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 Chance Naʻauao-Ota, 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, Dennis Nakasato, Traci Toguchi and Chad Wolke.

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

Chance Na'auao-Ota
Party Nonpartisan
Age 21
Occupation YMCA of Honolulu, child care site director, talent management clerk
Residence Honolulu

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

Liliha Neighborhood Board, member/secretary; Lions Club, member, service director, membership director.

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

I believe one of the biggest issues facing Oahu is community safety. From crime to traffic concerns, there has been a heightened awareness of these areas of concern now and it is becoming more apparent that something needs to be done. Here in Honolulu District 6 we have seen an 11% drop in crime from 2019 to 2020, we are now seeing a 12% rise in crime from 2020 to 2021. I do not want to see the 2021-2022 statistics saying that there has been another double digit rise in the amount of crime being reported here in Honolulu.

That is why it is now more important than ever that we look to redefine how we handle these issues. From ensuring that HPD and its programs have the support and the resources to keep protecting our communities to the best of their ability, to gaining the trust and support of our residents who are our eyes and ears by looking at how to improve our justice system so we don’t have cases where we have the same incident happening with the same people time after time again.

There is much to do, we must work together to make our communities safer.

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

The Honolulu rail has been one of the driving factors behind one of my most pressing issues I would like to address, which is ensuring that we can care for and improve upon our current infrastructure before taking on other projects. Currently as this project stands per its most recent, May 2022, PMOC report the rail is about 62% completed with the plans to still go until Ala Moana and the solution to the wheels not aligning finalized and set.

The rail is slated to be completed in 2031. We have invested too much money into the rail to stop the project now, while we could always stop it early before Ala Moana it may be in our best interest to begin running rides for the rail when the project is finished, constructing the third section of the project which would be at Middle Street. Then, depending on how the response, the impact and the challenges are during a pilot period of residents riding the rail, we can make a determination as to if we should run the rail all the way to Ala Moana or not.

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?

To improve the accountability of our local law enforcement I would insist upon meeting with HPD sergeants and officers directly when a pressing issue or case arises in the community, to see what can be done and what support they need so we nip these issues in the bud.

In regards to overtime, which has been a concern, a cap should be set for overtime unless approved by the captain of the precinct. The overtime expenditure should also be included in the Honolulu Police Department’s expenditure report to the Honolulu City Council.

Overall I am satisfied with HPD especially with all things considered in regards to staffing. Although I do think that there could be a better understanding between officers in regards to procedures because I have heard stories about how something more could have been done and these are the cases that I would like to avoid.

In regards to the Honolulu Police Commission I would change the make-up so that it does include at least two members of law-enforcement background, one person with a social services background and one person with a law background.

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 right now is the best time to raise property taxes for residents here in Honolulu. I do believe we should raise taxes on homes left vacant for a large extended period of time.

I do also believe in raising taxes on properties being used as vacation rentals in residential zones, as well as properties in residential zones that do not meet the classification of a Residential A property.

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

I cannot say at this point in time that as a whole Honolulu is a safe place to live. With an uptick in violent crime I find myself worrying about my family, the people I work with at the YMCA, even my neighbors. When I see something on the news and I know it is in the area where my family is I will give them a call to make sure they are alright.

To improve the safety of our communities and the quality of life here in Honolulu it all starts at home, in our schools and in our communities. We need to bulk up and encourage community watch programs and equip them with the necessary knowledge to make them more effective in our communities. We also need to encourage neighbors to protect neighbors, and for capable people to jump in to either de-escalate a situation or get the person(s) in danger out of harm’s way, whatever the case may be.

Above all else, I believe teaching and institutionalizing the idea of aloha can and will go a long way in teaching our youth the values of the old ways, that are needed nowadays.

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? 

What Hawaii’s growing division comes down to is the lack of trust and transparency. We need to create more dialogue between our elected officials and the community. Yes the neighborhood board system is an outlet, but we also must understand people may not be able to make the time for these meetings.

Being open and having an open line to community members and organizations is a great way to build that relationship and that trust with the people we represent. From attending community events to ensuring our office addresses as many concerns as humanly possibly, even going door-to-door in areas where issues arise. We are at a point in time where we need to go to the people and reach out to them rather than it being the other way around, and that is what I want to do as a City Council member.

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?

The public needs to see and hear from our public officials more. I believe if we are in the communities, seeing what the residents are seeing with them, then we can not only make better decisions on their behalf, but also truly build that relationship of trust that is lacking in our overall government.

In regards to the operations of the City Council I believe that we need to be more proactive in organizing community events and in working closely with our businesses. Similarly to how Council member Tulba has been organizing events which are very beneficial and informational for the public, such as his last Waipahu Health & Safety Fair.

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?

Some new ideas I would suggest to alleviate the ongoing effects homelessness has on our communities would be trying to centralize the city’s homelessness response in hopes that we are more effective in tackling the issues that homelessness brings. On top of this I would also like to create a program where we work with community organizations that will hold onto homeless people’s mail for a certain amount of time.

After speaking with and hearing the challenges that people working with homeless individuals are talking about with regards to the people they work with, this mail program was a big issue that came up because if those who are homeless cannot get their payments, their notices, or their forms that they need to fill out to lead better lives then what are they supposed to do? Lastly I would look at a pilot project in which we use a portion of Sand Island to have a place where homeless persons can stay in order to alleviate the strain in areas where homeless populations have caused problems for businesses and residents alike. This project would also look at helping homeless persons move toward finding housing.

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? 

I am not an expert on this matter, and I would rather get input from community members near the gulch first before talking about this issue. The statement that no one wants the island’s landfill in their backyard is correct and it looks like a fair amount of residents on that side have to live with it. While the gulch could be expanded, then the discussion of how and where the expansion should happen?

A solution to this issue that I can think of is if we can find a business that would be able to take the recyclable waste or even the compostable waste to make Hawaii-based recycled products that are eco-friendly. From gardening compost to plastic blocks and metals that could possibly be used for our infrastructure one day. I am sure that if we take a look at the amount of waste which can be recycled we can make a huge dent in the amount of trash being dumped at the landfill.

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.

Right now and even during the pandemic the city should be looking at other industries that we can lean on besides tourism. It was scarily apparent that if our tourism industry falls short, then the city and the state will be in quite a bit of trouble economically. That is why now more than ever I would like to work with our state officials as well as local businesses both established and new to continue diversifying our economy.

One industry that we should invest in would be coming up with new technologies that utilize resources and/or conditions that are special to Hawaii. As for Oahu, if elected as your City Council member I would like to bring a focus back on community-wide events and especially events that bring focus back to the history of our district and our rich cultures that we have here. The purpose for this event would be to not only hopefully connect the many cultures we have here in Honolulu City Council District 6, but to also bridge the gap between the generations and age groups. If we can help everyone find something in common, maybe Honolulu would have a bit more aloha.

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