Wednesday, November 25, 2015         


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Oshiro and Okino vie for chance to face Republican Kong Nov. 2

By Gene Park


It's more than civil unions that divide the two Democratic candidates for the District 33 state House seat.

Incumbent Rep. Blake Oshiro, who has represented the Halawa, Aiea and Pearlridge district for 10 years, is being challenged by City Councilman Gary Okino, a 33-year city government veteran who has to leave the Council because of term limits.

The winner of the Sept. 18 primary will face Republican businessman Sam Kong on Nov. 2.

Okino said he would seek to reshape the Legislature by eliminating the House of Representatives altogether, which he said would save up to $50 million a year.

He said having two houses in the Legislature slows down the lawmaking process, with each having their own agenda. "You will always have compromised legislation, if you have legislation at all," he said.

Oshiro pointed out that the City Council has had its share of stalled legislation, including the long battles over rail transit.

"He's trying to make it more like a glorified City Council," Oshiro said. "That's not a good idea."

Oshiro said he brings some balance to his service, citing his private-sector work as a lawyer who represents businesses and communities.

He also differs with Okino on the controversial development at the former Kam Drive-In site. Oshiro said he has heard many residents raise concerns about possible traffic density and that the proposed mixed-use development would "change the character of the area."

"I really want to make sure the community's voices and concerns are listened to," he said.

Okino said he considers himself "more open-minded" to the development. He prefers development in an urban area, rather than encourage sprawl. It is the same reason he supported rail, he said.

"We have very limited land use. We cannot stop population growth," Okino said. "What you need to do is make better use of the urban land so you don't have to sprawl out into the country."

Okino opposes civil unions, unlike Oshiro, who was the lead author of HB 444, the civil-unions bill that was vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle.

Okino said people who consider civil unions an issue have already made up their mind. Both candidates said they feel civil unions might not play a large role in area voters' minds.

"When I'm going door to door, for a handful of people it's an issue that is largely determining their vote," Oshiro said. "But mostly people's concerns are about the economy, about jobs and education."

Kong, owner of Aiea Florist, said he believes his years as an Aiea entrepreneur give him a deep understanding of the area's needs.

His main concerns are the property crime rate in the area and jobs.

"It's the overall economy of our situation that's probably forcing their hand," Kong said of theft in the area. "My solution is to make sure we don't raise taxes this session and we get the economy going again. If more people are employed, they'll have less time to rob."

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