Name on ballot:
Texeira, Alan Kekoa
Honolulu city council – District 3
Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of Honolulu City Council Chair Ikaika Anderson
Previous job history:
Community Director, Honolulu City Council District 3; Chief of Staff, Office of Hawaii State Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English
Previous elected office, if any:
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Oahu.
Throughout the last 12 years, I have lived and breathed my role as a public servant, fully devoted to building strong relationships within our community to enact policy that benefits our residents first. I am the only candidate seeking this office able to get to work effectively on Day 1. My capacity as Deputy Chief of Staff for the incumbent district Councilmember has provided me a unique perception and understanding of the process enabling me to bring tremendous departmental and charitable services to our district in addition to numerous community requested Capitol Improvement Project (CIP) funding.
While there is certainly overlap between city, state, and federal issues, issues at the municipal level have unique complexities. My many years at the Honolulu City Council and Hawaii State Senate has provided specific knowledge necessary to produce effective policy at the city level. Successful construction projects have multiple layers and require a thorough understanding of both the process and the community. The various relationships I have built throughout the levels of government, the private sector and the community, would allow me to be effective in pushing legislation through both the Council and Administration.
What is the most pressing need for the people you seek to represent, and what can you do to address that need?
The single biggest issue for our Windward O‘ahu community is the same as it is for the entire City and State: getting our residents back to work.
I continue to work with Councilmember Tommy Waters and the Council’s recently established Committee on Economic Assistance and Revitalization, which he chairs, to ensure CARES Act money is appropriately directed to those in need. This committee is essential in guiding the ways through which Honolulu’s recovery initiatives, such as the Individual COVID-19 Hardship Relief Program and the Small Business Relief and Recovery Fund, will be deployed to help our residents and small businesses. I am the only candidate who is already on the job working with the City Council to get our economy back on track; and I am ready to step onto the Council to finish the job.
As Hawaii faces the COVID-19 pandemic, what more should county government do to protect residents’ health?
While the City does not have many of the resources to directly address public health emergencies, there are some things that the City can do to assist the State. Particularly when it comes to enforcement of travel-related restrictions. The City should be aggressively pursuing all operators of illegal short-term rentals and working in conjunction with law enforcement agencies and State health agencies to ensure they are aware of these illegal operators and their guests.
But more generally, I believe that in order to protect our families during the reopening process, we need to maintain COVID-19 related safety precautions in our public places, expand COVID-19 testing, including testing of airplane passengers prior to travel and invest in infrastructure for timely contact tracing and quarantine services. We also need to continue with enforcement of the rules for visitors, such as quarantines.
We should also consider clear protocols for voluntary placement of COVID-19 patients who cannot self isolate at home to a quarantine facility. This includes use of specific hotels, safe cleaning criteria for those hotels to protect workers, eligibility criteria for admission, and wrap around services (e.g. medical check ins, food delivery) for patients. Increase test based surveillance of high risk populations and living situations. This includes healthcare workers, hospitality industry workers, shelters, prisons, nursing homes, schools and public housing. From now on, our State and County Disaster preparedness planning should include pandemics and recovery scenarios.
What should county government do to help residents who have been economically affected by the pandemic?
Above all, County government operations and services must continue. This is the best approach to provide the services and programs necessary for recovery. The new Council Committee on Economic Assistance and Revitalization was created to ensure CARES act money is appropriately directed to those in need and is vital in identifying recommendations on how best to use $387 million received by the City via the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020. Committee meetings and testimony determine ways to improve the County’s recovery initiatives such as the Individual COVID-19 Hardship Relief Program and the Small Business Relief and Recovery Fund which has helped numerous residents and small businesses alike.
Government needs to implement policies that broaden the social safety net: expanding paid leave and health benefits, establishing a living wage, and putting people into affordable homes.
We also need to look at our regulatory environment and find ways that we can help support alternative industries. One issue I would like to pursue, is a comprehensive revision to our Land Use Ordinance (LUO). By and large, this is a document that is over 30 years old and has only undergone piecemeal changes while our population has grown exponentially and the entirety of how we live and work has undergone major changes. How can we expect new industries to emerge when the very core of how we regulate land hasn’t changed in a near-generation?
We could amend the LUO to allow in these recovery times, additional housing by increasing ADUs, temporary homeless shelters, low cost modern day boarding houses or residential hotels (solo living), zoning changes to allow specific home based businesses, speeding up permitting processes for pop up businesses, and granting leeway in shifting business plans to new models such as alcohol takeout and additional outdoor seating.
Should public worker furloughs, pay cuts or downsizing be used to help the county deal with lower tax revenues and higher expenses during the pandemic? Why or why not?
Many of the City’s functions are funded by special funds so, outside of real property taxes, a decline in one area of revenue doesn’t necessarily have system-wide impacts. Similarly, reducing expenses in one department doesn’t yield across-the-board savings. So we need to take each situation on a case-by-case basis.
More importantly we have to remember that the vast majority of services that the City provides truly are core services and we have seen, in years past, the long-term impacts of aggressive cost-cutting for the sake of scoring political points. But cost-cutting, especially at the municipal level, should always be very judicious and approached with a specific objective rather than simply for the political value of “cost cutting,” as any disruption to these services can have an adverse impact on our economic recovery. To the extent possible, we should seek to maintain services levels – especially during an economic downturn.
Given that the City’s main source of unrestricted revenue is Real Property Tax monies, the greatest opportunity to realize increased revenue – short of simply increasing the tax rates – is to foster new development and redevelopment of older, blighted, areas which, in turn, lead to increased property values. We can also look to ensure that the fees for services provided truly do represent the costs of those services. While the City cannot, legally, profit from the services it provides we should ensure that services are not excessively or unreasonably subsidized to the detriment of the general public.
The recent pandemic has shown us that telecommuting does not necessarily impact certain service or productivity. Now that the City has had real-time experience with telecommuting, I think we should take a closer look at making telecommuting or flex-schedules a permanent option for certain departments. Reducing the need for office space and the associative costs of utilities and providing parking will, ultimately, reduce our operating overhead.
What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness?
First and foremost: government needs to encourage the development of new housing for low and middle-class residents. Our highly restrictive land use controls have failed at both protecting the character of our communities and supporting the availability of housing for our residents. Secondly: government needs to move far more quickly to provide shelter to those currently experiencing houselessness. We also need to look at amending some of our land use controls to allow for shelter sites on various properties as far too often we’ve found that such a use is pre-empted.
Apartment housing availability can be expanded by increasing density within existing apartment zone categories and in the urban core—A-1, A-2, A-3, and AMX zones— to alleviate some of the challenges in building apartments. Eliminating parking requirements in the urban core would assist with bringing down costs across the board, and increasing incentives, such as reducing water, sewer, and park fees, for affordable housing projects would make housing more accessible.
We also need legislation and budget provisions that streamline and simplify the Department of Planning and Permitting’s (DPP) permitting process. Given that 30% of the price of a new residential unit is attributed to compliance with exactions, regulations, and codes, this would lower project costs, making housing more accessible for our local families, and increase the supply of housing at all price points. Hiring additional staff, moving more components of the permitting process for virtual inspections in certain circumstances would help facilitate this.
Finally: we need to acknowledge that the simplest and most-effective way to quickly develop affordable housing is through direct government subsidy. The traditional model of inclusionary zoning, through which a development is required to set-aside a portion of housing for certain income levels, has shown to be ineffective as a primary solution. The State and the City should be working together to identify areas with the highest need for new housing and make that investment.
Do you support or oppose stopping construction of the rail project at Middle Street? Please explain.
Oppose. Rail is a key component of our City’s transit oriented development plan. Once completed, it will connect Oahu’s Communities, decrease transportation time and costs for local families, and allow for surrounding local businesses to thrive. It will also make our neighborhoods more walkable and allow for new housing projects in the urban core and along the rail line.
There is no question that the project costs are of a concern, but the question has become whether or not to fund rail but, rather, how to manage cost escalations and how best to fund construction. A failure to meet the terms and conditions of the Full Federal Grant Agreement (FFGA) of a 20 mile and 21 station elevated fixed rail guideway system would result in the City having to repay the Federal Transit Administration the more than $800 million already received and putting off completion of the project will only result in higher construction costs down the line.
Moreover, per the terms of the FFGA, failing to complete the project will jeopardize future federal transportation dollars for projects within the State of Hawaii. But what most concerns me is the question of what to do after such a termination? We’re left with an incomplete transit system, continued congestion and housing projects which have limited value since they’d lack the necessary and supportive transit infrastructure. I am committed to supporting the completion of the rail transit project to, at least, Ala Moana.
Do you support or oppose using new city funds to cover any shortfall in HART’s construction or operating costs? Please explain.
Oppose. With that said: while it makes for great political rhetoric to make blanket statements, our elected officials need to give careful consideration to the impact of voting on something solely for the sake of political points. I do not believe that we should be opening additional sources of City revenues to the rail project but, for example, if it comes down to a few million of city dollars to match tens of millions in federal funds (such as is the case with many grants) then that is something that needs to be carefully considered. But, most importantly, we need to ensure that the decisions we make today benefit the future generations.
Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.
Honolulu has one of the finest police departments in the nation. HPD officers are highly trained, decorated and are regularly recruited by other municipalities. At the end of the day: employees of law enforcement agencies are public servants and they should be upheld to the same level of public scrutiny as any other individual in public government. As a first step, we should provide Honolulu’s Police Commission with greater authority and oversight over the police department and its personnel. Compared to other municipalities, Honolulu’s Police Commission has a very limited oversight role and that must change. A safer process for complainants, to eliminate fear of reprisal, including an independent and outside body to investigate complaints and take corrective action against the department and its employees should be established.
What can county government do to mitigate the affects of sea-level rise on Oahu?
When it comes to trying to mitigate the effects of sea-level rise there are virtually no solutions which do not involve adversely impacting current landowners. But we need leaders who will commit to doing what is right for future generations even if those changes aren’t politically popular. Some examples of proactive measures to address the impending effects of climate change can be found in work legislation introduced and recently passed by the Council. Working closely with the newly established City Office on Climate Change, Sustainability and Resilience (OCCSR), Bill 25 (2019) was passed to implement the State’s Energy Conservation code to meet Hawaii’s clean energy goals. In collaboration with the OCCSR office, various town halls were held across the Windward side to provide information on climate change and determine focal points to address. Legislation is being proposed to establish sea-level rise exposure zone rules and updates to our shoreline setbacks to ensure that whatever new construction proposed will not, in the near future, be competing with the public for beach space. Similarly, our core urban infrastructure plans need to take into consideration the potential for sea level rise and these need to be “living documents” that allow for accurate and regular updates based on scientific data.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
I am running for office because I have had a lifelong desire to help and improve our community. I realized early on the importance of political participation and representation and dedicated my education and volunteer time to public service. As a public servant your everyday job is to help your community address daily issues and set appropriate policy to improve life for the generations yet to come. I do not see this as a job, but an opportunity to live my dreams of helping to improve our communities for the future generations and giving back to the ‘āina that raised me.
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