Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 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 Chad Wolke, candidate for Honolulu City Council District 6, which includes portions of Kakaako, Downtown Honolulu, Punchbowl, Papakolea, Pauoa Valley, Nuuanu, Iwilei, Liliha, Alewa Heights, Kalihi and Kalihi Valley. The other candidates are Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, Ikaika Hussey, Nalani Jenkins, Chance Na’auao-Ota, Dennis Nakasato and Traci Toguchi.

Go to Civil Beat’s Election Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.

Candidate for Honolulu City Council District 6

Chad Wolke
Party Nonpartisan
Age 29
Occupation Former congressional staffer
Residence Honolulu

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

Current member, Honolulu Yamaguchi Kenjinkai and Chinatown Lions Club; former member, Liliha, Puunui, Alewa Heights Neighborhood Board.

1. What is the biggest issue facing Oahu, and what would you do about it?

The biggest issues facing Oahu are lack of accountability, inefficiency and blatant corruption in our government. Think about it – these issues play a significant role in almost every major issue facing our city and every aspect of our daily lives.

Roads like the Pali Highway have been under construction for months ostensibly because of basic inefficiency and little accountability from elected officials. Monster homes destroy our neighborhoods because of corrupt actions by some city employees. Our severe homeless crisis continues to fester on our streets due to a lack of accountability, inefficiencies in contracting and many other areas, and precious government resources are being squandered in pursuit of expensive, unnecessary projects that more often than not are themselves unaccountable, inefficient and corrupt.

As a Honolulu City Council member, I will work hard every day to restore our faith in government, leading with integrity and holding our government accountable when it does not work as intended.

2. The Honolulu rail project: What should be done?

I believe the city must seriously consider ending the rail project in Kakaako until construction can resume in a financially sustainable way. We can and must utilize property previously acquired for rail beyond Kakaako for affordable housing and generating the financial means to operate and maintain the rail system, while planning for possible completion to Ala Moana if we are on better financial footing in the future.

In the meantime, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit (HART) and the contracts that it enters into must be subject to rigorous oversight by the City Council to ensure that further unnecessary cost overruns do not occur and rail construction is completed on time with the least impact on our daily lives.

3. In recent years, serious problems have surfaced within the Honolulu Police Department. At the same time, there has been a significant push to beef up oversight of police and reform some practices. What would you do specifically to improve accountability of local law enforcement? Are you satisfied with the Honolulu Police Department? How about the Honolulu Police Commission?

I am a strong supporter of our Honolulu police and believe that being a police officer in our state is a hard and thankless job. However, like every city agency, they must also be held accountable when something is not right or needs to be fixed.

I support the city auditor’s recommendations in its May 2022 audit for HPD to standardize its overtime policies and develop alternatives to its overtime tracking system. I also believe that many recent issues that have come to light, such as overtime accountability and issues related to officer fatigue, are symptoms of the 300 officer vacancies that I am committed to addressing as a council member. I am also a supporter of community policing programs, such as foot patrols and Weed and Seed programs, which can help to instill public trust in HPD again, and programs like the Crisis Outreach Response and Engagement (CORE) program to respond to homeless in crisis not rising to the level of a police response.

4. Honolulu has some of the lowest property taxes in the country. Is it time to raise those rates to help meet city obligations? Tax vacant homes at a higher rate?

I do not believe that Honolulu should raise property taxes. While our property taxes are indeed low relative to other municipalities, our taxpayers are already overburdened by some of the highest taxes in the nation at different levels of government through the General Excise Tax (GET), income tax and a number of other taxes and fees on a daily basis.

As a council member, while being open to out-of-the-box ideas to generating revenue when absolutely needed, I will always be cognizant of this fact any time an increase in taxes or fees is proposed, especially for seniors that already struggle to survive with fixed income in Honolulu’s urban core.

5. Is Honolulu a safe place to live? What can be done to improve the quality of life on the island?

Honolulu is still a relatively safe place to live, but sadly too many in our community know that is quickly changing. It wasn’t always this way and it cannot continue.

I am committed to working with the Honolulu Police Department to fill police officer vacancies in critical areas where our community is experiencing a rise in violent crimes and am a staunch supporter of community policing efforts, especially foot patrols in Chinatown and Weed and Seed programs.

6. Hawaii has seen a growing division when it comes to politics, development, health mandates and other issues. Protests are getting angrier. What would you do to bridge those gaps and bring people together in spite of their differences?

Accountability, transparency and public trust in government are together the number one priority of my campaign. I believe that people become angry when they are left out of the decision-making process, especially when these decisions negatively impact or devastate their families and livelihoods.

As a council member, I am committed to ensuring that stakeholders are thoroughly consulted when making key decisions and being as open and transparent as possible, especially when I make a decision that may be unpopular or with which some constituents may disagree. While I cannot promise that every decision I make will be popular, I will work hard to ensure that the reasoning behind any decision is known and that all stakeholders are heard.

7. Like the state, the City and County has had its share of corruption cases – from the police department and prosecutor’s office to the mayor’s office and the planning department. What would you do to restore public confidence in our public officials? What if anything needs to change about how the City Council operates?

Elected officials, especially those in the legislative branch, must hold our government – and each other – accountable. As a council member directly elected by the voters, it will be my primary job to keep our executive branch accountable for its actions and inactions and conduct myself transparently toward my constituents. Holding fellow public officials accountable to the highest standards and making our government more transparent will go a long way to instilling public trust in our government and officials once again.

During my time working in Congress, I saw firsthand how the legislative branch can and should hold the executive branch accountable and fully exercise its legislative oversight powers to a much greater extent than our City Council does. Council member Esther Kiaʻāina, a former congressional chief of staff, is an excellent example on the City Council as she brings a higher level of accountability and oversight to her current role by asking tough, intelligent questions. I would bring this same unique and critical perspective to the City Council and believe this level of legislative oversight to be one of my most important responsibilities.

8. Homelessness has been an issue for decades yet we don’t seem to be making much progress. What new ideas would you suggest to control this ongoing problem?

Firstly, I am a strong supporter of the city’s new Crisis Outreach Response and Engagement (CORE) program – consisting of a team which responds to nonviolent homeless-related 911 calls in urban Honolulu, freeing up other first-responder resources – and believe that its expansion is critical to tackling Oahu’s homeless problem. Government bureaucracy and red tape also often hinder efforts to help our most vulnerable citizens, such as the Iwilei Resource Center and Punawai Clinic for homeless individuals, which are still not fully operational despite being completed months ago.

I also believe that our police and justice system is well-positioned to funnel homeless individuals who commit crimes into programs they need for recovery. I am not calling for our jails and prisons to be filled with homeless people, but I believe that they must still be held accountable for even nonviolent crimes they commit against people and property and being taken into custody should be used as an opportunity to be directed to drug rehab or mental health programs through homeless and drug courts, or other similar diversion programs.

9. No one wants the island’s landfill in its backyard. Should it stay on the West Side and Waimanalo Gulch be expanded? Or are there other solutions?

By the end of this year (2022), the city’s Landfill Advisory Committee (LAC) will have scored and the city will designate an alternative landfill site for use following the closure of the Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill.

When the LAC’s final report is published, I will carefully and thoroughly consider its findings and recommendations before making any decision on Oahu’s current and future landfill. I am also committed to a fair and transparent process moving forward to ensure that stakeholders are heard and no one is left out of the decision-making process.

10. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, from outdated technology to economic disparity. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, to build on what we’ve learned and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share One Big Idea you have for Oahu. Be innovative, but be specific.

There is no question that Hawaii is a unique place and I feel blessed every single day that I was born and raised here over anywhere else. And I feel strongly that we should preserve many of the things that make us unique.

However, many of the challenges and problems we face are not unique and have been solved by other cities across our country. I believe in getting our government back to the basics and not depending on big, expensive, inefficient programs to resolve long-standing issues when simply looking outward at examples set by others will get the job done.

History informs us that we in Hawaii should indeed be wary of adopting ideas from the outside. Still, we should not be afraid to look outward and at least consider solutions to our problems that have already been implemented successfully elsewhere. In many cases, there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

From covering rising public transit operation costs without raising fares to finally getting our roads paved efficiently, there are many lessons from other cities that we should not be afraid to learn.

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