Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Charles Djou, one of two candidates for Honolulu mayor. The other candidate is Kirk Caldwell.
Name: Charles Djou
Office seeking: Honolulu mayor
Occupation: Attorney; U.S. Army reserve soldier; professor, Political Science, Hawaii Pacific University
Community organizations/prior offices held: U.S. representative, Honolulu City Council member, state representative
Place of residence: Hawaii Kai
Campaign website: www.djou.com
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.
I oppose any further tax increases and will not support spending any resources beyond the $7 billion already allocated for this $5.2 billion project. We need to make sure we build this system with the resources our community can afford, not the unlimited blank check the rail contractors want. Increasing spending to $11 billion, as some projections forecast, could bankrupt our city.
We have invested too many resources in the project to kill it, but I am open to any reasonable alternative or course of action that will meet our community’s mass transit needs for the $7 billion currently allocated to the rail project. Reasonable alternatives that I would consider include route modification, public-private partnerships and a conversion to a BRT or light-rail system built at grade.
2. Is Oahu growing in the right direction? What would you do to make it more livable?
Sadly, Oahu is not growing in the right direction under the current administration. Homelessness has increased every year under Mayoir Kirk Caldwell’s watch and local families find it increasingly difficult to live here. I support a comprehensive approach to addressing homelessness that increases support for non-profits to help those who need drug or mental health counseling; increased access to low income housing for those in financial need; and strict enforcement of the law for those who choose homelessness as a lifestyle. Long term, I support development in the urban core to encourage population growth in town and decease the pressure to develop open space.
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?
My goal is to restore the people’s confidence and trust in Honolulu Hale. I believe there must be more accountability and personal responsibility at the top levels of city government. This means the mayor should be honest with the public. Rather than promising rail will be built “on time and on budget,” I will be frank with the people as to the tremendous costs working families must bear for this massive public works project that has been incompetently managed. This also means an immediate end to the administration’s efforts to undermine ethics and good government, as shown by the manipulation and coercion placed on the ethics director to resign after he started asking the “wrong” questions about the mayor’s political fundraising practices.
4. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
Yes. I believe a system so heavily dominated by one political party is detrimental to the people of Hawaii. With only a single party, there is no balance and little opportunity for discourse and debate. This leads to a narrow political system dominated by well-connected “insiders,” to the detriment of average residents. That’s why our campaign is so excited to build a broad, bipartisan coalition that includes leading Democrats and Republicans, as well as labor unions and businesses, to bring a more open, transparent and inclusive leadership style to City Hall.
5. What specific steps would you support to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I have consistently fought for an open, honest and ethical government. That’s why as a City Council member, I worked to reform the City Ethics code to allow for the issuance of fines for ethics violations. I will work to ensure that the Honolulu Ethics Commission operates without political interference by the mayor and his administration.
6. Would you support eliminating Honolulu’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes. Government serves the people, not the other way around. Therefore, public records should be made available to the public without burdensome fees. I look forward to carefully examining and revising the fee structure associated with access to public records.
7. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
Communication is essential to establish trust, and my goal is to restore faith and confidence in the mayor’s office. I am and will remain active in the community, speaking with constituents, and taking a very hands-on approach. As an elected official, I held numerous talk stories and established a ”Congressman on your Corner” to meet constituents. As a candidate, I have breakfast at a different McDonald’s almost every morning. Besides an affinity for spam, eggs and rice, I like to meet people and hear firsthand the issues they are most concerned about.
8. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing Honolulu? What will you do about it?
We need to restore a sense of trust at Honolulu Hale and it starts with fixing the mess with rail. We have already devoted so much public funding to rail and there is no end in sight. If the project continues to be mismanaged, as it has been for the last four years, it will leave Honolulu in financial ruin. We must make do with the $7 billion currently allocated, and I am open to any reasonable alternative or idea in the pursuit of this goal. After years of missed financials, blown deadlines and broken promises on rail, the people need a mayor whose word they can trust.