Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 General 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 Matt Weyer, candidate for Honolulu City Council District 2, which includes Waikele, Village Park, Royal Kunia, Wahiawa, Mokuleia, Waialua, Haleiwa, Pupukea, Sunset Beach, Kahuku, Laie, Hauula, Punaluu, Kahana, Kaawa, Kualoa, Waiahole and Kahaluu. His opponent is Makua Rothman.

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

Candidate for Honolulu City Council District 2

Matt Weyer
Party Nonpartisan
Age 34
Occupation Attorney/planner
Residence Waikele

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

Waipahu Neighborhood Board (three terms); Prior Law for Youth Empowerment, board member; Young Lawyers Division, board member.

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

We must solve our housing crisis. The median price for a home has surpassed $1 million, impacting everyone. Our youth are moving back in with family or moving away for better job opportunities. Families are moving away because they cannot afford a home, and our kupuna find themselves unable to watch their grandchildren grow up as they are burdened by paying more taxes as the appraised value of their homes increases.

As an affordable housing planner for the city, I see what we can do if we focus on housing that families can actually afford. Far more can and should be done. We can help complete current and future housing projects by investing in the needed infrastructure. We can also speed up the permitting process by filling the many vacancies in the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP), using pay differentials so that we can stop losing DPP staff to the private sector, and implementing self-certification for specific permits.

Increased staffing would also allow us to enforce our vacation rental laws better, pushing more units back into the market to increase supply and lower demand and costs. We must act before more of our families are priced out of Oahu.

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

We need transparency, financial accountability, and to complete rail as approved by the voters. Transit-oriented development, where we build homes and communities around our rail stations, is essential to responding to our housing crisis and creating a more sustainable future.

As I go door to door, many families have shared with me their frustration with long commutes and having to raise kids through the rear view mirror. Maximizing density in the urban core along the rail can support affordable housing units, saving families tens of thousands of dollars per year in housing and transportation costs while protecting critical agricultural and preservation land across the island.

Mixed-use development with multimodal transportation will also help create vibrant communities for housing and local businesses to thrive and improve the quality of life for our families.

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?

As a prior domestic violence prosecutor, I know that public trust in our criminal justice system is critical, for a fair and transparent criminal justice system is a bedrock principle of our society. Our police officers are our neighbors, and they put their lives on the line every day to serve our community. We must thus ensure that they have sufficient training and support to ensure their success. Implementing body-worn cameras was a significant step in increasing transparency and accountability, but the city can do more.

Under our Honolulu City Charter, the Honolulu Police Commission has the authority to exercise oversight over the police chief. In fulfilling its role, I believe the Police Commission must ensure that the chief fulfills his or her obligations to our community and the department’s workforce.

I see value in increasing community engagement through community policing, where our officers are on the ground and building trust in the community. I further believe that the city should expand mental health and substance abuse programs to meet the needs of our community better, lessen the burden on our officers not trained to be social workers or provide support services and reduce crime through getting people the support that they need. By increasing more partnerships, we can move our community forward.

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? 

Our local families, particularly our kupuna, are already burdened by increasing taxes as the appraised value of their homes increases. We must do everything we can to lessen the tax burden on our residents, including by shifting the burden to out-of-state investors.

As recommended by the Oahu Real Property Tax Advisory Commission, a vacant home tax is a viable option to consider, for it would generate revenue and push some of the 70,000 vacant units back into the housing market. Simply put, homes should be for housing. This increase in supply would help meet our growing housing demand and help level out and lower home prices.

To ensure that the law does not have unintended consequences, we should discuss exemptions, such as for kupuna who may be living outside of their home due to medical needs. By having a community-wide conversation, we can ensure that the laws and policies we pass actually work for our community.

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

Honolulu is safer than many other cities, but families across our island are alarmed by the recent increase in crime.

We must ensure that no community receives subpar services by establishing a police substation on the North Shore to fill the gap between Wahiawa and Kahuku.

We must also ensure that our first responders are adequately paid and trained to both protect our community and return home to their families each night. As a former prosecutor, I know we could better protect our community by increasing access to mental health and substance abuse treatment. We want to ensure that everyone exiting the criminal justice system receives the oversight and support needed to keep them from committing another crime.

Improving our community’s quality of life also requires access to safe and maintained sidewalks, roads, bridges, parks, and other community and recreation spaces. Sufficient infrastructure is also necessary when disaster strikes, and we need to invest in stream maintenance, flood mitigation and shelter space to protect both life and property in our district. By creating a full-time position to seek out and apply for federally funded grants, we can obtain more funds for these needed infrastructure projects.

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 firmly believe that we can no longer operate in silos, for this only comes at a cost to our community. Our housing and cost of living crisis are driving families away, and our climate crisis is eating away at our shorelines and infrastructure. The new generation stepping up to lead understands that solving these complex issues will require collaboration with and input from the community.

My biggest motivation in running for office is to solve the problems our city is facing and ensure that our community has a voice in that process. As I have walked door to door over the past several months, I have engaged our neighbors in conversation. I have listened, and I will continue to listen once in office.

I have come to see that we have much more in common than what separates us. By putting down our phones, talking face to face and working with our neighbors and community, we can break down barriers and deliver for our district.

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?

Unlike the Legislature, the council is bound by sunshine law and other restrictions that increase transparency. Given that the council operates year-round, there are also more opportunities for public oversight. While outside the control of the City Council, I fully support campaign finance reform to limit the ability of money to sway and influence politics.

At the city level, I believe that corruption and pay-to-play become more difficult when you have more people involved, meaning we need our council member to actively engage the community for input and direction. As a candidate, I have walked door to door to talk story with our neighbors and made myself available by giving out my personal cell and email address.

I want our community to be involved, and I want to include you in the process. Residents do not have the time to be at the council every day. Still, I hope to build a relationship with our community where I can listen to your concerns, keep you updated on what is going on, be your voice in the process, and make sure you know when we need to activate.

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?

We know how to solve homelessness, but the question is whether we have the resolve and willpower to do it. We have thousands of folks who experience homelessness each year due to economic reasons. They may be your cashier at Foodland or a student in your class; they may be someone who recently lost a job, divorced, or had a medical emergency. We can meet these neighbors’ needs by solving our housing crisis, ensuring that there is housing that Hawaii families can actually afford.

In my role in the city, I have worked with some of the most dedicated and passionate homeless service providers, and I understand that they also desperately need more support and housing options. We need to increase support services and stabilization beds for those needing services, including mental health and substance abuse treatment.

We also know many experiencing homelessness want to stay in the community they are from. This means that each community must brainstorm and discuss what services may look like in their community. The models will not look the same for every area, but Kahauiki Village, a plantation-style supportive housing community near Keehi Lagoon, exemplifies what can be created when we work together.

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? 

We need to have honest conversations about better managing our waste, including increasing recycling and composting, by supporting a commercial composting facility that can be revenue-generating and supporting local composting projects. We must also look at how we can improve the recycling of our construction waste.

With all of the recently identified possible landfill locations seeming to pose a risk to our water resources, it seems that the best option for now is to remain at Waimanalo Gulch as we begin the multi-year process of reducing waste and finding a suitable next location. After the Land Use Commission decision on Waimanalo Gulch, millions of dollars were poured into bringing the facility up to code and ensuring that waste was handled properly.

Today the site is largely used for ash from H-Power, and it has many years left before reaching capacity. We should leverage that as we finalize our long-term plan. With that said, it is clear that no one community should bear the full burden of managing Oahu’s waste.

10. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws fin 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.

As we emerge from the pandemic, we should invest in regenerative economies that will create jobs, economic opportunities, and stronger and more resilient communities. We must dramatically increase what is made and produced in Hawaii.

We have talked about it for years, but the recent pandemic has revealed the fragility of our local economy. When the pandemic shut down tourism, we saw the ripple effect throughout our community. Businesses that relied on visitors were shuttered, our local farmers and ranchers took a hit, and we struggled with basic needs such as how to feed our families.

According to the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT), replacing just 10% of the food Hawaii imports would shift some $313 million annually back to local businesses in Hawaii. By increasing the amount of locally made products on our store shelves, versus just having them at our hotels, the harm from fluctuations in tourism would not hit as hard. By investing in local jobs in health care, technology, renewable energy and the arts, we can also provide a more diverse and resilient economy and prevent our youth from having to move away to pursue their dreams.

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