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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 Trevor Ozawa, one of two candidates for the Honolulu City Council District 4 seat, which is nonpartisan. The other is Tommy Waters.
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: Trevor Ozawa
Office: Honolulu City Council District 4
Education: Kamiloiki Elementary; Kamehameha Schools; University of Southern California, B.A. Economics; Suffolk University Law School, J.D.
Community Organizations: Legal Aid Society of Hawaii pro bono attorney; Kamehameha Schools golf coach (JV); legislative aide at Honolulu City Council (2011); USC Alumni Association
1. Why are you running for the Honolulu City Council?
I’m running for the Honolulu City Council because our community deserves a thoughtful and passionate leader who knows firsthand the issues we’ve faced over the years as well as those we face every day. This district deserves a leader who will fight for fiscal responsibility, continued investments in public infrastructure, and a commitment to a vibrant and thriving Honolulu. I began walking the district in January and have knocked on over 10,000 doors. Through this experience, it has become clear that this election is about the future: the commitment to ensure that our best and our brightest find the opportunities they deserve right here in Hawaii and are subsequently able to reinvest their skills and talents in this place we all call “home,” and the expectation that government not be an obstacle to this and other opportunities.
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?
While we need to find ways to increase enforcement of current laws, we also need to tackle the issue of homelessness with compassion. We need to first support their immediate transition from the streets into shelters/housing and provide much-needed medical or counseling services. I support programs like Housing First, which have seen great success in other cities. Additionally, I support an effort by government, nonprofits, and businesses, to collectively work together to address this issue.
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 Council is one of the best places to help jump-start a more affordable housing market in Honolulu. We need to ensure that we all share the same goal: investing in housing that creates opportunities for those who want to be productive members of our community. As an economist by training, I understand that the market drives demand and currently many non-local real estate investors want to have investments right here in Honolulu. I am a proponent of encouraging private businesses to build and invest in our community at all levels of the price spectrum. However, what’s most important to me is that government promote building for those that call Honolulu their home and that invest all their time, love, and money into this city because those people are what keeps Honolulu running. It is also those same people that see Hawaii as much more than a financial investment, but a familial investment that they want to see grow, but their dividends are not measured in money, but by their
family and the opportunities that they can achieve by growing up around the aloha spirit and being part of our wonderful culture.
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?
We need a comprehensive transportation system that includes rail, bus transit, bike lanes, and safe paths/sidewalks for pedestrians. One strategy the city could explore is more on-campus or near-campus housing for students at the University of Hawaii. Promoting a walkable, affordable lifestyle for more students and faculty around that area is needed and it would help get a lot of cars off the road. The city could also explore staggered work times for employees and telecommuting.
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?
I think the city does need to boost its revenue. One way to increase revenue is to collect on unpaid and outstanding fines, fees, and taxes that are due and owed to the city now. Another means is to ensure that we do not delay building projects that have already been approved for construction; this way, the city can begin collecting on increased real property tax revenue sooner rather than later. Additionally, as all the county councils have done in the past, I support the city receiving an increased percentage of the TAT revenue.
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 thoughtful and comprehensive development in Kakaako; I see the vast potential and promise that this area of our community can provide to a vibrant and thriving Honolulu. The development of housing in this neighborhood will add a significant number of units to the housing inventory; an inventory that is currently lacking at the moment. While at the same time, we must ensure that the infrastructure and public parks/spaces are kept up to pace with the growing population in this neighborhood. I support transit oriented development (TOD) because it will help transform and revitalize our communities in a number of ways. Proper investment and implementation of TOD plans will create vibrant and thriving neighborhoods and enable residents to spend more quality time with families and not waste time stuck in long commutes.
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?
Coordination is absolutely key, and a response is required from the Navy, state, and city governments to ensure public safety and health. The Board of Water Supply has been active in monitoring the situation, and, with the support of the city and county, must continue to be proactive in responding and investigating.
8. What do you think of Mayor Kirk Caldwell? Is he doing a good job?
If elected, I look forward to working productively and proactively with Mayor Caldwell’s administration on issues that matter to our residents, including the continued improvement of the city’s infrastructure such as repaving our roads and upgrading our sewer system, moving forward with the “compassionate disruption” approach to address the homeless problem, and creating more affordable housing projects to address the current housing shortage. I think both the mayor and the Council are doing a good job and I hope to bring fresh ideas, fresh energy, and fresh leadership to Honolulu Hale in a way that brings people together to get even more accomplished for the residents of the City and County of Honolulu.
9. Do you think details about police officer misconduct should be made public? If so, why?
We need to balance openness and transparency with the need to protect the privacy of those parties involved during the course of misconduct investigations. The public must have confidence in our police force, as well as the agencies tasked with investigating allegations of misconduct — the Honolulu Police Commission, and HPD’s own internal departments. In cases where there are no privacy or security risks, disclosure might be appropriate; in cases where there are privacy or security risks, it may not be.
10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
I am concerned with the overall increased cost of living here in Honolulu and I want to ensure that we are able to keep our taxes as low as possible, especially on the elderly that are living on fixed incomes. Real property taxes continue to rise due to the increased assessed value on homes and as I previously noted, values continue to rise in part due to the housing supply problem that we face here in Honolulu. While we address the housing problem, I want to ensure that our elderly are not put in difficult positions of dealing with such stressful situations at a time in their lives when they should be relaxing and spending time with family. I also support streamlining and increasing efficiency of government services. It is critically important that government operates with transparency to ensure that your tax dollars do not go to waste. Just as families prioritize their budget every month, government must do the same. Lastly, and most importantly, I promise you that I will work every day with your families in mind, as a husband and as an expectant father to a baby girl in August, I assure you that I have every reason to do my absolute best every day for my family and for yours. I know that every decision made at the city will have long-term impacts that won’t just affect people now, but will impact my children and yours.