Candidate Q&A: Honolulu City Council District 2 — Heidi Tsuneyoshi
“It is a sad reality that our biggest export has become our people. Enough is enough! I will work hard to turn things around and be sure that residents have the opportunity to not only survive but thrive.”
Editor’s note: Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities will be if elected.
The following came from Heidi Tsuneyoshi, one of four candidates for Honolulu City Council District 2, which covers Mililani Mauka, Wahiawa, Mokuleia, Waialua, Haleiwa, Pupukea, Sunset Beach, Kahuku, Laie, Hauula, Punaluu, Kahana, Kaaawa, Kualoa, Waiahole, and Kahaluu. The others are Choon James,Robert Bunda and Dave Burlew.
1. How do you think the city should pay for the operation and maintenance of rail once it’s built?
I would support use of funds derived from new transit-oriented development construction to help off-set the cost of rail and its operations. TOD has the potential to be the silver lining to the challenges our city has faced with the rail project and as a council member I would focus on maximizing the potential benefits from well-planned TOD projects. These projects can provide local jobs as well as affordable housing options for our residents and I look forward to maximizing those opportunities.
Another opportunity would be public-private partnerships between developers and businesses who can benefit from use of the rail. Identifying fiscally responsible funding options for the operation and maintenance of rail that does not place any additional burden on taxpayers will be one of my top priorities and will work collaboratively and creatively toward solutions for our future.
2. A recent survey found that homelessness remains a problem on Oahu. What should be done? Do you support an islandwide sit-lie ban? Why or why not?
I am the only candidate that has worked in homeless and transitional shelters as well as social service agencies and believe the best way to address homelessness in our city is to provide better support and funding to social service agencies that have the expertise to work with homeless individuals and families. To successfully get individuals and families into shelter and a new way of life takes focused intervention to address issues like substance abuse and mental health issues.
It takes consistency and a boots on the ground approach that city government cannot adequately provide. City government should focus on the development of affordable housing options including affordable rental options which is critical to not only address the homeless population now but to proactively provide housing options for the many hidden homeless and those who are at risk of becoming homeless.
I would support an islandwide sit-lie ban when a plan is in place and resources are available to ensure that once the individuals and families are moved off the street, they have someplace to go and not just moved to another area.
3. Oahu has one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. What specific proposals do you have to make housing more affordable?
Supporting the development of affordable housing options, both for sale and for rent in our city, is one of my top priorities. As we live on an island with limited land available for development, I will explore and maximize opportunities such as the options available with the TOD projects along the rail corridor as well as looking at options to maximize existing infrastructure in creative ways such as redeveloping schools that have closed down, which has been done successfully in other states.
I will work to streamline zoning and regulatory processes for new affordable housing construction and support creative and collaborative options to create housing options in our communities. I would also oppose any increases to property taxes as many seniors on a fixed income as well as individuals and families working hard and living paycheck to paycheck cannot afford any increases in their housing costs, which could potentially price them out of their home.
4. Honolulu has some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation. Some see rail as part of the solution. What else should the city do to alleviate congestion?
One way to alleviate traffic congestion is to encourage the development of livable communities where residents have the opportunity to live, work and play. I believe we can do more to encourage the development of Kapolei as the “Second City” and would encourage shifting and developing job opportunities not only in that area but also in our communities across Oahu so residents have the opportunity to work closer to home.
This would not only help address the traffic congestion but also help in creating vibrant communities. I would also support improvements to our roadway infrastructure and looking at options like contraflow lanes and opening the zipper land westbound in the afternoon to alleviate traffic congestion. I would also support the further growth of the University of Hawaii West Oahu as residents see a dramatic increase in traffic when the University of Hawaii at Manoa is in session.
I would also evaluate local traffic congestion in communities that have only one way in and one way out and support efforts to create an alternate access route to alleviate congestion and provide additional access routes in case of an emergency.
5. Does the city need to boost its revenue? If so, how should that be done?
There are opportunities for the city to boost its revenue through the additional real property taxes that will be realized from developments that have been completed and/or approved and the revenue that will be generated through future TOD developments. I believe city government can and should do a better job of doing more with the revenues we have.
I would not support raising taxes or increasing fees to increase revenue as I believe residents are already paying more than their fair share. Increases in revenue can be realized from a healthy, growing economy that is fostered by fiscal responsibility and strong, sensible leadership in city government.
6. Illegal vacation rentals are proliferating and residents worry about overcrowded neighborhoods and other problems. Do you see this as a problem given Hawaii’s booming visitor industry, and what would you propose to do about it?
I share the concerns of residents who see their neighborhoods changing and those who feel that vacation rentals are taking away from our limited housing supply. I do believe that we need to revisit the policies that regulate vacation rentals in our residential communities, which have not been changed since the 1980s. However, before changes are made, the city most come up with clearly defined rules and regulations that can be enforced.
7. Hawaii’s public records law mandates that public records be made available whenever possible. And yet the cost for search and redaction is often prohibitively expensive and it often takes months for the records to be released. What would you do to improve our public records system?
The City Clerk’s office has been working toward increased automation and placement of all city records on a searchable database. As many public documents are housed in state departments and offices, I would support efforts at the state Legislature to improve access to public documents and reduce costs for public record searches.
8. What more should Honolulu be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
My district includes the North Shore and Windward Coast, which has already started to see the effects of climate change and shoreline erosion. We have seen damages to our roadways and other infrastructure along the shoreline and future projections show the possibility of drastic changes to our shoreline. I will work diligently with state and federal officials to develop a comprehensive plan to address shoreline erosion and other issues that arise due to climate change to ensure the safety of residents. I will also support efforts to protect our land, water and coral reef systems from damages and encourage sustainable practices that protect our valuable resources.
9. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
The most pressing issue facing my district is the high cost of living, which greatly affects residents’ ability to live and raise a family here. If elected I will work to ensure true fiscal responsibility in city government and fight against any increases to taxes or fees. I will also work to increase the availability of true affordable housing options.
Many of our residents have left because they cannot make it here. It is a sad reality that our biggest export has become our people. Enough is enough! I will work hard to turn things around and be sure that residents have the opportunity to not only survive but thrive.
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