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Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Emil Svrcina, a candidate for Honolulu City Council, District 9 which includes Waikele, Village Park, Royal Kunia, Mililani Town, West Loch, Iroquois Point, and portions of Ewa Villages and Ewa Beach. There is one other candidate, Ron Menor.
Name: Emil Svrcina
Office seeking: Honolulu City Council member, District 9
Occupation: University of Hawaii Cancer Center computer specialist, analyst, programmer
Community organizations/prior offices held: Neighborhood Board No. 25 board member (education chair); vice president Hawaii Republican Assembly; Republican Party HD37 chairman
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 54
Place of residence: Mililani
Campaign website: www.emilclearchoice.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.
Modify the route. End at Middle Street. No costly expansions to Ala Moana Center, UH Manoa, Waikiki or West Kapolei. Voters in 2008 believed that rail would deliver traffic congestion relief because city leaders, the news media and pro-rail special interest groups misled them. Oahu has limited financial resources. Rather than financing boondoggles, future transportation spending must be directed to traffic congestion relief.
We can achieve meaningful traffic congestion relief by changing the start and finish times for county office workers (and urge the state to follow suit) so that the private sector and public sector aren’t squeezed onto our highways and roads at the same times each day. We can also smartly relocate government offices currently in town to other parts of the island. Privatization of government services will result in the downsizing of county government, also contributing to traffic relief.
2. Is Oahu growing in the right direction? What would you do to make it more livable?
Government planning on Oahu has largely failed to deal with population growth. Private sector and public sector jobs are still concentrated in urban Honolulu. Confused, hypocritical and corrupt city and state planners are simultaneously pursuing suburban sprawl while giving lip service to high density vertical construction in order to “Keep the country country.” Traffic congestion is allowed to get worse with each mega-development green-lighted by Honolulu Hale.
To address corruption and conflicts of interest which clearly lead to the bad planning on Oahu, I will insist that county elected officials stop voting on measures which benefit their campaign contributors. The Honolulu City Council has to stop being a rubber stamp for monied special interests. Constituents are increasingly drowned out.
In some ways corruption and the way these so-called representatives rule over people here looks worse to me than the situation in communist Czechoslovakia I had to escape from. There is no place to escape to now, so instead I want to help make Oahu great again. For example: While Kakaako has been a failure in producing genuinely affordable housing, Barbers Point (Kalaeloa) is still a neglected ghost town which could be a mecca for such new housing.
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 City Council is run?
Simply declaring a potential conflict of interest with a letter to the Council chair is not enough as each issue is debated and voted upon. Council members must be required to openly and verbally declare his or her campaign contributors and visits from lobbyists each and every time relevant issues come up.
The reality of big money influence at Honolulu Hale is no longer in doubt. Sunshine is the best solution. Televised proceedings of the City Council should show the names of campaign contributors while members are speaking on camera. Corruption needs to stop and influence of the special interest must be reined in.
4. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
Yes, yes, yes, this must change. The pretense of city government being “nonpartisan” needs to be ripped away. The campaigns for mayor and City Council positions are extremely partisan. The source of funds and volunteers for these incumbents and candidates gives the game away.
Yes, Hawaii’s 62-year domination by a single party, the Democrats, has been extremely harmful as evidenced by increasingly bad statistics which measure our quality of life, our jobs climate and so forth. Part of the problem is the compliant local news media whose members participate in the revolving door of Democrat government spokespeople, Democrat-aligned PR firms and Democrat candidacies for public office. The media essentially cheers for the majority party.
Another major contributing factor is that Hawaii’s Republican Party is weak, message-less, meaningless, ineffective and disorganized. If the Hawaii Republican Party does not get its act together soon and become relevant, some new political patriotic truly American party, which knows how to publicly assign deserved blame to the Democrats and which is capable of making the case for change, might need to emerge.
5. What specific steps would you support to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
The loss of Chuck Totto as chief ethics officer for the city is a huge step back. Going forward, we need to beef up the ethics enforcement by providing enough investigators and attorneys to that office so that it becomes feared by violators and potential violators who presently feel assured that they can abuse city resources, engage in illegal lobbying and/or hide their income and assets which might be influencing their work as city employees. Establishing a robust, active ethics enforcement division will be infinitely better than what Chuck Totto was allowed to do even in that office’s best days. Just like societal problems which result from poor enforcement of the laws we already have on the books, the same can be said for our lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws. Let’s enforce the heck out of them and watch government get better.
6. Would you support eliminating Honolulu’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Absolutely, yes. No question about it. Again very similar to the intentional lack of transparency and freedom of speech in communism.
7. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
Voters need to be encouraged to be informed. Frequent surveying of district constituents about issues on the City Council’s agenda. Frequent distribution of my own voting record through meaningful newsletters. Frequent town hall meetings throughout the district to solicit input and uncover new issues. Revise the City Charter to reduce quantity of signatures needed for initiative and recall. Revise the City Charter to allow voters to initiate decisions about taxing and spending. I wish we could repeal the newly enacted five-year rail tax extension in light of recent developments.
8. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
While worsening traffic congestion affects many, many residents of my district, the No. 1 issue by far is the skyrocketing cost of living. With recent surveys revealing that half of people are living from paycheck to paycheck, we know that county government has been a major contributor to the reduced purchasing power of our citizens.
We must stop squeezing people for more and more taxes in order to enrich those with connections to Honolulu Hale. Starting the process of privatizing city services through competitive bidding will save substantial taxpayer dollars now and in the future. Instead of failed communist programs like Obamacare, what’s happening with Kaiser taking over state hospitals is just the beginning of providing better service at a savings to our constituents.