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 Ernest Caravalho, candidate for Honolulu mayor. The other candidates are Keith Amemiya, Rick Blangiardi, Duke Bourgoin, John Carroll, Karl Dicks, Tim Garry, Colleen Hanabusa, Mufi Hannemann, Choon James, Audrey Keesing, Micah Mussell, Kymberly Pine, Bud 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?
We should not continue to rely on the visitor industry to be our economic base. Although the reality is that we must rebuild our tourist industry to include the legalization of casino gambling in a special zone from Ala Moana to Waikiki. This will help us to keep money in Hawaii instead of letting our money go to other places.
More people from Hawaii gamble in Vegas meaning that we are paying for the education of the children in Vegas and the infrastructure of Vegas. By legalizing gambling, we can move our economy forward and protect the jobs of our workers.
We need to also begin the work of diversifying our economy by gearing up and bringing back more agricultural jobs. We need to invest in our small farmer and seriously think about growing hemp and cannabis. We also need to look at building a health and education-based economy with high-tech jobs. We need to be more business friendly so that business will take us seriously and bring the high-paying jobs here for our future generations.
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 would have to take a deeper look into what is being duplicated. We can no longer have big government that continues to take and not give back. The rail must take a time out. We must evaluate what went wrong and how to proceed. Rail must come to a stop at Middle Street and we must talk with the federal government to see what our options are, then we must do a forensic audit and hold people liable for what went wrong.
New revenues would come from a new economic base, based on legalization of gambling in special zones, the growing of hemp and cannabis and the education of our children by making Honolulu an education center of the Pacific.
3. What would you have done differently to handle the coronavirus crisis on Oahu?
I would have taken this virus seriously and demanded that all incoming people to Hawaii, tourists and local alike, be quarantined for 21 days. Closed all non-essential business and from here see what the progress is. Once seeing that Hawaii had a control on this, I would have immediately allowed our businesses to reopen following the CDC guidelines.
This opening would have only been for our local people, I would still require anyone coming to Hawaii as a tourist to quarantine. We must find a balance in protecting the people and saving our business. What no one is talking about is the fact that many jobs will not come back.
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?
We must first listen to the communities that will be affected by what we do. The people must be heard. We can build new renewable facilities if we present it in the right way to the people. My question to you is why we didn’t listen to the people in Kahuku when they bulldozed the wind turbines into their community. Did we do our research as to the effectiveness of these wind turbines? The answer is no. If we truly wanted the right place for these wind turbines we would of put it in Hawaii Kai as the wind gust there is higher than in Kahuku, but here again no one in government would have done that as it would have been political suicide.
To make sure we can do anything successfully we must work with the communities that are involved and make sure we do this in a pono way. We must explain how such projects are not only good for the city but also for their communities. Today we decide, well this community does not care so we can impose our will on them. That is not how business and government should be done.
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?
The rail is a hot button issue and not one that will be easily solved as those who decided to move forward with the rail had no vision. Right now, the rail which will be run on electric will eat into our dilapidated electric grid which will cause blackouts. I would suggest that solar panels be put on the side of the rail structure to help with the running of the rail to keep the cost of maintenance low. I would also suggest that we stop at Middle Street until we have come up with a plan that addresses everything that is not working with the rail.
We will have to put on hold every project until we can look at it closer to see if said project is essential at this time. The No. 1 concern should be the people, and will the people survive this pandemic because we decided that the projects come first.
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?
I would review everything that we are doing now that is not working. I would work with the lieutenant governor’s office and see if there is duplication going on and if so, we would get rid of the duplication.
I would work with the VA and U.S. vets to get all veterans off the streets through the programs they are now using. They have a good program. I would invest in more behavioral health specialists and build a good rehabilitation center. The sit-lie law should stay in effect as no one should be sleeping in the doorways of business and homes. We can do better by our homeless and no one should be living on the streets.
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?
To begin we have a good police force and I know many who are on the force. Our police force for the better part is good. Yes, we should have reform and we need more behavioral health therapists in the police force. The next mayor should work with the prosecutor’s office to ensure that we reform our justice system. The Mayor’s Office should have more control of the police force, seeing as they work for the city, up to and including the hiring of the chief of police.
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?
The truth is that rail will not help with the congestion of our traffic. I believe the answer is right in front of us. More people should have the right to work from home. As mayor we will implement a work-form-home program for all city workers that can work from home. We will also work to build a countywide wi-fi infrastructure to ensure all workers can work efficiently from home. We will look at climate change closer as climate change will determine how we deal with any new road construction. Another thing we will look at is getting bus service to those who truly need these services.
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?
I do not believe that the records should have been suspended. Regardless of this pandemic the people still have a right to public records. I will propose laws that will ensure that the public always has a right to open meetings and that we ensure all records remain open.
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 must break our dependency on fossil fuel and move forward toward a greener environment. We must ensure more charging stations for electric vehicles and plant more native trees and plants in all parts of Honolulu, especially in urban Honolulu. We must look at waste also as an energy source and wave generation for more electric power.
11. What other issue would you like to discuss here?
The most important thing to acknowledge is that no one person can decide the fate of an entire people. It is the responsibility of the Kingdom of Hawaii’s descendants to organize for themselves and re-establish who they are and what they wish to become as a people.
My aim will be to help them and to empower them to do so. One of the first official steps I will take is to acknowledge the history and the act of the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii and make it clear that the foundation of Hawaii as a state was not a simple matter of fact.
I will strive to make amends. I will strive to do what, to my knowledge, has never been done: to forge a path forward. There is no example to follow, no road to serve as a guide, but the end goal is to uplift and empower a people that for too long now have been the victims that everyone chooses to forget because it is convenient.
There is a difference between doing what is right and what is easy, and I choose to do what is right by acknowledging the past first and foremost.