The Civil Beat Editorial Board Interview: Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi - Honolulu Civil Beat

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Civil Beat Editorial Board

The members of The Civil Beat Editorial Board are Chad Blair, Patti Epler, Nathan Eagle, Kim Gamel, John Hill and Matthew Leonard. Opinions expressed by the editorial board reflect the group’s consensus view. Not all members may participate in every interview or essay. Chad Blair, the Politics and Opinion Editor, can be reached at

Preparing for wildfires is the top priority for Honolulu, but so is bringing down crime, providing affordable housing and hiring workers. There’s also a solution in the works for the landfill.

Editor’s note: The Civil Beat Editorial Board and reporters spoke on Tuesday with the chief executive of the City and County of Honolulu. This interview has been edited for length and clarity, to eliminate material used in other recent stories such as fire mitigation efforts on Oahu, and in possible future reporting. Mayor Rick Blangiardi began by explaining his decision to order an assessment of the island’s emergency preparedness.

I think in just the last three years we’ve had Covid, we’ve had Red Hill and now we’ve had the Maui wildfires, all of which were unimaginable. And you sit there, and in this leadership role with all the other things that you came into office to be responsible for, these are mega, unimaginable events in what you do. Obviously, we felt Covid here, we felt Red Hill over here — we will feel Maui here as well. But that is a seminal moment as a leadership challenge.

And you sit there and you know that we’ve got high grass all around this island, that we have haole koa trees, you know that we’ve been living on luck, if you will, for a long time.

And you also know you can’t just go out and cut the lawn, cutting high grass. Listening to people who do that and in fire prevention, they want to create firebreaks, they want to do that with gravel and things like that. And that’s complicated to even implement because you have to get permits. And there’s iwi (ancestral remains) to consider. There’s a lot of stuff. It’s not easily solved.

So at the very least for us, we want to plan. We want to be as very thorough as we possibly can. It’s about policy and figuring out what our policies are. It’s about planning, it’s about our operational capabilities.

I would say this: I have great confidence in our first responders and the leadership of those first responders. In that context, in my short time in office, we have a new chief of police we’ve gotten to know right from the get go.

Not that I had to do anything with Joe (Logan) going in. I did have something to do with (Fire) Chief (Kalani) Hao. I recommended him to the board. Chief (Manuel) Neves was going to retire and I had a chance to at least do that. Jim Ireland we hired (for Honolulu Emergency Services) and I can’t say enough about Dr. Ireland. He’s been incredible to work with. And then on top of that as you know we took EMS away from the state because we wanted better control.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, with Communications Director Scott Humber at left, met with the Civil Beat Editorial Board on Tuesday. Top of mind: ensuring Oahu is prepared for wildfires. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

So when I look at the leadership, first and foremost when it comes to a planning and preparation, and I look at Hiro Toiya, who is our emergency management systems executive, I know right there in the combination of them, all of them are very detailed and very thorough, and that gets into our overall operation and planning and what we would do in emergency operation systems. And so in that regard, I’m just going to continue, we’re just going to build on that.

One of the things that’s really important is you can’t operate in silos and we have to involve the state with us. We have to involve DLNR (the state Department of Land and Natural Resources). We have the Board of Water Supply sort of on our side, but they’re going to have to be there. Clearly, our Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency is part of that, along with our first responder teams.

At the end of the day, you can’t over prepare for this. The one thing that hit me about Maui is, is that it could happen here. And that is very sobering. You say, “Wow.” So what happened there was unimaginable. And the responsibility for us is to make sure nothing like that could happen here. And that doesn’t mean we couldn’t be faced with some real major challenges, but we want to be as prepared as possible.

I know you’re well aware of the mistrust, the public anger that has been expressed since August the 8th. Much of it is directed at your counterparts in Maui County — the mayor, the chief of police, the former emergency management person that stepped down, others. And there’s a lot of civic discourse that has become uncivil lately. How do you deal with that — restoring public trust? Because I know that’s something that you’ve been emphasizing during your administration.

You do it through action and deed. I mean, look — I feel terrible for all of them and the situation they’re in. And, you know, I’m not in a position to judge anybody or for even any speculation. I won’t do that. This kind of situation where lives are truly on the line, you just can’t be over-prepared. You pray to God you’re not going to have to go there, but you got to put everything you can into it.

This kind of (wildfire) situation where lives are truly on the line, you just can’t be over-prepared. And so what this has done for us right now is for us to go back — and not on a temporary basis — and just look at everything we possibly can. And then what could we do that hasn’t been there? One of the resources — we’ve already had a couple of meetings with the military on this — is their capability and what they might be willing to do to assist us.

The fires in August destroyed much of Lahaina, where the focus is now on rebuilding. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

Case in point, we have two helicopters that can drop 100 gallons each but they can drop like 10,000 gallons. And we’ve looked at that and we’re having conversations with them (the military) about that.

We’ve already met this week twice with Congressman Case. You know, there’s Washington money. What we can get, what we can’t get, I don’t know. But at this point — because you’ve got to write grants and do all of that — I don’t want to predict that. But I think, again, that’s an effort we need to go all out on to see anything and everything we can possibly do. Like I said, this is a wake-up call. It’s the complete devastation.

I listened to somebody yesterday say they’ve never felt wind like that in their lives. I’ve always felt vulnerable out here in the ocean. We’ve mostly had to deal with water events and earthquakes. In this situation, understand the power of winds — we’ve all stood in the wind here and how dry things are.

And then the likelihood of events like this on an ongoing basis is not just what happened here in Hawaii. We’ve all looked at the wildfires across the coast, the mainland and even in Canada. And it came all the way down to the air in New York City was not even breathable. You look at these things and you recognize they have no boundaries. And so just because it’s happened to Maui doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen here. It definitely could. So it’s just how ready can we get?

Have you thought through what you would do personally as mayor if this did happen on Oahu? Surely you must have thought, “Oh my God, if this happened here, the first thing I would do would be …” Because we see wildfires on Oahu.

Sure. We had a fire in Waikiki two days ago. Killed two people at an apartment building. No, I mean, I think at that point it’s not you alone. I’ve been in an emergency operating center enough to know that. It’s making sure everything is working right. You know, have we got our roads, we’ve got escapes, what kind of effort are we making with the police department? If we shut the power off do we have enough water?

I mean, you go on and on. It’s like you’re doing everything you possibly can because I think you recognize the capability of things escalating beyond your ability to deal with is what you’re up against. And you’ve got to overcome that as fast as you can.

But it sounds like you see yourself as being right smack in the middle of it, making sure everything’s going right.

Absolutely. But it wouldn’t all be about me. In any situation, I said a few moments ago, about preparation and planning and policymaking right now about no silos — it would be the same thing. And I’ve been in emergency operating centers where you are having consultation, making the best decisions you can make. You own that responsibility. It ultimately it comes down to you. But Hiro’s a very brilliant guy. You’ve got a lot of good resources there to work with.

But you’re there — let’s put it that way. You’ve got to be there, and I’ve always been there in the past. And I think if anything were to happen, I like to think I’d be there again.

What’s your leadership view on any communication with the public?

I think you have to be present. You have to be felt. You have to be heard. You have to be accessible. You need to be there. I don’t know how else I can say it.

This again is to find no fault with anybody before us. The way the emergency operating center in the Fasi (Municipal) Building has been set up, we’re going to arrange our communications very differently so not everybody’s crowded in that emergency operating center. It’s going to be up on a couple of floors.

We will facilitate 18,000 units. The city will. I’m going to say it like I said we’re going to run the rail in July.

All of you (the media) are going to have complete access the whole time. We recognize it’s not just talking to the media. You’re the conduit to the public. You are the conduit to those people who are out there in fear wondering (and) need to know. And media in general (needs) to be able to communicate to people. That is fundamental to me.

One thing that happened that was really awful in Lahaina is that the exit route was blocked off and people were trapped. We have that same problem on Oahu roads, that people would have a very difficult time getting out. One thing that there are, though, is military roads that people aren’t allowed to go on that are alternate escape routes. Do we have a relationship with them that, in the event of an emergency, those access roads could be subjected to a limited amount of time to get people through?

It’s exactly what we want to talk about, that’s for sure. On the West Side, it’s exactly the kinds of things you want to talk about. I mean, look, if the alternative is that people are going to burn to death, come on. Like I said, this is a chance for us now to learn from something that was unimaginable.

We’ve had a lot of issues with fires already in Honolulu, and there’s been a lot of fighting over what we should do to protect lives. There’s been a big fight over the water sprinklers in high rises. And now, as new research comes out, we know that water sprinklers can, in addition to saving the units and the people there, prevent a high rise turning into a big torch. Have you given any thought to pressing for faster enforcement on the water sprinkler rules?

Firefighters attempted to put out the fires from the balconies on the park side of the Marco Polo building. Honolulu is struggling on placing fire sprinklers in older high-rises due to the cost. (Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat/2017)

That got a lot of pushback, as we both know. And everybody was arguing cost and not arguing the value. A lot of buildings are not as high as the newer towers. A lot of the newer towers were built with sprinkler systems pretty much since 1981.

But I know from personal experience, when I was on the Red Cross board, installing smoke detectors in these places on the Ala Wai and stuff, that’s all they had. But I think that that discussion comes up again. It just appeared to be so cost-prohibitive for people. It was sort of on the same lines as they were talking about what would it take to put all the power lines underground. And that’s sort of cost-prohibitive too. Yet at the same time, would that in the ideal world be the good thing?

I think I’m going to be willing to try to fight on anything that we have control over to try to maximize, because I think you want to save lives. But I know that the math doesn’t work. That’s the problem with that. The people who are living there can’t afford that. I wish it was an easy answer.

The other thing that was really notable that’s happened in Lahaina is the buildings that were built to a higher fire code survived and the old ones were destroyed. You can absolutely see in what era each building was built and what kind of fire protection system it had. There’s been a big push on Oahu to loosen building codes.

Not when it comes to fire. I can assure you they’re not when it comes to fire. We’re not building fire traps. I’m not going to do that.

I’m really fascinated by all of the pushback that some folks are getting — like say Nani Medeiros and some of these other folks like the Department of Education in public meetings. The charitable view would be people are angry. But I also think there’s just a faction now in the political sphere that they just want to get up and just yell and scream and disrupt these meetings. How do you deal with that? How do you have a civil discussion that’s aimed at moving policy forward?

I can only talk about myself. I can tell you that we did 11 town halls in 10 weeks. I’ve probably done another seven or eight without the whole team, probably about 20. And when we go into those, not unlike today, they ask anything you want. We’ll try to answer to the best of our ability.

You just have to be prepared in those situations. You have to know what you’re talking about. I’m not suggesting other people don’t. But that’s all you can basically hope for. If people are going to be that upset, that irate, then that’s just part of that experience. And you can only take that so far.

And so far, we haven’t really ended up in anything like that personally. But we’ve also tried to be very direct with people and we’ve been a little bit confrontational, some of it, too, because there’s another side to it. And that’s the best I can tell you when it comes to crowd control. You’ve got to know what you’re talking about.

I think if you’re really trying to be sincere with people and really being decent and you’re being straightforward, I think that there’s a certain comity to that from the standpoint of being able to deal with people on a face to face basis. I’ve always had that as a principle. I learned that a long time ago.

Mayor Blangiardi believes that he has a strong emergency management team in place, but leadership in a crisis starts at the top. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

I was in a military prep school after high school, and we had a guy named General Allen Shipley teaching us about leadership. This is circa 1965, Bullis Prep, Silver Spring, Maryland. I’m an 18-year-old kid and he tells us the effectiveness of a leader rises and falls (and) directly correlates with your ability to deal with people on a face to face basis. I’ve never forgotten that principle. And that’s always been my style.

At this point, how much have you, as an administration, been reaching out and talking to professors and scholars?

I haven’t really talked to any professors. That’s an interesting idea. I think first and foremost, when you talk to the experts, I’ll tell you it’s about education. And so we’re going to conduct a public education forum. We actually have some really well-produced spots that the fire department just did. They have not been seen on the air. I want it over everything — social media, I want the tracks on radio, whatever we can do, to print. We’ve actually been collecting from California, other places where they’ve had to deal with severe damage there, spots that they put on. I’m not looking for a Smokey the Bear spot. We’re looking for spots where (there is) really good content in messages that educate, inform and help prepare people.

And we’re going to do it all out. I’m asking for an unprecedented commitment from the media folks in this town to help us with that. Because part of this is not about blaming government or some academic who has a solution. It’s how well-informed people are and how engaged they want to be and what they can do to help. And so we’re going to raise the level of awareness and the level of conversation on this very topic. And that may even help with the level of resistance.

And I think it needs to be more prevalent in people’s minds.

What are you hearing in the town halls, Covid or the fires aside? What has been one of the bigger topics?

Well, I can tell you one of the really big surprises. There were several common denominators, but one of them had to do with our parks and recreation and where people play, what kind of resources we have. And it’s not even across the board. I was surprised at how little is really on the West Side, and especially given the population shift out there, in the ways of pools and gymnasiums. There’s nothing on the North Shore. We’re talking about possibly doing a pool out in Kahuku, and they brought their water polo team, so it was all kind of a lot of fun. But you would think — because the coastline neighborhoods are surrounded, the ocean’s right there — but swimming pools are very different than ocean.

So then in parks and in the maintenance of those parks and the bathrooms and the cleanliness of that — all of that stuff came up a lot. You know, if you stop and think about it, we’re so blessed to live in such an ideal climate. Being outdoors 12 months a year, it’s a pretty reasonable thought. And a lot of people don’t live in large places. And so where they go out to play, whether it’s just with their immediate family themselves, is a big deal. And it really got impressed upon us and (they) obviously appreciate it, the different things that we were doing and things that they would like us to do. And, clearly, if we did nothing else, if we could build a couple of gymnasiums.

I want to get the pool done (in Kahuku). I think that’s one thing we’re going to get done but have not been talking about, but I know that that would mean a lot to that community. You could feel it when we were in Laie. It was really passionate. Those kind of things are exciting because it’s productive. Some of the stuff that we listen to is like, “Why hasn’t that just been done already?”

The last editorial board we talked with you about job vacancies, it was a big issue. There were about 3,000. Are you making progress?

Last year was the first time in years we were net positive at the end of the year. Again, the city historically was losing 600 or 700 people a year and hiring like 500. The math wasn’t working. Honestly, I mean, it took 180 days to get hired.

We interviewed 350 people. We hired I think 30 out of that and we had more people in the queue and we’ve now got it down to where we’re under 100 (days to hire). Now, I wanted it down to 90. But we make offers at the job fair, (something) the city never did. And we’re trying to fill those positions. Right now we have 2,440 civil service vacancies at the end of June of 2023.

Look, the city is its human capital. So you got to care about that. Somebody’s got to pay attention to that, and the city has been sort of indifferent. No wonder that they had attitudes. You got to make it more of people feeling appreciated, valued, challenged, growth, opportunity, career opportunity. And you’re trying to help them every way you can — investing in technology, investing in other people, providing good leadership, making decisions. It’s all that.

Rail, Skyline, HART. You wanted it up and running by summer, by June 30. How’s it going and where’s it going?

Well, first of all, we have the FTA back as a partner, and that was a big win for us — getting them to agree to an amended full-funding grant agreement and shortening the length of the service from 20 to 18.75 miles with no financial penalty and getting their money back into the mix.

The full $1.5 billion? I know there was around $750 million (released).

They ordered $744 (million). They put in $800 million, they went to $744 million. They haven’t given the city any money since 2017. And it was costing us financing charges to ongoing construction, substantial financing charges to borrow money to construct.

So that’s back.

Yes, they’re back in. And so even being able to work in concert with them on this is good and we get them to come to the agreements — that was big. Getting the rail to run on June 30 operationally is good, and the stations, and we had a lot of people sample it. I know it was for free and right now we’re at about 3,600 riders a day. We’re hoping to get between 5,000 and 8,000 by the end of the year.

new construction Skyline Train commuter Mokauea Kalihi transit station public rail
Workers continue construction on Mokauea Kalihi Skyline station in August. Blangiardi says ridership will increase as stops at the airport and Middle Street open. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)

I think it’s transformative in that regard, that people have a lot of habits, but anybody that I’ve been exposed to so far that rides on it likes it. Aloha Stadium was not the most ideal endpoint terminal. I think things will change dramatically. We’re going to be at Middle Street — we’re already there with the guide rail, we’re just building the stations. We’ll be there in the summer of 2025.

I think once we do that, we’re going to get through two big employment centers — both Pearl Harbor, which we’re talking with the military to get more and more people right on it, and we’re going to get to the airport. So that will help. Coming down the Dillingham corridor is going to be probably the biggest piece of construction, that’s already on the way. No small challenge to build a bridge to downtown Honolulu, which is in essence what we’re doing in the final stop. But I think we’re already starting to see some stimulus with TOD (transit-oriented development), and we’re going to do anything that we can possibly do to help stimulate that as well. And so we’re operating. We’re operating and it’s operating well. And I’ve ridden on it now four or five times. And it’s efficient. It’s just going to take time.

The landfill in Oahu, if I understand correctly, you’ve got an extension. The Board of Water Supply says a new one cannot be built over these aquifers. That has long been an intractable problem. With Waimanalo Gulch approaching capacity, are there any hopeful signs on the horizon there?

The landfill’s a very complicated deal. We came in and we did the land study, and we put together a really good committee and they evaluated six sites, and they (the board) said no to all those sites. In the middle of all that (the) Red Hill (fuel leaks) happened.

The water on Oahu is underground, aquifers, and there’s nowhere to go. So the only place to go is with the military, because I don’t think we’re going to get ag land.

So, we’ve asked just for two more years. We have promised that it’s not going to be on the West Side. We have something we’re working on we feel really good about it, and we’re hoping that we can pull this 50-pound rabbit out of a hat.

It involves military land?

It involves military land.

Okay. Gotcha. Thanks for that scoop.

Talk with the military.

Okay. You’re running for reelection. That hasn’t changed — you had a fundraiser the other day. Two issues that always come up for the mayor of the City and County is housing and homelessness. They’re separate, but they’re united. If you do have an opponent next year, I’m sure someone’s going to say, you know, it’s still $1 million to buy a house on Oahu and they’re still homeless.

Well, I’m really encouraged by what we’re going to get done in housing. I’m very encouraged on both. You know, you got to give us some time. I said earlier, “The days are long and the years are short.” We’ve had two years and nine months. We had a little bit of Covid in the way, and I’m making excuses, but it takes a while to do this.

Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill Dirt Truck
The Waimanalo Gulch landfill on the West Side of Oahu is nearing capacity. Could the military help facilitate a new site? (Ku‘u Kauanoe/Civil Beat/2021)

So you walk in and the housing department for the City and County was two people — an assistant and one person. And there was no game plan and there were plans on the shelves that were never executed. So we needed to figure that out. And the first thing that hit me was we didn’t have people at the table who even understood the ground rules.

So we have now, in bringing over Denise Iseri-Matsubara and Kevin Auger, top people from the state, Craig Hirai, all well schooled in HHFDC (Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation), all the rulings, the 201H stuff (housing program rules) that we were not consistent with, the fact that we get the private activity bonds down for the first time in 23 years, the fact that we found money there in the affordable housing fund that was just languishing. We did that.

So I’m going to tell you right now on the record, we believe over the next five and a half years, including what we’ve done already, but it took a while to build some momentum: We will facilitate 18,000 units. The city will. And yeah, that’s a stretch. But it’s possible, and about half of those are going to be rental and the other half are going to be for market sale, because all the research says it’s about 50-50 — it’s a little bit like 56-44, but it’s like that.

We will build rental units. If we’re successful with Bill 7 (allows developers to build bigger apartments with certain breaks), Bill 1 (grants incentivizing affordable housing construction) getting some real traction, which we’re doing, which has taken a while now and starting to make things happen. Some of that could go as low as 30% or 40% AMI (area median income). Some of those kind of rental places could be that.
But for the most part it’s 80 and above 100, I think, rented.

The problem we have right now with building housing, just to give you a perspective, it’s the interest rates. When the interest rates were, say, 4.25% to today it’s 7. It’s like about a quarter of a million dollars difference. And you had net effective buying power, right? So we have to work through that storm. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to be facilitators in getting stuff built and what we’re doing in policy changes.

One of things that we got done with the private activity bonds was we did our first rehab projects, which was Maunakea Towers (near Chinatown) and Jack Hall (Waipahu housing), which are going to keep them in perpetuity for the next 60 years affordable. But we want to do new construction, as we’ve been able now to manage to keep all the monies on Oahu. That’s not what used to happen before.

So we’re doing things like that, private activity bonds, and we got $135 million a year on that. And we’re going to keep that on Oahu. We’ve got the affordable housing fund. We will be giving another distribution this year. Where I can make policy decisions — and this has been hard to do because we’ve got to get DPP’s buy-in and whatever else — but whether it’s a policy or administrative decision, now we’ve had due discourse, we’re going to make it. So stay tuned for some strong decisions which are going to just facilitate better building.

So look, you’re right, there’s outmigration because of price of housing. We get it. (But) we’ve really got the right people who are passionate, who have the knowledge. We’re putting resources behind it. We’re changing legislation. We’re working effectively. Not good, not good to have (Gov. Josh Green’s) emergency proclamation blow up, and everything else that’s gone on.

But we’re going to stay our course because we weren’t reliant on that. The day that we did the press conference I congratulated the governor and said it’s a new era, but there’s a lot we have to figure out about it. We did our analysis. We like what we’re doing. We’re going to stay there. But it would be nice to see if they could have had other stimulated stuff going on. But of course I know what we’re going to get done.

So, then, directly to homelessness.

Josh (Green) and I were talking when he was running for office (about) building that mobile crisis unit and court. You’ve got to be able to do that. You’ve got to be able to pick them up. You’ve got to be able to stop the 911 calls going to EMS and also sending a police officer there. I think in 2022 there was over a million 911 calls and 75% of them were social work calls.

So we got that going. We were all set to make some major announcements when Maui happened with the governor. It really has to do with the fact that the state Department of Health, they have access to money and resources for wraparound services. We can strategically acquire facilities.

Maui is a seminal moment as a leadership challenge.

We’re doing cool stuff. We’ve got to get people into places. But, you know, this “permanent housing solutions” is the buzzword. It incorporates being able to provide services, and we need to be able to do that and have the state pay nonprofits to help us provide that, and we can provide facilities. So we’re negotiating to do that. The shelter thing didn’t work and it doesn’t work. And we have a long way to go.

I’ve been out in Waianae a lot lately. Those people living on the beaches, it’s a cultural thing. They’ll tell you they’re houseless, but they’re not homeless because they belong to that community. And there’s a lot to deal with there. And they seem happy — some of them, not all — but the people right now that we can deal with in the urban core that we can literally pick up, as long as we can take them somewhere, provide services and help them medically and try to help them — we’re going to do that.

Okay. Next, public safety, because you did emphasize that that was something you wanted to discuss.

Well, here’s one of the things I will say about public safety, because we came in in a pandemic and public safety was on everybody’s list.

We knew because of what had gone on with the police department and the prosecutor’s office, that on the criminal side of things we looked really bad. And I come in and I have an interim chief in Roddy Vanic, but Steve Alm gets elected (city prosecutor), and one of the things that I really felt we needed to do for the public’s sake and building trust was to create a good relationship there between my office, the chief of police and the prosecutor. And so we have a good relationship now between (Chief) Joe Logan, Steve Alm, myself and even with the Judiciary in what we’re trying to get done.

Honolulu Police Department HPD officer vehicle cruiser car suv stock file photo
The Honolulu Police Department continues to face recruitment challenges, but Blangiardi said more cops on the street are needed to control crime. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)

If you look at the arrests, we’re in Waikiki with the geographic restrictions. Some of it we still have enforcement issues, which is why I’ve made it down there with private security as well, to try to help keep people safe. But we’re doing everything. Crime is down. The only thing that’s up is the nuisances for noise and stuff. Because we’re arresting, we’re doing more of that. Like I said, the statistics are off everywhere.

So if you wonder where I’m coming from, I’m old school, okay? Zero tolerance. I want you to feel safe, I don’t care what time of the day you walk down the street. It ought to be like that. And we’re making good success. I was just in Chinatown with the cleanup we did the other day. They still have issues there. In the places where we have concentrations of businesses and people, bad guys go because there’s opportunity there and that’s why we’re focused there. But that doesn’t mean we would have taken an eye off elsewhere.

Meanwhile, we’re trying to build up the police department, and I don’t want to fool around when it comes to that. And if everybody wants to hold that against me for being that way, okay, but I’m on the other side of “defund the police.” I’m on the side of “We have to make everybody feel safe here.” I’ve been really public about that. It’s not a political position. It is to me Job One. People want to feel safe. Especially, we have an aging population, and we don’t need any more horror shows with tourists. And some of the stuff, when it happens, how do we react to it? We’re trying to squash it. That’s my message.

What do you think the police department’s biggest issue is? Is it Chinatown? Is it the West Side? Is it gambling? Waikiki?

It’s kind of all of the above. In a way. I’m not trying to be cute here. As far as concentration areas, we did prep out seven security cameras. We’re going to get 45 more. If you walk in that police station, we finally got them to open up the blinds and everything else, and we’re going to clean it up as well. You can see a new monitor board, and these computers, these screens, these cameras are terrific. And every one community has five different shots. It has audio to it. It may not deter crime per se, but it’s going to catch a crime. And we’ll get the other 45, which we are just waiting for, to come in. That’s going to really help.

But we’re doing everything. Crime is down. The only thing that’s up is the nuisances for noise and stuff.

We know who the bad guys are. I got all their rap sheets. I’ve seen them. They’re chronic. I mean, we know who they are. Trying to keep them in jail is the hardest thing. And so drug deals go on. We’re not naive to that. What we’re trying to do the best we can against that. I think we know there are gaming houses and the game rooms and that stuff. And it’s just all of it. I think if we have more numbers and they’re supported, we you know, at the end of the day we’re a big city, but we’re a small place.

And how do you think the police department is now doing when it comes to transparency and accountability?

I tell them all the time we need to be transparent. We need to be. We need to make sure we are. Right now it’s still more of a discussion that I would like. But I do want to yield, if you will, to the power of the police chief.

But at the same time, I’m a constant reminder. We need to reassure the public. You need to be out there. We need to have a spokesman, the police department. We’ve been over this time and again, it’s not good when something happens and the community doesn’t know and newsrooms don’t know. And I’m going to win that battle one of these days.

Read this next:

Beth Fukumoto: When Good People Are Driven Out Only Bad People Will Be Left

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The members of The Civil Beat Editorial Board are Chad Blair, Patti Epler, Nathan Eagle, Kim Gamel, John Hill and Matthew Leonard. Opinions expressed by the editorial board reflect the group’s consensus view. Not all members may participate in every interview or essay. Chad Blair, the Politics and Opinion Editor, can be reached at

Latest Comments (0)

PS Need to address the fire concerns on Diamond Head, full of brush, with all homeless living there and starting their own little fires. In SA HTA said FTA hadn't yet committed

Concernedtaxpayer · 1 week ago

Glad he recognized that the Waikiki substation has to unlock their doors, open up & begin enforcing the laws.Physical foot patrols work. Current commander there testified against all community noise bills at city council (all councilpeople voted for) & the legislature. Plenty of excuses but pickpockets thrive with crowds gathered. Ask the hotel valets. Nobody talks to them. Glad he hired extra security. Wish we had gotten the police chief who went to Big Island. Too much of same, same with our lackluster guy. Pools & gyms are so important to keep youth busy & off streets. Past administations really let us down on those...some closed for several years and/or not open with regular hours. He had a bad start with his choice for DPP who didn't do anyone any favors (with exception of his wife, whose company got two exceptions for short term rentals between Kuhio & the Ala Wai). There should be more if hoa associations want them. Sprinkler issue is too costly for most condo owners. Rail is a very sad joke. Understand that he had to "support it" when running but now appears to be all in with HART gang & their pathetic achievement announcements. FTA hasn't approved. No need for celebrations

Concernedtaxpayer · 1 week ago

A very interesting and informative interview to the credit of both Mayor Blangiardi and Civil Beat. Hopefully readers will share and discuss the delivered information with neighbors and friends. Thanks for keeping the lines of communication open and honest in this time when a large part of the "TV News" is devoted to entertainment, advertisements, and hyping information on non-substantial issues.

DEGardner · 1 week ago

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