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 Nalani Jenkins, 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, Chance Na’auao-Ota, 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

Nalani Jenkins
Party Nonpartisan
Age 55
Occupation President, 721, LLC and president, Na Leo Pilimehana
Residence Alewa

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

Board Member, BEHawaii.org (a Hawaii nonprofit); founder, Make Music Hawaii; Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts.

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

In talking with residents, business owners and seniors in District 6, their most significant issue is crime. As public servants, the safety of our citizens must be our No. 1 priority. I have already called for HPD’s focus on filling the police officer vacancies and for the city to provide the resources to do so.

As a council member, I will use my position to vigilantly keep the mayor and HPD chief’s focus on recruiting, training and efficient management of HPD staff. Residents are asking for foot patrols in high-crime areas and quicker responses. I support the men and women of HPD and will push for the city budgets, management and oversight needed to ensure that our officers have the training, tools and resources they need.

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

The residents in District 6 are frustrated by delays, cost overruns and lack of transparency on the rail project. Accurate and timely information must be presented by HART to the City Council when requesting funding or support. Realistic project timelines must be set and then met. Information should be available when requested by City Council members who seek to understand the future implications when asking for approvals.

As a former banker and commercial analyst, I want to see more details and have realistic numbers with data and proof points to back HART’s projections on construction costs and timelines. I want to fully understand rail’s operations and maintenance cost information from DTS. The taxpayers deserve to have a fully functional project delivered at the costs being presented and not be asked to fund this project with no end in sight.

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?

Immediate improvements are needed at HPD to regain public trust and mitigate the increase in crime across Honolulu. This process starts with leadership. Recruitment, retention and training will be their immediate challenge, so the council must work closely with the mayor and HPD leadership to ensure a plan is in place to address these issues and get back on track.

Residents want action. Criminals must be arrested and prosecuted, not let right back out on the street to commit crimes again, requiring HPD officers to arrest and re-arrest the same individuals. With staffing so tight, the new police chief will need to bring solutions to the table that will work in this environment and, at the same time, rebuild HPD’s staffing for the future and improve its working relationship with the public.

The Honolulu Police Commission is appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council. The mayor needs to assess all current appointments and find the most qualified people with ethics and integrity to serve on the commission. The City Council must also closely examine all city appointments to provide the proper checks and balances that will improve commission selections. Transparency, integrity and improved communication must be prioritized.

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 would not recommend an increase in property tax rates in Hawaii. We are already overtaxed, and inflation is causing economic strain on many families, especially those with fixed incomes.

I believe the solution is not more taxes but to reduce waste, corruption and inefficiency in government. There are many areas we can improve on before seeking tax increases. This same line of thinking should be used when considering any tax increases.

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

Residents in District 6 believe we are not as safe as we once were on Oahu and are concerned that we prioritize public safety before it worsens. We see what’s happening in other cities across the country that have allowed crime to increase unchecked.

A good first step would be to ensure that sidewalks are safe to walk on and that people are not being pushed into the street due to homeless tents occupying the sidewalks. We must adequately maintain and police public parks, beaches and restrooms to be usable and safe for the public.

An action plan is needed to assess and address the homeless in public spaces who pose a safety risk for the general public.

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?

I have a background in community engagement, which means listening to others, hearing their concerns, and then working to find solutions. Solutions will come if you have the will and the skill to seek them out, and if public servants truly prioritize the public’s interest at all times.

Over the last several years, emergency powers have been protracted and abused, which helped some and hurt others. Government should be serving all the people, not just admiring the problem, and then following up by doing what they say they will do. I value good, consistent two-way communication and will make that a priority in office. People are frustrated with Band-Aids and want solutions that address the root causes of the issues.

I am running to bring solutions and not Band-Aids. I understand that there will always be differences among people — but there are also a lot of common local values that we can agree on and build upon to bridge gaps, solve problems and make progress.

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’s confidence will be restored when there are good, ethical people in office who are representing them and not their own careers or special interests. This means voting out career politicians and supporting people with experience, a track record of honesty and ethics, and who serve the people, not the machine.

Put the right people in the right seats, and we will start seeing change and improvements. I will always support transparency and honesty in the City Council’s processes and operations.

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?

Do we have the will to solve this problem, or have we given up? I refuse to ignore or accept homelessness as a way of life in Hawaii. We need to refocus on the needs of all Hawaii’s residents and their challenges to determine what is fair and compassionate overall.

First, build more affordable housing, and diversify our economy to provide good jobs and careers for people so they can make it here. Second, it is not fair that people can sleep on public sidewalks — that is not safe, clean or compassionate for anyone. Next, we need to address the chronically homeless with drug and mental illness issues and do more to get them into treatment.

Mental health professionals understand that the severely mentally ill and chronic drug users do not have the capacity to make good decisions in that state — intervention is needed. Homeless service programs need to minimize their impact on the public and private spaces around them through better management or decentralization. Lastly, the city and state need to work together to repatriate the homeless that travel to Hawaii simply because it is easier to be homeless in our beautiful state. Hawaii is not their answer.

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?

This issue is important to the entire island and will be hotly debated. I am hopeful that a mutually agreeable solution can be found. First, I would like to see an audit of city refuse management to see if the practices and policies can be improved while we look for new landfill sites. Are we doing all we can to reduce impact, and can we manage the increased impact as tourism re-emerges?

Regarding site selection, Act 73 and federal land exclusions further constrain options and make the site selection even more challenging. My primary concerns are public health and safety, community impact and cost. Public health should always be prioritized, and recent testimony from the Board of Water Supply indicates that all six currently proposed sites threaten our drinking water. That is unacceptable.

One suggestion for community impact is offering an incentive to the community to accept the site. There are certainly many needs in these areas, including road and school improvements that may be welcomed by the community in exchange for the landfill’s impact on traffic and litter. All impacts would need to be mitigated. Nevertheless, this decision should not be forced on any community; public testimony will be critical and welcomed.

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.

Let’s examine a community assets approach to problem-solving. Often, the government is asked to address an issue, look at the deficit or need and try to fill it. If you flip this around, you should be looking at not just the need, but the assets of the community you are helping to see what or who you can draw upon and then support those existing resources.

For example, an area in District 6 that has impressed me is Papakolea. While they are a community with needs, I also recognize the assets that lift that community up — generational homes, closely connected families, neighbors who watch out for each other, and a powerful, independent mindset with great pride in people and place. With those assets, Papakolea took on the role of steward of their community, tackling homeless crime and working together to establish the Papakolea Community Development Center and Kula No Na Po’e Hawai’i.

Community leadership and commitment win the day and strengthen the body and mind of its current residents and future leaders. A community asset approach can be similarly deployed in many neighborhoods to address challenges and provide independent, customized solutions that the communities welcome, strengthen networks, and achieve results.

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