The next occupant of Charles Djou’s former City Council seat will inherit oversight of a diverse swath of Honolulu that includes the crown jewel of tourism, Waikiki, some of the islands’ richest neighborhoods, homeless people mingling with tourists, traffic congestion and fears of rising property tax rates.
Djou gave up his seat when he was elected to fill the remainder of Neil Abercrombie’s congressional term. Former police Chief Lee Donohue, who is finishing Djou’s Council term, is not seeking election, leaving the 4th District race to seven candidates.
For the city, which has seen its operating and capital improvement budget rise to $3.5 billion from $1.5 billion in six years, the district is a proven moneymaker, Djou said.
"My old City Council district provides as much real property tax revenues as the districts represented by Councilmen (Todd) Apo, (Romy) Cachola, (Donovan) Dela Cruz and (Nestor) Garcia combined," he said. "So whoever is the city councilman for the 4th District has to be very conscious about how much money the city is spending and how much is specifically financed by the 4th Council District."
Candidate Stanley Chang, 27, a lawyer, is focusing on core issues such as roads and sewers as well as homelessness.
"Let’s take the politicians out of the maintenance decisions and put the engineers in charge of a comprehensive and well thought-out plan," Chang writes on his campaign website. "The city needs a long-term maintenance plan for our streets, and we need to implement higher quality standards for construction projects. Technology can help, too, like an iPhone application that allows users to take a picture of potholes, stalled vehicles, and other city issues and upload it in real time, with the GPS location, to the city."
Chang calls East Honolulu home to Oahu’s fastest-growing area for homelessness.
"Unless there is somewhere for the homeless to go, enforcement-based bills like the bans on shopping carts and tents will be ineffective," he said. He agreed with a proposal to establish "safe zones" for homeless campers.
Rich Turbin, 65, former president of the Hawaii State Bar Association, has been endorsed by the state police officers union, SHOPO. He led the Waialae-Kahala Neighborhood Board for 14 years.
Turbin believes that Honolulu’s rail project "should not blight the beauty of our island landscape," he writes on his campaign website. "Such (a) rail system should extend to the University of Hawaii, Waikiki and Honolulu Airport, although it may take a few years. Incentives to ride the rail should be given in lieu of driving cars. … Bikeways should be integrated into our ‘high capacity transit’ and bus system and any transit station should have the capacity to store bikes."
He told the Star-Advertiser that the city should pursue technologies such as laser arc, gasification and methane energy to turn garbage into energy and avoid further filling Oahu’s landfill.
Shari Berinobis, 62, served as a legislative aide for former Councilman John Henry Felix in the 1980s.
"I spent nearly a decade working as a legislative aide in District 4," Berinobis told the Star-Advertiser. "During that time I worked tirelessly with area residents to provide them with a safe, secure place to live."
Each of the district’s seven "unique communities" has its own concerns, she said, including homelessness in parks and streets; farmers’ land issues in Kamiloiki; the future of Waikiki’s Natatorium War Memorial; and seaweed overgrowth in Maunalua.
"Oahu has seen tax collection rise 46 percent over the past four years," Berinobis said. "Sewer fees just went up 18 percent and are expected to increase 3 to 5 percent every year until 2035. We cannot afford to continue to raise taxes and other fees and be able to remain living in Hawaii."
Carl Higashi, 46, served on Maui County’s salary and wage commission, among other community and civic activities.
Higashi is a loan officer at the Hawaiian Electric employees federal credit union. "As a loan officer and business banking officer for over 21 years, I will apply my experience and business education to help our government and economy be financially sound," he told the Star-Advertiser.
He wants to halt the city’s rail transit project, then "pursue other cost-effective solutions to our traffic problems." He said the project "will not benefit District 4 and will have astronomical financial ramifications for future generations."
Higashi said he opposes a fireworks ban, saying abuses by a minority of people "should not determine the rights of the majority." He advocates stricter enforcement of existing fireworks laws.
Makani Christensen, 30, a retired Marine Corps captain, Iraq and Afghanistan veteran and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, now owns a business called Keawe Adventures and created a nonprofit group called Keawe o Kekai.
He told the Star-Advertiser that "our biggest problem is overdevelopment without proper environmental and zoning regulations. We need to ensure that there is adequate drinking water, sewer systems and space to accommodate the growing population."
Christensen said he opposes a fireworks ban. Regarding homelessness, he said, "I will support organizations that aid and assist the homeless in getting back into the job force."
Frank DeGiacomo, 41, has served on the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board, among several other civic and community organizations.
"I have been a preschool teacher, parole officer, deputy sheriff, Greenpeace canvasser, Friends of the Earth researcher, politically organizing around the country," he told the Star-Advertiser.
He believes worker furloughs are the biggest problem facing District 4.
"We furlough over 8,000 employees, cannot afford lunches for kids in Summer Fun and raise the money on the backs of poor people in a recession," he said.
DeGiacomo believes that fixing the city’s sewer system and waste-water treatment plants should be the city’s top capital improvement projects instead of rail.
Jeremy Low, 47, lost his job as a research analyst for the state Department of Labor’s Office of Language Access because of budget cuts, he told the Star-Advertiser.
He won a 1992 Republican primary for state Senate, served on the Kuliouou-Kalaniiki Neighborhood Board and worked for state Reps. Gene Ward, Barbara Marumoto and Mike Liu and was an intern for U.S. Rep. Cec Heftel.
"I am a fiscal conservative, and I want you to know it," he told the Star-Advertiser. "I oppose tax increases and I support tax cuts. … I will make sure your tax dollars are not wasted on bad projects."
Low opposes a complete ban on fireworks, and said the focus should be on enforcing existing laws. "Community members must also be willing to file complaints against people using illegal aerials," he said.
The top two candidates advance to a runoff in the Nov. 2 election, unless one of the candidates receives a majority of votes on Sept. 18. County elections are nonpartisan contests.