Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 8 Primary 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 Kalani Kalima, candidate for Honolulu City Council District 3 representing Ahuimanu, Heeia, Haiku, Kaneohe, Maunawili, Kailua, Olomana, Enchanted Lake and Waimanalo. The other candidates are Esther Kia’āina, Warland Kealoha, Paul Mossman, Alan Texeira and Greg Thielen.
1. Oahu’s economy has been hard hit with the outbreak of the coronavirus and measures to prevent its spread, mainly because of the collapse of the tourism industry. Should we continue to rely largely on the visitor industry for economic vitality? What concrete steps would you take to bring tourism back? What else would you do to diversify the island’s economy?
We need a tourism management plan for Oahu. We are the only county that lacks a TMP that manages the impact of tourism on the quality of life of residents. I believe that the industrial model of tourism doesn’t work for Hawaii. It has been broken for years and we need to change it into one that is more responsive to the needs of the community. Allocating such a huge chunk of the marketing budget on domestic travelers that, on average, spend less on their stay is a misalignment of funds. We need to get away from the atypical high volume but low spending visitor and instead seek markets that have a higher yield.
The regenerative model of tourism allows for a positive flow to the local economy. It is one that helps to generate revenue by focusing on locally owned businesses, keeping the money “in house” instead of it going to foreign businesses. The regenerative model of tourism is a more holistic form that can help fuel other industries while engaging nonprofits that are servicing community projects already.
We need to diversify our economy by focusing on food sustainability and making industries around it, supporting our farmers that provide for the restaurants and businesses that serve the public. We need to utilize the lessons learned from COVID-19 to build a brighter future for our keiki and moopuna.
2. As the economy struggles, the city may have to cut expenses and seek new revenue sources. What would you cut? And what is an area where you see potential new revenue?
I believe that the city spends millions of dollars on projects that are slated to failure because of a lack of community engagement and proper planning. The money spent on study, planning, design, redesign that ends up going nowhere is where we need to cut. We need to share project ideas with the community and get their buy in first. About $17 million on just the plans of the renovation of the Neil Blaisdell Center to have it scrapped is not how we garner public support or trust. We need to prevent these occurrences from happening. The Transient Accommodation Tax or TAT is another source of the revenue but since the pandemic it will be only a shadow of its former self.
3. What would you have done differently to handle the coronavirus crisis on Oahu?
The people and businesses did everything that they could do and sacrificed as much as they could to bring us to where we are. Now it is up to our leadership, our government to make sure that we have plans in place, safeguarding the public from being shut down again. We need to come out with a recovery and prevention plan that goes beyond tracking and counting of COVID-19 cases that establishes procedures and protocols to follow.
4. Oahu residents, government officials and developers have often been split over efforts to build new projects like renewable energy facilities, recreational complexes or even affordable housing. What would you do to make sure important projects are successful while respecting community input and concerns?
I would make sure to hold community meetings to get their input prior to any large scale project. If a project is to be proposed it should be agreeable and beneficial to the community that it is slated for. I would work as a liaison between the community and government, especially when dealing with issues of contention.
When the Waimanalo Bay Beach Park Master Plan was being executed, the community found some inconsistencies in the processing of the plan and that it lacked pertinent information. The community felt slighted when being told that the information that they discovered wasn’t being accepted and were publicly ridiculed. We need to work together for the betterment of the community and do our own due diligence to ensure that we have all of the facts and still be open to learn new things.
5. How should the city pay for the operation and maintenance of rail once it’s built? Do project plans or financing plans need to be changed as the economy struggles in the wake of the pandemic?
Understanding the financial status of this project, I am hopeful that the private/public partnership will be beneficial for us but I have concerns of the cost of the operation and maintenance of rail. We need to focus on accountability and fiscal responsibility when looking at the escalating cost of rail and since we are not hitting the markers of the recovery plan we will not receive federal monies. We need to make sure that we aren’t duplicating payments for operation and maintenance by paying it over and over with DTS, P3 and Hitachi.
6. Homelessness remains a problem on Oahu. What would you do differently from what the current leadership is doing? Do you support the enforcement of laws targeted at unsheltered homeless people such as the sit-lie ban? Why or why not?
We have had a topdown approach to dealing with the homeless. We need a better approach and work with programs that provide social and mental health services within a kauhale or village for treatment. Utilizing the aina-centric approach allows them to build their self image, confidence and skills to work the aiina and be a part of a community within the community focused on the well-being of the whole and not just a place to stay. Consistency is integral
7. Recent deaths of citizens at the hands of police are igniting protests and calls for reform across the country, primarily aimed at preventing discrimination against people of color. What should be done to improve policing and police accountability in Honolulu? Should oversight of the police department be strengthened or reformed?
As the makua do, so shall their child. If you want exemplary behavior you need to role model your expectations for those under your tutelage, care or guidance. We need the leaders to uphold a level of conduct that the ranks can look up to, follow and emulate. The aloha spirit law showcases what we are about, sharing aloha with one another and having empathy for one another. Aloha is cyclic and needs to be reciprocated in order to work. This is based on having a working relationship with your community, building a rapport and having genuine aloha.
8. 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?
We need to improve what we have, working on the infrastructure for quicker drive times while preventing vehicular wear and tear on our vehicles. The freeway interchanges aren’t working. We need updated traffic studies to utilize a common sense approach to addressing this issue.
9. Hawaii’s public records law mandates that public records be made available whenever possible. Gov. David Ige suspended the open government laws under an emergency order during the pandemic. Do you agree or disagree with his action? What would you do to ensure the public has access to open meetings and public records in a timely fashion?
Disagree. I am in favor of increased public access to all records and ensuring that public participation is encouraged. The city already has council meetings that are filmed and recorded for the public to view.
10. What more should Honolulu be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
We need to look at shoreline setbacks that move acceptable construction of buildings and homes at a distance from the shore to stop quicker shoreline erosion. The Department of Planning and Permitting needs to work on what is acceptable based on a case by case basis.
11. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
We need to move toward sustainable communities that focus on environmental and economic sustainability, social equity, cultural acceptance, and that adequate resources are available for future generations. Support local farmers, engage the public, encourage civil discourse.