Editor’s note:For Hawaii’s Nov. 4 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Carol Fukunaga, a candidate for the Honolulu City Council District 6 seat, which is nonpartisan. The other candidate is Sam Aiona.
District 6 includes 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.
Education: Roosevelt High School, University of Hawaii-Manoa (B.A.); Richardson School of Law (J.D.)
Community organizations: Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii; Sexual Assault Treatment Center
1. Why are you running for the Honolulu City Council?
Honolulu faces tough challenges — from homelessness and its impact on our economy to the costs of upgrading aging infrastructure when we are challenged by limited revenues to pay for much-needed increases in a variety of services.
New partnerships between all levels of government and collaboration with the private/non-profit sectors are needed to solve these challenges. I’d like to contribute my background in technology innovation, and over 25 years of problem-solving experience with state, county and federal partners to address challenges to our environment, economy and human services.
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?
Homelessness is not just the city’s or the state’s problem. It’s everyone’s problem — because it is a symptom of the breakdown in creating the necessary inventory of affordable housing.
Between 2009-2012, Makiki, Ala Moana-Kaka’ako, and Downtown-Chinatown legislators mobilized with community members, businesses, and all levels of government to find suitable sites for permanent supportive housing, and appropriate rehabilitation services to assist homeless residents.
Since the formation of the state’s Inter-agency Council, led by the state homeless coordinator, the adoption of the city’s Homeless Action Plan in 2013, and Mayor Caldwell’s “compassionate disruption” strategies in 2014, both state and county governments have earmarked over $50 million in additional funds to house chronically-homeless individuals and families, while providing the necessary rehabilitation services.
In Downtown-Chinatown, for example, the Council augmented Mayor Caldwell’s Housing First initiative with over $3 million dollars to (a) provide more beds for chronic homeless with mental health/substance abuse needs, (b) expand the services provided by homeless providers in the region, and (c) tackle the public health/safety issues arising from sidewalks that serve as bedrooms and bathrooms.
Over the longer term, we have identified the Downtown-Iwilei-Kalihi transit-oriented development zones as sites to build new affordable housing that includes permanent supportive housing and services near transit, with easy access to employment, education and healthcare.
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?
Yes, particularly with respect to placing more affordable and permanent supportive housing with health/social services programs near transit-oriented development zones. Affordable housing near transit means access to jobs and increased commercial activity.
In addition, the Council can push for more creative regulatory structure that allows for the development of workforce housing for middle class families who earn too much to qualify for government subsidized housing but who cannot afford the new housing units now being developed.
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?
Provide incentives to create new industries — with higher-paying jobs— in the Kapolei-West Oahu region, so that employment clusters are distributed in both east and west Oahu. Increase multimodal transportation alternatives, like more bike baths, pedestrian friendly streets and car sharing services in the urban core to encourage commuters to use different forms of mobility to reduce traffic pressure on neighborhood streets.
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 support investing a greater share of tourist accommodation tax (TAT) revenues in Honolulu, since the majority of visitor accommodations and attractions are located on Oahu. Last year’s TAT revenues equaled $368.5 million dollars, with counties receiving 25 percent of those revenues and state programs receiving the balance.
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?
The participation of the city’s Planning and Permitting Department on the Hawaii Community Development Authority board is an important step towards greater consistency and accountability for development in Kaka’ako. County government should take a more proactive role in evaluating the current and long-term county/state infrastructure needs associated with development. Cost-sharing approaches to expedite needed improvements must be identified.
I support transit-oriented development (TOD), particularly where such development clusters are well suited to tackle affordable housing needs in urban Honolulu. TOD stations in Downtown-Iwilei-Kalihi offer unique opportunities to address affordable and homeless housing needs near health care, social services and employment.
I would also encourage the mayor and city agencies to negotiate with proponents of the Envision La‘ie project to move a majority of the new housing onto the existing campus of BYU, and to preserve the agricultural land on Gunstock Ranch.
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?
Apart from immediate steps to repair/upgrade the underground fuel storage tanks, the Navy and other federal agencies, along with the county and the state, should provide more frequent updates on steps being taken to remedy the fuels storage leaks, including more water testing to assure the safety of Honolulu’s drinking water supply.
8. What do you think of Mayor Kirk Caldwell? Is he doing a good job?
Mayor Caldwell is doing the best job he can with the resources available within our city government. When the city administration and the City Council disagree, much of the contentiousness arises from insufficient sharing of information between the mayor, his administration, and the City Council.
Greater information flow between the City Council and various county agencies, particularly in instances when several agencies share responsibilities for implementing key county functions, could contribute towards building a culture of increased trust and cooperation.
9. Do you think details about police officer misconduct should be made public? If so, why?
Yes. It’s a matter of trust. The public has a right to know how its police department and officers are performing.
10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
Honolulu’s neighborhood parks system really deserves a lot more attention, especially since park restrooms and facilities often serve as substitute hygiene facilities for homeless individuals.
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