Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Ron Menor, one of two candidates 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. The other candidate is Emil Svrcina.
Name: Ron Menor
Office seeking: Honolulu City Council, District 9
Occupation: City Council member, attorney
Community organizations/prior offices held: Former state senator and state representative; past president and current member, Lions Club; past member, Middle School Community Council; past chair, National Federation of Filipino American Associations, Region XII; past director, West Oahu YMCA Board of Directors; past member, past president, High School Advisory Council; past chair, Crime Watch Program
Place of Residence: Mililani
Campaign Facebook page: www.facebook.com/RonMenorHawaii
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 agree with the views of the vast majority of Oahu voters as reflected in the July poll conducted by Ward Research, which found 62 percent of those polled favored construction of the rail project all the way to Ala Moana, as planned. I also support greater scrutiny and increased transparency in HART’s management of the construction costs.
Most important, completing construction according to the original alignment and design is necessary to address the transportation needs of my constituents in Central and West Oahu who work downtown, in Waikiki and in Kakaako and Ala Moana.
In addition, the Federal Transit Administration has indicated that the full completion of the original operating segment to Ala Moana is required by the terms of the Full Funding Grant Agreement in order for the city to receive all of the New Start funds provided by the agreement.
With regard to funding the final segment of the project, I support consideration of all (rail) financing options not requiring increases in the city’s real property taxes, including reducing or eliminating the skim the state takes out of the GET surcharge revenues.
2. Is Oahu growing in the right direction? What would you do to make it more livable?
Oahu remains one of the most desirable places to live in the United States. Our island’s scenic resources and natural environment are unparalleled. It is a place where families, including my own, have been able to grow and thrive.
Nevertheless, our city faces many challenges in preserving our quality of life (e.g., ensuring our communities receive important core services; addressing homelessness; providing adequate infrastructure to accommodate growth, developing affordable rentals, etc.) These are the challenges I’ve worked hard to address as a City Council member. I believe thoughtfully following planning concepts such as Smart Growth and Complete Streets that reduce sprawl and enable greater use of bicycling, walking and public transit will enable us to grow in a sustainable, environmentally friendly manner.
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?
Changes in technology have brought about the biggest differences in the way that government services are provided. People have an increased ability to conduct city business online. The same type of advancements need to be instituted on an ongoing basis at the Honolulu City Council.
The City Council has made strides to improve online accessibility to all interested parties. We know that there will be ongoing improvements in technology. I am committed to continuing improvements in this area.
I plan to convene a group of open government advocates to discuss ways that the Council can continue to make progress regarding this issue. It serves to benefit the public when the Council conducts its business in a transparent and forthcoming manner.
One concrete improvement that I will work toward is increased cooperation between the executive branch and the City Council. The public is best served when these two branches of government collaborate on solutions.
4. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
I respectfully disagree with the premise of this question. The assumption embedded in the wording is that the Democratic Party is monolithic and is run by an entrenched group of power brokers. In fact, the party membership and leadership have changed dramatically over the years. For example, the recently elected chair of the party is a relative newcomer and Sanders supporter. Regardless of what one thinks of Bernie Sanders, few would call him an establishment type. This typifies the diversity of views and philosophies that can be found in the Democratic Party in Hawaii.
However, it should be emphasized that the position of City Council member is a non-partisan position. My focus is not on legislating the party platform, but on responding to the needs of the people I represent.
There are no Republican potholes or Democratic parks. Infrastructure, homelessness, transportation and other issues before the Council do not have a party constituency. Council members must be able to work together irrespective of party affiliation to address the myriad issues facing our island that transcend partisan politics. This is the approach I have taken as a City Council member.
5. What specific steps would you support to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I will continue to support vigorous enforcement of our ethics laws and provide adequate funding to the City Ethics Commission and staff so the agency can effectively carry out its enforcement responsibilities. During my first term as a Council member, the City Council has consistently approved the budget requests of the Ethics Commission. I will also be meeting soon with the City Ethics Commission’s new executive director, Jan Yamane, to discuss ways in which our ethics laws can be strengthened.
Finally, the City Council committee which I chair passed Resolution 16-164, CD1 which calls for a “comprehensive management and performance” audit of the Ethics Commission to identify and address the problems that have plagued the agency in the past.
6. Would you support eliminating Honolulu’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
I would strongly support the elimination of any fees that inhibit the public’s access to the records to which they are legally entitled.
7. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
This is not a complaint I have heard from my constituents. I hope that is because I have devoted countless hours meeting with residents in my district on a regular basis. I have done site inspections to identify areas in need of repair, given monthly reports at neighborhood board meetings, and have spoken at community association meetings and at school and youth events. I always try to personally respond to e-mails and phone calls from my district. I also send out via e-mail a monthly newsletter to thousands of my constituents to update them on issues and concerns.
8. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
I would like to continue my work to get the city to provide important core services to residents in my district, including road and sidewalk repairs, park improvements, expansion and improvement of bus services, and ensuring adequate police and fire protection and emergency services.