA which the city has no control over. That said, Kakaako is in the urban core between Waikiki and downtown and I would rather build up in the urban core than flatten acres of farmland in West and Central Oahu to try and meet our housing needs. If it was any other developer asking to build on the OHA land in Kakaako Makai of Ala Moana Boulevard it would be an easy “no.” However, Hawaiians have been getting screwed by the government for a long time. To give OHA land to settle a debt and then not allow them to develop the way they want it strikes me as just another screw job. I would not oppose what Hawaiians want to do with their land in Kakaako.
I feel Transit Oriented Development has great promise towards helping ease Honolulu’s chronic housing shortage. Requiring developers who want to build luxury high-rise condominiums to also spend money developing TOD would go a long ways toward easing Honolulu’s housing crisis. Building a number of mid-rise towers clustered around a rail station and small retail shopping without having to gobble up acres and acres of valuable farmland would be a great way to protect valuable farmland and promote the viability of rail into the future.
I do not support Envision Laie. The infrastructure along the Windward side and around to the North Shore cannot support the additional strain Envision Laie would place in it.
One final word on development. When you place the property tax revenue of some agricultural land or an area zoned light industrial on a scale with the property tax revenue of acres of townhomes or a multi-million-dollar condo high-rise, the property tax revenue from the condos and townhomes are going to win every time. If you really want to see some sort of reigning in and steering of development the city has to get the spending and budget under control. Until that happens the projects will continue to get the go-ahead due to the revenue they generate.
7. Local officials have become increasingly concerned that a long history of leaks at the Navy’s Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility, mauka of Pearl Harbor, could contaminate drinking water supplies. What steps do you think Navy and government officials should be taking to address the issue?
8. What do you think of Mayor Kirk Caldwell? Is he doing a good job?
9. Do you think details about police officer misconduct should be made public? If so, why?
Yes. The more out in the open a government entity operates, whether you are talking about police misconduct, HART expenses, or any of the thousands of other things the city does on a daily basis, the more people will begin to trust that politicians have citizens’ best interest in mind. When the city hides information or makes it difficult to get answers everybody loses.
10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
The budget. Today debt service alone is over $450 million dollars and by the year 2020 debt service will be almost a billion dollars. We have to rein in our spending and take action now or face a harsh reality in the not too distant future.