comscore 2020 Election: Greg Thielen | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Election

2020 Election: Greg Thielen

  • Greg Thielen
Name on ballot:

Greg Thielen

Running for:

Honolulu city council – District 3

Political party:

Non-Partisan

Campaign website:

www.gthielen.com

Current occupation:

Home Builder

Age:

52

Previous job history:

Owned my own Business 1991 – Current

Previous elected office, if any:

No answer submitted

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Oahu.

The credibility and accountability of our City Government is at an all time low. I am running for City Council because I believe I can help turn this around. In my professional and personal life, I have demonstrated a high level of integrity and commitment towards broad community benefit. I have a deep connection and long history with the Windward community. I was born and raised here, I have run my own small business here, I have volunteered here and now I am raising a family of my own here. As a small business owner, home builder and advocate for housing, I have keen insights into the inner workings and failings of our City Government. I believe these combined experiences and background make me well qualified to represent the people of Oahu.

What is the most pressing need for the people you seek to represent, and what can you do to address that need?

The economic fallout from Covid 19 and how we deal with it is the single biggest issue we as an island face. The most important thing we can do is put people to work. There are many workers that were formerly in tourism related jobs and many of those jobs are not coming back anytime soon. The City needs to embark on a significant CIP investment mainly focused on infrastructure improvements in the urban core to promote housing growth where we want it. While smaller in nature we also need to invest in greening our economic recovery via projects such as tree planting as well as trail and park maintenance and construction. Finally we need to ensure City Government itself is not a hindrance to the process. This will require us to streamline our procurement process and fix the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP). Building permits need to be processed reasonably and efficiently as they are in most parts of the Country. We also need DPP to practice effective enforcement to stop illegal construction and vacation rentals.

As Hawaii faces the COVID-19 pandemic, what more should county government do to protect residents’ health?

Clearly some of the emergency orders, such as mandating mask wearing, need to remain in effect. In addition, the City and State should collaborate on increasing testing capacity and ensuring contact tracing is ready and able to proceed should cases spike. We need to make sure those that are most vulnerable are able to shelter in place and still receive food, medicine and other critical resources. We are going to be living with Covid-19 for quite some time and we all need to learn how to manage that risk.

What should county government do to help residents who have been economically affected by the pandemic?

Residents need jobs and in many cases the jobs that will be available will be in different fields than they are accustomed to. This means investing in worker training programs. As a Youthbuild instructor I taught young men and women a Pre-Apprenticeship Construction Training or PACT curriculum. This experience enabled me not just to share my technical knowledge of construction, it also allowed me to offer guidance as an employer on what they could do as individuals to bolster their chance at a successful career. We need to expand these types of training opportunities. Not just in construction, but also in the type of workers needed for greening our economic recovery. We also need to focus on entrepreneurial and agricultural incubators. Diversifying our economy and improving food security should be a bottom up growth rather than relying on government to figure out a top down approach.

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?

We owe it to ourselves to be honest and acknowledge everything is on the table. I do not see any level of Government getting through this without cuts. That being said I think we need to get creative on how we deal with these problems. As an example I would like to reform DPP so that it earns income by processing permits in an efficient manner and stops settling violations for pennies on the dollar. I also think we need to do an across the board analysis of what City departments do we need to have as opposed to what is nice to have. What functions are we trying to do at the City that are repetitive and better left to the State or Federal Government.

What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness?

Homelessness is a single category, but within that community there is a wide range of problems causing homelessness and a wide range of solutions to the problems. The one thing all of them have in common is a lack of access to affordable housing. The primary solution to that problem is building more housing. As a home builder and housing advocate I have a hands on working knowledge of the impediments to building more housing. The secondary part of this problem is making sure existing housing is being used for local families instead of illegal vacation rentals. While most of these units will not be “affordable” it is an important step to increasing the overall supply of housing for the people of Oahu. In addition we need to be prepared for the cuts to social programs we all know are coming. My small business was an inaugural sponsor for the Family Promise fun run when it started in 2012 and I have continued every year since. I believe our Non-Profit sector is going to need to build alliances with for profit entities to continue to function in the years ahead. These agencies provide the boots on the ground in dealing with the homeless population.

Do you support or oppose stopping construction of the rail project at Middle Street? Please explain.

I have three unwavering commitments in regards to rail. First off, I will work to restore the forensic audit the current Council rescinded. The idea that the Federal investigations will provide us the same information is a smoke screen. The people of the City and County of Honolulu deserve an accounting from this project. Secondly, I will not vote to approve use of City funds for rail construction. The rail was to be built with funds from the GE surcharge and Federal dollars, not City money. Thirdly, the final phase of rail construction is expecting bids that include a 30 year contract for operations. The review of these bids and decision making on them must be left to the new Council and Administration. Beyond these points I believe any and all options are on the table for discussion. Dealing with this project in light of Covid-19 and the ensuing downfall in tax revenues requires us to consider everything.

Do you support or oppose using new city funds to cover any shortfall in HART’s construction or operating costs? Please explain.

I am adamantly opposed to using City funds to pay for Rail construction or HART’s operating costs. This project was sold to the public with the commitment that this would not happen. More importantly, the reason it is now happening is due to gross incompetence in managing the project up to this point. Any construction project I have ever been involved in has a budget. When costs exceed budget we do what is called value engineering. We modify the project to meet the budget. In the case of rail, we simply keep modifying the budget to meet the project. Build at any cost is not an acceptable answer.

Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.

I think when we discuss reforms to the police we need to start with acknowledging several points. On Oahu our police force, like our society, is more diverse and accepting of diversity than what we are seeing on the mainland. Also I believe we currently have strong, effective and honest leadership in Chief Ballard. That being said, the recent example of the Kealoha Case shows the need for stronger oversight exists here. I will support reform that increases citizen oversight and involvement. This will be done incrementally and with respect for the Officers serving the public. I support evolution, not revolution.

What can county government do to mitigate the affects of sea-level rise on Oahu?

I think step 1 is to focus on mitigating climate change. At a County level I am a strong believer in the importance of tree planting and would like to see a specific set aside within the CIP budget for this purpose. In addition we also need to prepare for the eventual hurricane we are bound to experience. The State hurricane shelter system is in poor shape, so we can’t rely on that. The County should embark on hardening physical structures, especially recreation centers, that can serve as shelters in emergencies. In regards to specific sea level rise issues, we need to make sure future infrastructure investment is above inundation zones. We also need to explore Miami’s example of requiring new buildings to elevate their improvements when located in an inundation area.

Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?

Having the name Thielen carries both the perk of recognition and the weight of expectations. I am very proud of my Mother and Sister for how they have served the public and I consider them both role models. While I do respect them, I am not them and I am not asking for their votes to be mine. I believe if the voters take the time to learn about me, my background and my commitment to the community, they will see that I am eminently qualified to represent them and all of the Windward side on the City Council.


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