Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 9 primary, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.

The following came from Russell Grunch, a candidate for the Honolulu City Council District 8 seat. Other candidates include Brandon Elefante, Baybee Hufana-Ablan and Brysen Poulton.

District 8 includes Pearl City, Pearl Peninsula, Waimalu, Crestview, Waipio Gentry and portions of Waipahu.

Go to Civil Beat’s Elections Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.

Name:  Russell Grunch

Office:  City Council, District 8

Profession:  Retired from active duty as a colonel after 44 Years in Air Force.

Education: MA in Public Administration from Northern Michigan University, 1981; BA in Management, Park College, Kansas City, Mo, 1977; National Defense University Senior Air Fellow, Operations Analysis, RAND, Santa Monica, CA, 1999-2000; Graduate of: Air War College, Maxwell AFB, Al, 1995; Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB, Al, 1991; Joint Command and Staff College, Norfolk VA., 1991.

Age: 61

Community organizations: Elected to Aiea Neighborhood Board, 2013.

Russell Grunch

Russell Grunch

1. Why are you running for the Honolulu City Council? 

I’m ready to retire from my current civilian job with the Air Force, who I have worked for the last 40+ years. It is time for me to now give back to my local community, especially the Aiea/Pearl City/Waipahu area where my family has lived most of the last 30 years. Another reason was I was upset by the city ignoring my neighbors and my requests for improved road safety. The roads in my condo area in Pearlridge are dangerous; an elderly lady was killed just down the street from where I live by a reckless driver. Our requests to the city for low cost speed bumps and parking changes to improve line of sight have been denied for reasons that don’t make sense. However, running for office has helped me define myself by forcing me to study, think about and write down what I want to change locally. Top on the list is making Hawaii the first state in the union to have all electricity come from fossil-free generation. The technology is here but big business doesn’t want to change its business plan. Of course I want this because of the environment but just as importantly because we will then be independent from mainland or overseas oil, quit paying the highest electric bills in the nation, create good jobs for our young people, and keep our money in Hawaii. This is a win-win deal once we get HECO on board. They just don’t understand they have a flawed business plan with fossil-based energy and if they don’t take the lead and quickly go renewable, they will face going bankrupt.

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?

We need to get these people back on their feet, teach them skills — provide housing — get them jobs. How come the rail project doesn’t have some jobs set aside for these folks?

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, we continue to have expensive urban sprawl and it would be much cheaper to build up on existing brown areas and leave current green areas and agriculture areas alone. Here’s a thought: city and state work with developers to tear down Aloha Stadium and build condos at reasonable costs and build a decent stadium in West Oahu where there is lots of land available. We could create reasonable cost housing, develop a stadium that will be used, and create jobs.

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? 

Highway projects on H1, Kamehameha Highway and Moanalulu Road are going on all at once resulting in sometimes taking hours to get through the Aiea/Pearl City/Waipahu area. As your council representative, I will work with the city, state and developers to de-conflict schedules to help reduce congestion. We badly need pedestrian bridges in the Pearlridge area to connect the mall, condo areas, new Kamehameha condo project and future rail station. If people can quickly get from condo areas to the rail, they will use it. Otherwise, they will keep driving their cars. I’m sure this will be the same story at the other rail stops. I will make this one of my top agenda items as a member of the City Council.

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?

Rather than boost revenue, how about saving money and using the savings to help our underfunded areas? Many of the business practices of the city, such as accounting, are outdated and inefficient. I would suggest we have a committee created for “good government” similar to the Hoover Commission of the 1950s to see how we can streamline city business processes and save money.

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? 

TOD and Kakaako are already approved so the question is how to best implement them and what can we learn from them. We need to stop urban sprawl and keep development localized to current brown areas, TOD areas and Kakaako. Keep our green areas green and build up in areas already developed or under development. I think our citizens in the Envision Laie have spoken; they don’t want big development in their peaceful area. Not much different from Newtown and Royal Summit residents who don’t want Zip Line in their area.

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?

Bring in an independent environmental company that knows what is doing and do an evaluation. Federal government executive agencies are not much good at policing themselves.

8. What do you think of Mayor Kirk Caldwell? Is he doing a good job?

I think he is a great man. I want to be on his team and work the issues we are talking about in this survey.

9. Do you think details about police officer misconduct should be made public? If so, why?

Yes, a police officer is a public figure. Part of being a public figure is your life is an open book.

10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?

I’m taking HECO on. How HECO in good conscience keeps its business plan of using fossil fuels alive is beyond me.  It is in the city and state’s best interest to go fossil-free. It is in HECO’s best interest also, it just doesn’t know it.

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