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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 Duke Bourgoin, candidate for Honolulu mayor. The other candidates are Keith Amemiya, Rick Blangiardi, Ernest Caravalho, John Carroll, Karl Dicks, Tim Garry, Colleen Hanabusa, Mufi Hannemann, Choon James, Audrey Keesing, Micah Mussell, Kymberly Pine, William Stonebraker and Ho Yin (Jason) Wong.
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?
Tourism as the center of economic vitality is questionable with easy virus transmissions and contact concerns with travel. Diversification of the economy is preferred. To bring tourism back we need to market Hawaii as a safe and healthy place where the virus is not a concern. Hawaii has had few deaths and not many cases of the virus, even though before the pandemic Hawaii was receiving close to 1 million visitors per month.
Science on the virus shows that sun and clean air helps stop the spread of the disease. Offering Americans a safe and healthy place for vacation with security and sophistication is a great image. Sustainability and self sufficiency in a circular economy is the base for diversification. This can be done promoting individual self sufficiency, growing our own food of fruits and vegetables and increasing production with organic farms and community farming. Value-added products with the brand name “Pure Hawaii” markets top quality products and services around the globe. Tech also should be developed combining young people for programing and product development with state/city, university and private resources.
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?
Labor costs are crucial to lowering the budget. A freeze on hiring, evaluation and redesign of labor tasks and costs, decentralizing job tasks with less specialization and more tasks, community working responsibility programs where local citizens assist without pay, will help. Revenue can be increased through this circular self sufficient economy especially as it grows. Maybe a day tax for visitors, investor tax, and a use tax are possible. An added property tax on non-resident owners, and non-resident owner transaction levy also are possible. Some countries like Monaco require a $1 million fee to have permission to live in the principality.
3. What would you have done differently to handle the coronavirus crisis on Oahu?
Close down the city earlier, make masks mandatory, stop tourists entering Hawaii sooner, earlier program with better monitoring of tourists and residents arriving to self-isolate for 14 days, soft enforcement of stay at home policy, a home delivery system of food essentials to the elderly and those in need, district food canteens offering a veggie and healthy free meal to the public, free and accessible virus testing, develop a software tracking program attached to all phones showing green or red accessibility, a program on the phone indicating a warning beep if you are too close to another, a program monitoring vital signs as temperature and immune system capabilities, all would help.
Like to promote better health practices to improve immune system and preventive health management through diet, organic, vegan, vegetarianism, supplements, and a programed daily exercise practice.
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?
Community participation at an early stage, gaining support for projects that have benefits to the citizen is important for success. Having projects start from the community, letting the public decide what and where important projects should be developed, is good management.
One important project that should be built today is vastly expanding our solar energy farms to reduce fossil energy consumption and clean up our environment. Once solar is operational, the costs are lower than power plants and wind. Community support for solar is positive especially if it’s not too close to your home. All planned new projects will be difficult for some time due to the economy and lack of demand for recreational facilities like the stadium.
Addressing affordable housing is also difficult unless funding is available or luxury programs can carry the affordable portion of the project.
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?
One solution is to downsize the rail project and create an inner city link immediately using local talent and labor. This project can be low tech and less expensive for now. Rail is important to connect the economy, create a more efficient transportation system, lower energy use and costs to the community, and lower pollution and noise concerns for a modern city.
London charges 50 pounds a week to use the underground. High prices to visitors, with discounts for yearly and monthly use. Land and air rights at rail stops can be a source of lease revenue for offsetting the costs of the transit system for years to come.
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?
There is a need to keep the city orderly and clean. The parks are not camping grounds, nor are the streets places to sleep safely and securely. Campgrounds and temporary trailer or special housing units could be considered offering lower costs to unemployed, underemployed and the nonemployable. Maybe a sea hotel can help. Prefer not being too hard on the homeless with sit-lie bans, as there are ethical, compassion and constitutional issues to resolve.
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?
All transactions between police and citizens could be recorded in real time on the internet. This will create accountability and responsibility from both sides. There is a movement to reconnect the police to the pubic creating trust and cooperation. Decentralization with local “outposts” where police can house giving visibility to the public, offering more security, officers knowing the local neighborhood, and helping daily with community affairs are possible.
Oversight of the police is another possibility changing a confrontational approach to a working together community program. Reforming and strengthening an oversight committee includes committee membership made up of qualified city organizations to include Hawaiian, minority, parks and land use officials, health, etc. This oversight committee could be further decentralized to local neighborhood meetings of interested citizens reporting back to the main committee.
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?
Honolulu needs some quiet, clean, natural pedestrian-only areas for quality of life and escape from pollution and tension. Car driving should be reduced to odd/even days stickers reducing the traffic by half. City use during rush hours could be further controlled with stickers allowing limited use during this time.
There could be some entry parking structures to let rural residents drive to the outer city and connect to the transit system or walk/bike to downtown or central Honolulu. Buses are part of this problem, with most buses running through the city and back again. A transfer port on the east and west of the central city could keep community busing and rural routs out of the middle of the city.
Honolulu is a perfect place for a bike. Creating quiet sidestreet bike ways and a program for making Honolulu biker-friendly could be a catchy formula to encourage more citizens to use the bike than the car or bus. Consider special speed corridor bike ways, while controlling the pedestrian ways with speed limits on bikes, skates, (no motorized use), etc. Slow down the community pedestrian areas to reduce accidents, tension and conflict.
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. Transparency especially during a pandemic is good democracy creating trust and calm with the citizens. Zoom seems to be the fad these days. Let’s put a lot of our public records on the net, and have communication through some video, audio and data transfer methods. The system needs to be less complicated, viewing the user as not a techie like the programers that create the layers of difficulty with many systems these days. Like to see Honolulu and the state start creating our own secure internet system and develop our own software applications for internal use, control, and sales to the international market. Maybe some wealthy landowners who live in Silicon Valley could be enticed to help with directing or loaning some talent our way while helping our local talent to adjust and develop.
10. What more should Honolulu be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
Preparing for climate change here in Hawaii includes laws prohibiting building by the sea. Sea walls can protect to some extent the structures now existing close to the sea in the city. Structures can be coded to be further protected and reinforced on the lower floors. Emergency group housing sights can be organized for storms and sea rise. Pumps, drains, water catchment and waterways can be created to address flooding and drainage.
Hawaii should do its part to prevent climate change, even though the crises should be less here than in other parts of the world. Reduce carbon emissions, become sustainable and self sufficient, reduce imports, stop polluting the land, air and sea, all plastic could be tagged and taxed — offering income to the poor collecting used plastic for recycling.
Light industry converting garbage, especially plastic, glass and metals to new products for local use and export could clean the environment and create revenue.
11. What other issue would you like to discuss here?
The image of Hawaii as a paradise of clean, organic, sustainable, self sufficient living is good for our citizens and for the visitor to experience. Cleaning up our pollution, limiting or eliminating our waste, protecting our land, air, and water is important. Creating a sustainable harmonious community is our goal.