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 Dave Burlew, 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 Heidi Tsuneyoshi, Choon James and Robert Bunda.
1. How do you think the city should pay for the operation and maintenance of rail once it’s built?
Businesses operating in the new Transit Oriented Development zone should pay a modest tax dedicated exclusively to operation and maintenance.
I also see a great opportunity to use the 20 miles of rail for a solar farm. Solar panels either connected to the skyway or adjacent could capture the solar electricity and use it to potentially power the rail line. The stations could have battery storage that can be used to power the stations. Electricity can be transferred along the rail line and used at the stations needed. Excess electricity can be used for Transit Oriented Development or transferred to county properties. This novel approach to electricity generation can possibly produce income.
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?
Keeping persons in their homes is the first step to preventing homelessness. Rental assistance should be expanded with emergency funds available. We need to support nonprofit organizations with community outreach. I do not support an islandwide sit-lie ban. Pushing homeless out of site and out of mind will not solve the problem. However, homeless should not be allowed to block business entry during hours open.
3. Oahu has one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. What specific proposals do you have to make housing more affordable?
A formula that provides housing of all income levels within newly developed communities should be applied and enforced. Home ownership and rental units can and should exist in all neighborhoods. Residents should have the opportunity to start in affordable units and have options to move up to improved housing within the same community. Methods to achieve housing units across all income levels should be a part of all new community developments. Offshore or nonowner-occupied investment properties should be limited, unless in properly zoned areas.
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?
Designing and supporting “live, work and play” communities should be the first consideration with all new development. We need to keep finding solutions to get people out of their cars. Bike paths, special neighborhood bus lines and telecommuting for city employees should be expanded.
In City Council District 2, bike paths can be expanded to give tourists new ways to explore Hawaii. I would like to see a contiguous bike path from Laie to Haleiwa established. I would like to see a bus line from Kualoa District Park to Dole Plantation created to service residents and tourists.
5. Does the city need to boost its revenue? If so, how should that be done?
The City and County of Honolulu needs to get into the solar electricity generation business! There is a national trend of municipal governments producing their own renewable energy. All city and county buildings should be retrofitted with solar panels and battery storage. Unhooking from energy monopolies is possible and profitable. Financing for solar projects can be funded through electricity cost savings. This is a win-win situation that will not increase costs to taxpayers.
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?
Yes, there is a serious problem. The problem has proliferated because there is no adequate enforcement of pre-existing laws. Zoning laws need to be enforced and heavy penalties for violators levied. However, owner-operated with on-site management vacation rentals can be permitted in residential neighborhoods but limited and rules strictly enforced. Investment properties for vacation rentals are permitted in resort zoning, not residential zoning.
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?
Time for the City and County on Honolulu to step into the digital age. Scanning and uploading online in a timely manner should be the common protocol. Modest fees are acceptable, but should be equivalent to the pay needed for employees to do the job.
8. What more should Honolulu be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
Restoration of natural flood plains and wetlands can and should be done. Planting trees on all county properties and especially watersheds needs to be a priority. These are only two simple steps that we can start now to stop top soil flowing to the ocean and damaging reefs and to mitigate flooding.
9. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
The key plank on my platform is farmland and open space preservation. All of our agricultural lands are being disrespected by being sold for development purposes. We need to create a comprehensive agricultural preservation program. We need to use our farmland for producing food for local people. It is my kuleana to work hard to “Keep The Country, Country.”