Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 primary election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Lawrence Friedman, one of 11 candidates for Honolulu mayor. The other candidates are Kurt Baker, Zachary Burd, Peter Carlisle, Charles Djou, Kirk Caldwell, Ernest Caravalho, Timothy Garry, Ronald Hochuli, Lillian Hong and Mike Powers.
Name: Lawrence Friedman
Office seeking: Honolulu mayor
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 56
Place of residence: Downtown Honolulu
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 propose the full build to Ala Moana without exceeding the existing approved budget by cutting back on scalable items, such as stations, train cars, etc. Too much money has been invested at this point to not complete the project to Ala Moana. Stopping at Middle Street as an option does not leave us with an effective route. Anything short of a full route will leave us with a failed railway project that does not meet the needs of our island.
Finances and transparency are the biggest challenges of the rail project. Until we have a viable financial plan for rail in-place, no one can accurately speak on how to proceed forward. No one seems to be able to readily speak to how much of the approved budget remains to be spent. No one seems to be able to speak to the percentage of the rail build that has been completed. Rather, HART continually asks for more time to complete a plan. It is absurd that the Mayor’s Office has not demanded that one be maintained all along.
I stress that we cannot afford to go into debt on the rail project.
2. Is Honolulu growing in the right direction? What would you do to make it more livable?
No, I do not feel the city is growing in the right direction. A large majority of the housing that is being built is for investors who are wealthy and do not live in Hawaii. We need housing designed and built for those of us who live here and call it our home.
As an example, most of the construction in Kakaako is not within reach of the average hardworking islander; rather it is for wealthy investors. Sure, some of the units are labeled as “affordable housing.” The problem is that the majority of units are not. This situation needs to be reversed. We should increase focus on affordable development that is within working people’s financial means. Most of the housing that is being built should be affordable for those of us who live here.
When we allocate units for affordable housing, there should be deed restrictions preventing resale for a significant profit in order to maintain the affordable housing inventory. According to a recent news story, a resale can occur after one year of ownership with no restrictions on the amount of profit.
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?
The obvious change I would like is for me to be elected as the people’s choice. It is time for a political outsider to represent this community. Career politicians are polluted and looking for their next step up in elected offices. I believe my ethics are far higher than has been demonstrated in past administrations. I am running because I couldn’t sit on the sidelines any longer. I want to lead necessary changes to restore and improve this island and our way of life.
The Mayor’s Office needs to take responsibility and exhibit accountability for actions. Additionally, the frequency of communication needs to be improved. As your mayor, my voice will be the one you hear for all good and bad news, giving credit to those who solved problems.
4. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
The people vote for the candidates in the party of their choosing. However, I believe there should be a balance between the parties of elected officials in order to have an effective government.
One thing that needs to be drastically changed is the mainstream media’s selection of the candidates that they want to support. How is it that there are 11 candidates for mayor, yet the majority press seems to focus on only three? Focusing media attention on the messages of candidates that have already held a government office is a disservice to the public. The public already has experience with these individuals and their actions, or lack thereof, speak for themselves. What the public needs and deserves is to know more about the candidates that are not well known so they can make an educated choice when they visit the election polls.
I have sent numerous emails to the major outlets only to have them largely ignored. Do I need to buy something from them so that they then print stories about my candidacy?
By stifling candidates, the press gets to push forward the agenda they choose and not the choice of the constituents.
5. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I propose a two-year waiting period for people who are voted out of office, or who decide not to run again, before they are allowed to lobby.
Financial disclosure policies need to be expanded to include contractors employed by city projects. Take the rail project, we do not know who the recipients are and for what amounts.
I find it completely unethical that the mayor is on the board of a local bank and that his compensation significantly supplements his pay as mayor. The community expects that officials voted into office take their job seriously and are solely committed to serve the people. I would start the ethical change by leading from example and not be employed by a commercial entity.
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 should be available via automation and online access. I would support fees for instances where an individual requests manual efforts of the Clerk’s Office.
7. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I would have monthly press conferences, at a minimum. I would be at the scene and speak to all major events on the island … good and bad!
The mayor is not listening to the people. A large majority of the events that the mayor attends are good news stories, which has me doubting his transparency. It seems to me that he only wants to be in front with the good news and he hides from the bad news.
Remember the overflowing sewer in the Ala Moana area in late 2015? I did not see the mayor speak on the problem. Instead he thrust a department head out to deliver the news. In addition, an EMS department head had to deliver news on the EMS staffing shortage. Too often, our elected officials hide from the public when there is bad news.
There is an ad running with the mayor touting his successes: working sewers, rebuilt parks and on-time garbage pickup. As a political figure he is disingenuous to the public by not also admitting to and addressing his failures, such as the rail project and helping the homeless in a meaningful way.
8. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
The most pressing and challenging issue my district (downtown/Chinatown) faces is the homeless situation and is shared by many across the state. Not only are the homeless living on the streets, many are also mentally ill and/or suffering from addiction.
The homeless need more help and I propose much more temporary housing in the way of cargo crates or similar accommodations. We need to provide mental/health care and skill training to enable these individuals with job opportunities. This would equip them with potential to transition to permanent housing and become contributing members of society. Individuals willing to comply with policies and laws will be rewarded with help.
We also need to address the individuals who refuse to comply with the law. The homeless are provided with too many “choices” in the current environment. Many do not want to be tracked, thus precluding them from taking advantage of many social services. In those cases, simply apply the laws. For example, prosecute for stolen property and trespassing, ticket for unregistered bicycles, ticket for unregistered pets, etc. Compassion can only go so far; it is time for tough love.
In summary, I propose that we apply consistent practices and start enforcing existing laws.