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Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 primary election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Ron Hochuli, one of 11 candidates for Honolulu mayor.The other candidates are Kurt Baker, Zachary Burd, Peter Carlisle, Ernest Caravahlo, Charles Djou, Lawrence Friedman, Timothy Garry, Kirk Caldwell, Lillian Hong and Mike Powers.
Name: Ron Hochuli
Office seeking: Honolulu Mayor
Occupation: Retired as senior vice president, Merrill Lynch
Community organizations/prior offices held: Currently member of Neighborhood Board
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 72
Place of residence: Ewa Beach
1. Which is closest to your choice for Honolulu rail: Kill the project? Modify the route? Find the additional money to build the project as planned? Explain your choice and what you would do to accomplish that.
Mass transit is only part of the solution to improve current traffic conditions. Proponents of the current rail project admit that traffic congestion will be 21 percent worse in 2030 after rail is built. Not acceptable! No current leader has provided a path forward to reduce current traffic congestion.
A decision about stopping rail at Middle Street or continuing building needs to be decided in the context of reducing current traffic congestion. It appears that HART, the City Council and the current mayor lack a full understanding of the current rail costs and future obligations of rail. My position is to stop rail at Middle Street and assemble a team with the mandate to accurately assess current situation with regard to rail costs, contract obligations and relationship with the federal government and insure we have a plan to reduce current and future traffic congestion.
2. Is Honolulu growing in the right direction? What would you do to make it more livable?
No, our priorities are not promoting the best for the people of Honolulu. Priority needs to shift from using our land, resources and workers to build for the wealthy part-time resident to instead focus on creating conditions for Hawaii’s people to enjoy a better life. We have had years of expansion without stopping to evaluate how much our natural resources can tolerate before we go too far and destroy Hawaii.
I am not against development but there needs to be a shift — improve our infrastructure, roads and sewers. Insure we have water to sustain our current and future population, allocate resources to move us toward energy and food self-sufficiency. Facilities at our parks and best-in-the-world beaches are in disrepair and require the city’s attention. My emphasis as mayor would be to turn inward, improve our city and county for our residents and in so doing we will only make Hawaii more inviting to others. Marshaling our resources, using our workers and developing our land have the potential to significantly improve the life of our people.
3. This year has seen an outsized influence from people who want big changes in how government is run. What would you do to change how the Mayor’s Office is run?
Money and special interests influencing the decision-making process at all levels of government are what caused my frustration and compelled me to say enough! I am disgusted with government and distrust the decision-making process of our elected officials. Large financial contributions to re-election campaigns influence decisions that are often for the good of the powerful few at the expense of the good for the ordinary citizen.
Bernie Sanders refused to take large contributions knowing that those who gave large sums of money would expect preferential treatment. As human beings we know that money corrupts. If elected mayor I would not have a re-election campaign fund and would not accept any contributions during the time I served as mayor. The idea of leveraging a current office for a higher office does not serve the citizens as decisions are often made with a view toward pleasing those that the office holder believes will help him secure a higher office.
4. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
What is in the best interest of the citizens of the citizens of Hawaii? I believe a choice of candidates will result in more qualified leaders. Competition encourages debate and a scrutiny and testing of ideas. I know from personal experience that becoming a candidate for public office is a daunting undertaking. One of my best friends kindly told me I had zero chance to win, which I know in my heart is true.
We need to change the system in a way that allows qualified ordinary people to become a candidate with the expectation that their ideas and qualifications will be made known to the public without involving large amounts of money. What Civil Beat is doing with this survey is outstanding for those of us who are not politicians, lack money and name recognition. It is helpful to establish a number of forums leading to the primary election to expose the candidate’s ideas.
Leveling the playing field by limiting the time and money candidates can spend on a primary campaign would encourage the ordinary person to engage in the election process. The candidates that emerge from the primary should then be funded equally from a government campaign fund.
5. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
Reform how money is used to influence decisions in city and state government. Eliminate campaign re-election funds once a candidate is elected to office. When we stop the flow of money we provide an opportunity for elected officials to do the right thing without influence from the money and special interests. We are human beings, we have egos, we want to be elected and it is difficult not to be corrupted by those willing to give us as elected officials large amounts of money.
The recent resignation of the executive director of the city Ethics Commission is disappointing as it appears there was pressure exerted on the department that most needs to be independent. This incident lessens confidence in the city administration and reinforces the view of many that government is controlled by special interests and so, why bother?
6. Would you support eliminating Honolulu’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes. Public records need to be available for use in the public interest without an exorbitant charge. I remember reading that high fees were charged to keep certain records from becoming public.
7. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
The ordinary voter, like me, is frustrated with elected officials and “know” that those who donate large amounts of money receive special consideration and have access to government officials. There is a lack of transparency and communication within city departments as well as with the ordinary citizen.
Changing the systemic problems requires a different type of individual leading the city. A leader not intent on catering to special interests that further his career. A lack of transparency and communication happens when government is following a hidden agenda, so information is kept from the public or presented in an incomplete manner.
Lack of communication among HART, the mayor, and the City Council is resulting in a rail system that is over budget and fails to reduce traffic congestion. Citizens need to decide they will not tolerate “business as usual.” What is happening in government is simply wrong and leads many of us to complain while feeling hopeless.
8. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Traffic is a pressing issue for West Oahu, but I would like to speak about homelessness, which needs a long-term solution — not moving people from one community to another with the sit-lie ordinance. Solving Homelessness is another reason to stop using our resources to continually grow but turn inward and assess where we are as a community. We need the city to be healthy and safe for the homeless and the community at large. To that end, enact an ordinance that prohibits individuals living out of doors on a permanent basis. Living out of doors in a city is not safe or healthy.
Create a central database of the homeless with their names and backgrounds. These are human beings who we as a community need to understand.
Families with children would be adopted/mentored by a church (already being done by individual churches — coordinate this at the city level).
Regarding the chronically homeless, since living outside of a permanent shelter is not permitted by ordinance, individuals would need to be in a shelter. I envision a farming community where the individuals are removed from the city proper and given food, shelter, clothing and an opportunity to sustain themselves working the land.