Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 6 General Election, 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 Kelly Kitashima, a candidate for Honolulu City Council District 8, which covers Lower Aiea, Pearlridge, Waimalu, Newtown, Pearl City, Seaview, Crestview, Waipio Gentry and Waipahu. The other candidate is Brandon Elefante.
1. How do you think the city should pay for the operation and maintenance of rail once it’s built?
Honolulu taxpayers deserve to have a clear understanding of the true costs and not assumptions. I would support working with the private sector (for example – hospitality industry) to encourage subsidized transportation costs for employees similar to the program in Washington, D.C. Additionally, maximize the potential revenues from TOD projects and other creative avenues such as profit sharing from advertising and offering corporate/peak time rates.
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?
The complicated homeless crisis unfolding throughout the island is best tackled by private charities and local organizations such as the Family Assessment Center.
Collaboration here is certainly key. In tandem with private and public outreach programs; law enforcement needs the leverage to engage with the homeless population in order for them to successfully seek and accept assistance. Thus, a consistent islandwide sit-lie ban is vital for this coordinated effort to work. Additionally, I would advocate for extended sit-lie hours through 2 a.m. (currently 11 p.m.). This will allow HPD the window of overlap to ensure enhanced safety measures at our parks and local bus commuters feel safe during the late evening hours.
I would strongly support two specific recent initiatives:
• Allocate city funds toward direct transportation for homeless residents who are willing to accept help and shelter.
• Community Outreach court hearings, where noncriminal offenses are consolidated and those convicted are sentenced to community service rather than face jail time or fines they are not able to afford.
3. Oahu has one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. What specific proposals do you have to make housing more affordable?
We need more housing for local residents — period. I support increasing the housing supply on Oahu by increasing density in the urban core of Honolulu and champion streamlining the city’s complicated regulatory and zoning process for building affordable housing.
I strongly oppose increasing property taxes that will only hurt local families already struggling to make ends meet in Hawaii’s high cost of living.
I would also support pilot projects like tiny home farming communities and special exceptions for ADU’s for multigenerational families.
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?
Rail will surely help alleviate a percentage of traffic. With additional research, I would advocate for the use of the contraflow lane in both directions during peak hours and the closure of specific H-1 on/off ramps during specific times of the day.
Other options include shifting certain core city services to Kapolei so we can create communities for work and play and a proposed tiered work schedule.
We must continue to promote alternative forms of transportation including ridesharing, cycling, mini shuttles, express bus routes and vanpools.
In partnership with a local university, as a working commuter mom myself – I would highly recommend an islandwide survey to determine the reason for so many single drivers or families commuting. Then depending on the outcome, find safe solutions to address their needs (youth sports shuttles, affordable private school shuttles) with established community organizations such as YMCA.
5. Does the city need to boost its revenue? If so, how should that be done?
“Budget surplus” would be an awe-inspiring newspaper headline for a change especially since the economy is thriving and experiencing record expenditures throughout the island — from real estate to retail to hospitality! Nevertheless, responsible and sound budgeting practices are crucial as overspending/mismanagement of funds will result in reducing core services which the community does not deserve.
Also, if elected I would make great efforts to collaborate with the state to allocate dedicated increased funds from TAT as Oahu is experiencing all time high tourism revenues – it should be relative to the use of Honolulu’s infrastructure, roads and resources, etc.
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?
The city must take responsibility to create increased regulations in residential zoned areas and establish an online permitting process. It’s hard to believe the current ordinances are 30 years old and the city has not been able to keep up with the dynamic online travel trends and lack of enforcement.
Although a new permitting and zoning process is being proposed, we must safeguard the character of our neighborhoods and if allowed, vacation rentals must be responsible to pay their fair share of GET and TAT taxes.
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?
I undoubtedly believe in full transparency. Thus, in 2018 with cutting edge technology we must embrace and improve city core processes through the use of modernized systems at reduced costs.
8. What more should Honolulu be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
The oxybenzone ban was a great start to protect our coral reefs. Concerning sea level rise, erosion is already occurring. We must continue to monitor the data and take a proactive approach to updating our island’s infrastructure for future generations.
If not, there will be major physical and negative financial implications. The city must take a deeper dive into the land use laws to protect our homes, coastal line and avoid the consequences of flooding.
9. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
The fabric of our island neighborhoods has drastically changed over the last decade, day-to-day cost of living is pricing local hardworking families out of paradise and the increased safety threats to our keiki and kupuna need to be top priority.
Specifically for District 8 (Aiea, Pearl City and Waipahu), these are the most common concerns I’ve learned from neighborhood board meetings and knocking on doors:
• Cost of living: The city must reduce the cost burdens for local families.
• I will strongly oppose property tax or fee increases and will work to create other revenue streams.
• I will take a proactive approach to maintaining infrastructure, roads and parks.
• Safety: Increasing numbers of homeless have migrated into our neighborhood. Our kupuna are now at increased risk of thefts and assaults and keiki are not able to enjoy public parks without the fear of stranger-danger or drug use.
• We must increase HPD presence in our district until the beat is fully staffed.
• I will work to create neighborhood watch groups with access to online portals for tips, suggestions and hot lines.
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