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.
1. How do you think the city should pay for the operation and maintenance of rail once it’s built?
At this point, the best way to pay for the operation and maintenance of rail is to have private enterprises place a bid for the operation and maintenance. The city currently utilizes the division of purchasing for many other operations throughout the city: tow services for law enforcement, food concessions, beach services, and security guard services to name a few. Why not let a private enterprise take care of the rail? If the city goes with this option, then it will allow free enterprise to operate and maintain the “business” aspect of rail transit while the city also receives a percentage of revenue. We cannot continue going down the same path of raising taxes and fees to cover costs.
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?
In order to fix any problem, we must find the root cause and ask ourselves, “Why are people homeless?” For a start, people are homeless because the cost of living in Hawaii is one of the highest in the nation, and they lose hope of ever living a modest and decent lifestyle. As a community we can help turn the lives around for the homeless and give them a chance to grow and achieve a successful life. If the city wants to do anything to help the homeless, we need to create better programs that will put the homeless back on their feet and into the workforce.
Yes, providing shelter is a start but it will not finish the job of completely relieving homelessness. The most important answer to why people are homeless is because they can be. I fully support an island-wide sit-lie ban because it eliminates the option of “I can just live on the streets.” If we really want to be serious about relieving homelessness in Honolulu, then we need to be aggressive in keeping them off the streets to begin with by making it illegal to do so, and also create a “back on your feet” program that will place the once homeless on a successful path in the workforce.
3. Oahu has one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. What specific proposals do you have to make housing more affordable?
I believe the main reason why the housing market is expensive on Oahu is because of the high demand and the low supply. (Shouldn’t the price of anything be driven by simple laws of supply and demand?) Another reason why the housing market is expensive is because there are too many foreign investments in real estate and the local people are left out and end up moving to the mainland or elsewhere. A possible proposal could be giving a “kamaaina discount” on property tax. With such a proposal we will encourage the local people to stay on Oahu and keep the island as their home. While we give discounts to the local people, new foreign investors should balance the offset by paying higher property taxes. Additional proposals should include developing affordable homes, not luxurious condominiums or monster homes. The key is to develop homes for the median income, not luxurious homes for the top high-income or “1 percent.”
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?
If you look at how our H-1 Freeway is designed, it’s no wonder why traffic has become such a big issue. I believe the design of the freeway creates traffic; near every on-ramp, there is also an off-ramp not very far down the road. This creates the bottlenecks that we hear about so much; while cars are trying to get on the freeway, there are also cars trying to get off the freeway in such a close proximity. The city needs to work with the state Department of Transportation and look at how we can eliminate some of the on-ramps and off-ramps so that they are spread out and reduce crossing traffic.
We also need to somehow create more lanes on the freeway. A visitor once mentioned how “small our freeways are” compared to other major cities (being there are only three lanes in many parts of the H-1 freeway). With more cars on the road, the roads need to complement the higher amount of traffic. Another option would be to further develop Kapolei into Oahu’s second city. Create more jobs, offices, and facilities in West Oahu so that residents of West Oahu have the opportunity to drive less and save money on gas.
5. Does the city need to boost its revenue? If so, how should that be done?
If “boosting revenue” means raising taxes and fees, then absolutely not. Instead of boosting the city’s revenue, the city should spend their money wisely, granted that most, if not all of the city’s revenue was once our own revenue. If we as citizens have to watch our spending and be careful about it or face devastating consequences, then it is only fair that the city does the same.
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?
Of course, anything classified “illegal” is a problem in Hawaii, especially illegal vacation rentals. These illegal rentals wreak havoc on our neighborhoods by creating unwanted disturbances and overcrowded street parking. I think the city needs to step up efforts in shutting down “illegal vacation rentals.”
The question is: How does a property become a vacation rental to begin with? Aren’t the owners required to report revenue from occupants? If that’s the case, the city should know the “suspicious” rental units and investigate. If any evidence points to illegal vacation rentals, then shut it down. Lastly, if there are any loopholes in the system that can create illegal vacation rentals, then the city needs to work on bills that would close them.
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?
Like many systems in the government, we need to simplify them. Perhaps the reason why the process takes long is because there are too many agencies and departments that you’d have to work with to search for records? If that’s the case, let’s look at solutions in merging agencies/departments. Perhaps the reason why the process is expensive is because throughout the many different types of agencies and departments, you also have to work through many procedures, policies, and permitting. In office, I would look at ways to simplify the process and possibly eliminate barriers and regulations that halt the public records system (as well as many other systems in government).
8. What more should Honolulu be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
Climate change is a natural occurrence that has happened multiple times in our planet’s history. It’s impossible to stop, but yes it’s very possible to slow it down and to prepare for it. However, my question to any developer is: With the reality of climate change and sea level rise, why do we keep developing oceanfront property if it’s going underwater in the near future?
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 disaster preparedness. It’s only a question of “when,” not “if,” the next major hurricane hits our island, and I don’t see much preparedness. We’ve seen what happens to East Oahu when a flood hits and it was devastating. If only a flood caused that much damage, imagine what the next Iniki or Iwa can do. In office I would take extra measures to be sure that flooding can be kept at a minimum by keeping our drains and canals clear of debris at all times. We also need to be sure that trees near roads and highways are properly maintained, so that they don’t create a traffic nightmare when high winds bring it down.