West Oahu commuting woes must be the pre-eminent issue in Honolulu City Council District 1, stretching from Ewa Beach and Kapolei up through the Waianae Coast. So perhaps it’s apt that the final contest of a dizzying election year has generated a veritable traffic jam along the city’s political onramp, with 14 names on the ballot.
One candidate stands out as best equipped to finish out the remaining two years left in Todd Apo’s term. Although some of his opponents have neighborhood board experience, six years of service in the state House should help Bob McDermott to hit the ground running at Honolulu Hale. He merits the Star-Advertiser’s endorsement in the race, which ends with mail-in balloting Dec. 29.
McDermott formerly represented the House district that encompasses lower Pearlridge, Aiea and Halawa, a seat he surrendered in 2002 in an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Congress. Shortly after that race he and his family moved to Ewa Beach, and the former Marine officer turned his professional attention to his post as executive director of the Navy League, a civilian organization that supports the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines. In the past year he also has served as a member of the city’s Civil Service Commission.
If there is a weakness in his resume, it is that McDermott has flown below the radar within his Leeward community. Even for someone with an established grassroots track record, District 1 is diverse, taking in a host of neighborhoods ranging widely on the socioeconomic spectrum. But that certainly is not an insurmountable hurdle; in fact, McDermott is on the road to surmounting it, studying the issues and providing some thoughtful positions:
» Rail transit plans should be allowed to proceed as soon as possible to enable his district’s long-sought transportation alternative, and the redevelopment of the urban corridor along its route.
» On housing problems, the city should step up the direction of the homeless from city parks to shelters that can provide medical and social services and referrals that these families need; affordable housing is best provided privately through partnerships enabled by the city’s new housing office.
» On solid-waste management, the expansion of HPOWER should be expedited and new technologies that further reduce the waste stream should be pursued.
McDermott was elected as part of the House Republican minority; his reputation for a collegial approach there should serve him well in the rough-and-tumble arena of the Council.
Although Council members are nonpartisan, his actions will be informed by a conservative outlook that can draw battle lines in another context. For example, his published views expressing skepticism of climate-change science last year sparked some criticism. But it’s unlikely that such issues would factor into much of the Council’s routine business.
On fiscal matters, a conservative view would be helpful in these challenging times of budget shortfall and furloughs, mandated but costly sewage-system upgrades and property-tax reviews.
The next two years will give voters time to test McDermott’s resolve in bridging the divergent interests of his district and in tackling the city’s knottiest issues. He deserves a chance to prove it to them.