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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 Sam Aiona, a candidate for the Honolulu City Council District 6 seat, which is nonpartisan. The other is Carol Fukunaga.
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: Sam Aiona
Office: Honolulu City Council District 6
Profession: Small business owner
Education: B.A. Political Science, University of Hawaii Manoa
Community organizations: President, Friends of the Missing Child Center of Hawaii; vice president, HOPE Services, Inc. (Catholic Church’s Homeless program); Steering Committee chair, Choice Neighborhood Initiative Planning Grant (for renovation of Kuhio Homes); member of the corporation, Catholic Charities; member, YMCA Pioneering Healthier Communities
1. Why are you running for the Honolulu City Council?
I would like to see the roads in our district repaved. Other districts are getting their roads repaved and our district seems to be left out. I am concerned about the development in Kakaako forgetting about Hawaii residents. I am concerned there are not enough affordable homes being built in Kakaako and elsewhere. I am running because we need better leadership, a fresh voice and someone who will represent the little guy. I have the experience, skill set and passion to serve.
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?
The Housing First program is a good first step. However, I am deeply concerned that we are going to build apartments for the chronically homeless for $112,000 and have no future plans for services or programs. I understand we need to put a person in a home first and then work on the services. However, I have not seen any financial commitment from the sate or federal government on how we get a person out of those apartments. I have served on the board for the Public Housing Authority and know that once a person gets into government housing he/she stays there for decades. Where else will they go? There are no affordable homes. If we don’t let the nonprofits provide services the Housing First program will fail.
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?
The City Council should force the Hawaii Community Development Authority to enforce the policy of 30 percent of units being developed be for affordable housing. We have a golden opportunity in Kakaako to create affordable housing and the City Council should take the lead. I understand HCDA falls under state jurisdiction but we need council members who are going to be true advocates for affordable housing and I will be one of those advocates. For years I have worked with non profits, the homeless and affordable housing projects. I know what it takes … it takes action.
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?
Enhance the bus system. And build affordable condos all along the rail route so working people will catch the rail to get to work.
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?
If we have a more efficient government we wouldn’t have to raise taxes. But since we’re always looking for money, I would like to see non-residents who are buying multi-million-dollar condos in Kakaako to pay a much higher fee to purchase the unit.
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?
Any and all projects should be required to have at least 30 percent of their projects be affordable units. I’m okay with development but I will be the biggest advocate on the council for affordable units. The problem I have with development is only the developers benefit.
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?
Mayor Caldwell is working hard and has very good intentions on many issues. I would like to bring my experience and perspective to the council and work with him to accomplish the goals and priorities that we share.
9. Do you think details about police officer misconduct should be made public? If so, why?
Yes, not just police but all public servants who are being paid with our tax dollars, that commit crimes in their work capacity should be subject to public disclosure of those actions and consequences. This is a basic principle of transparency that the public deserves.
10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
Bill 16 (hotel to time-share conversion) was an important issue this year. We need a council member who will fight for the working people and not allow developers to have their way. There is a compromise and I will work with both sides and not shut out the working class.
Also, there wa a bill in the council to force the buyer of the city’s affordable housing projects to maintain a mixed income use for the projects. Good idea but the problem is that this bill will force 300 residents to be displaced. Again, think of the working people, not developers, when making decisions on the city council. Developers can help all of us and serve a good purpose. We need to steer them in the right direction. I want to help that effort and work for everyone.