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Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 4 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Tommy Waters, one of two candidates for the Honolulu City Council District 4 seat, which is nonpartisan. The other is Trevor Ozawa.
District 4 includes Hawaii Kai, Kuliouou, Niu Valley, Aina Haina, Wailupe, Waialae-Iki, Kalani Valley, Kahala, Wilhemina Rise, Kaimuki, portions of Kapahulu, Diamond Head, Black Point, Waikiki, and Ala Moana Beach Park.
Name: Tommy Waters
Office: City Council District 4
Education: Kamehameha Schools, BA University of Hawaii, JD William S. Richardson School of Law
Community organizations: Past president Hui Lanakila Canoe Club; past Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association (OHCRA) Board member; Kailua Neighborhood Board member; Ka Wai Nui Marsh Task Force; and Native Hawaiian Bar Association.
1. Why are you running for the Honolulu City Council?
As a lifelong Oahu resident and family man, I share in Honolulu’s common concerns. As a three-term legislator in the State House of Representatives, I can bring draw upon my extensive experience as Majority Whip and chairperson of the Judiciary Committee, the Higher Education Committee, and the joint House-Senate Committee on Ice and Drug Abatement.
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 support the mayor’s current strategy, which addresses the real problem of citywide homelessness with practical, constructive solutions. Homeless issues can disrupt the visitor industry and, with it, our economy. But relocation must include viable housing alternatives, mental health services, and employment opportunities.
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 can and should remain flexible enough with permits, planning, and zoning to encourage continued development of affordable homes, apartments, and rental units.
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?
The rail is still a long way off, and our traffic problems must be addressed right now. Repair and modernization are critical to any immediate solution. Potholes continue to plague our drivers and slow down traffic; patchwork is relatively simple and effective. Traffic signals can be synchronized based on real-time traffic data without great effort or expense. And, when it does approach readiness, the rail must service the University of Hawaii.
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?
Revenues rise with a growing economy. I would incentivize investment, support partnerships to create educational and vocational opportunities, and create a stable, dependable municipal government that responds fairly and equitably to business. We need to support the current economy, with tourism, construction, agriculture and military. But we must continue to pursue the economy we need, with diversification, renewable energy, healthcare, science and technology.
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?
I support new development in the Kaka’ako area. However, we must ensure that it is done correctly, taking into account the view plane, height limits, parks and open spaces. We also must ensure that we have the infrastructure capable of accommodating such development.
I support transit-oriented development that considers affordable housing and rental units along the transit line. Honolulu has a housing shortage. Homes and apartments along the transit line will address the shortage, create jobs, and expand the revenue base via property tax.
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?
The city must work in conjunction with the Navy, but remain persistent in its efforts at investigation and accountability. Recent federal developments have raised serious doubts in the public about the military’s effectiveness at policing itself. The City must remain involved and make its concerns known, to ensure at least that avoiding contamination remains a top priority for everyone.
8. What do you think of Mayor Kirk Caldwell? Is he doing a good job?
The mayor and I were elected to the State House together in 2002. I’ve worked with him on many different issues and found him to be a hard working, innovative, intelligent and a person who really cares about Hawaii.
9. Do you think details about police officer misconduct should be made public? If so, why?
It depends on the misconduct. Certainly, criminal activity and misconduct resulting in termination should be made public.
10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
I am also concerned about raising property taxes on elderly and persons on fixed income. I am concerned that many east Oahu residents will be forced to sell their homes if unable to pay increased property taxes, or forced to skimp on food or medication. I will work hard to ensure that these people have adequate property tax exemptions to cover the increase in the tax.
I am concerned about the expensive sewer fees currently being charged by the Board of Water Supply. I understand what the fee is, however, perhaps we can find an alternative payment method which would lower the fee.