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 Keone Simon, candidate for Honolulu City Council District 8, which includes Waimalu, Newtown, Pearl City, Seaview, Crestview, Waipio Gentry, Koa Ridge, Mililani Town and Mililani Mauka. The other candidates are Charmaine Doran, Ron Menor, Dion Mesta and Val Okimoto.

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 8

Keone Simon
Party Nonpartisan
Age 53
Occupation Terminal operator
Residence Pacific Palisades

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

Pacific Palisades Community Association, board member.

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

There are many things that are hurting our state and communities such as crime, homelessness, the lack of affordable housing, political corruption and soaring inflation. The biggest issue we are facing is cost of living.

Hawaii is already one of the hardest places to make a living and has among the highest cost of living in the U.S. This is making it harder for the working people of Hawaii to make ends meet.

On the county level we can minimize taxes (not raising them), look at where all our tax dollars are going to see if they can be better utilized to benefit the community. I believe that if the state and the county can work together to not raise taxes on individuals and businesses and be mindful of how we spend our taxpayer dollars and be transparent in it we can help alleviate some of the burdens that are hurting the families of our state.

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

I believe the rail with all its problems needs to be finished to Ala Moana and in the future to UH but without increasing taxes on the people of Hawaii. The rail would alleviate traffic during the UH semesters if it was connected from UH West Oahu, to Leeward Community College and eventually, even if by dedicated student bus lines, to the University of Hawaii Manoa.

It would be a travesty to not finish what was started and it’s disheartening to find out that one of the biggest benefits to our community was removed. I am committed to working with HART on finding an alternative for the Pearl Highlands parking garage and with the Department of Transportation Services to maximize public transportation in my community.

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 the accountability of local law enforcement? Are you satisfied with the Honolulu Police Department? How about the Honolulu Police Commission?

I stand with the Honolulu Police Department. Yes, there has been some corruption in its ranks over the past few years and those bad actors need to be removed and face consequences. However, I believe the majority of the officers and leaders are doing a good job and sacrifice their lives daily for the safety of our community.

HPD has a shortage of 320 police officers and that is unacceptable. It is impossible to keep our officers and community safe when there is such a shortfall of manpower. I will do everything as a council member to read through the upcoming Department of Human Resources audit and implement real change to address the glaring city vacancies across many departments. I support the Police Department and I’m committed to assisting where I can to fill their department as quickly as reasonably as possible.

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 am not in favor of raising taxes for the local residents of Hawaii. Although, I am willing to tax nonresidents/vacant homes more.

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

Compared to other parts of the country, Honolulu was ranked in the top 20 safest states to live, according to a survey done in April 2022. However, I am still concerned for the safety of our officers and communities with the large vacancies in the Honolulu Police Department.

I’m also concerned with bills being passed in the Hawaii Legislature that decrease or diminish criminal consequences or accountability. At the Honolulu City Council, our job is to bring safety to our community.

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? 

Hawaii is not like the mainland, the people of Hawaii were raised with aloha to love and respect each other even with different views. We need to go back to showing aloha even though we have opposing views.

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?

We need term limits and new people in office to get fresh new ideas, which will make it more difficult for corruption to take root.

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?

First, we need to stop other states from sending their homeless here. Secondly, we need to provide more housing and care for those who want to be helped. Thirdly, mental illness has been plaguing the homeless for years, we need to provide them the help they need.

I envision a facility that has shelter, food and medical care all in one place similar to Punawai Rest Stop.

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? 

If Waimanalo Gulch can be expanded safely without affecting the homes in the area then expand it.  Finding a spot to create a new landfill away from existing housing would be ideal so it will not bother the community or water table.

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.

We rely too much on tourism and it showed during the pandemic.

I believe we should be farming on a large scale to provide food for our communities at a fraction of the cost. This will also help with jobs, along with an export to help keep Hawaii afloat if we ever have another pandemic again.

We need to be self-sustaining because you never know when hard times will come and we need to be prepared to take care of our families and friends. Tourism is great but we need other sources of economic revenue.

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