Name on ballot:
Honolulu city council – District 7
Chief of Staff to State Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English
Previous job history:
Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Kamehameha Schools
Previous elected office, if any:
Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board (2017-Present)
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Oahu.
I am the only candidate in this race with real working experience at all levels of government. In my current role as the Chief of Staff to State Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English, I’ve had the opportunity to work collaboratively with partners from various levels of government on many of our state’s most pressing issues
While I may not have years of experience at the city level, I’m no stranger to the issues affecting the residents of Council District 7. In my role as a member of the Neighborhood Board, I’ve been able to develop a strong working relationships with city leaders and other community partners that has enabled me to effectively tackle long standing issues such as private roads, illegal dumping, abandoned properties and public safety.
I’ve also worked to restore responsive leadership in our communities by utilizing innovative technologies to keep our neighbors connected during these unprecedented times. In addition, I’ve personally visited over 12,000 homes across the district to meet with residents, listen to their concerns and work with them to find solutions.
I also have leadership experience working with community and civic organizations such as the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, Hale O Na Alii O Hawaii and the Democratic Party of Hawaii.
My unmatched experience and service to our communities at-large will allow me to hit the ground running on day one.
What is the most pressing need for the people you seek to represent, and what can you do to address that need?
Access to affordable housing and quality of life continues to be the most pressing issues for residents in my community.
With rail and other proposed plans for transit-oriented development (TOD) being discussed for various areas in my district, I will fight to ensure that access to that is truly affordable for local families to remain at the forefront of these discussions.
Many residents are also concerned that these new developments will drive up the cost of living in the area and force them out of their communities. As a member of the City Council, I will not only fight to ensure that these projects do not alter the fabric of our district, but I will ensure that residents have a voice and say in what decisions are being made for our community.
We have an opportunity to reimagine and re-envision a better Hawaii for our keiki. This includes changing the way we do business. By reforming the way government operates and building trust with the community, I believe that we can emerge stronger and more resilient.
As Hawaii faces the COVID-19 pandemic, what more should county government do to protect residents’ health?
There needs to be better coordinated communication between the counties, state and other relevant health agencies. During these times, people are looking to government for accurate information and guidance. When government is unable to effectively communicate important information to the general population, these communication “hiccups” occur and it causes much confusion and turmoil.
For example, in early May, the governor ordered that certain businesses and retailers would be able to open May 7 as part of his seventh emergency supplementary proclamation. But the City and County of Honolulu and other counties had already set a later date for reopening. This “hiccup” and lack of communication between the State and the counties left many businesses scrambling for confirmation on when they can actually reopen their doors.
Effective communication during times of crisis is critical not only for information sake, but for the health and safety of all residents.
What should county government do to help residents who have been economically affected by the pandemic?
I believe that the City and County of Honolulu is doing a great job of helping residents who have been economically affected by COVID-19.
They’ve allocated a good portion of the $387 million in CARES monies that was received for grants that will directly support families, small businesses and assist parents in paying for childcare.
The City should also continue working with the State and our Congressional Delegation to leverage more monies from the federal government that can be used to subsidize loss revenue for families and local businesses.
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?
I do not support public worker furloughs, pay cuts and downsizing as a way to deal with loss of revenue and higher expenses during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Public workers contribute greatly to our State’s overall economy and a cut to public worker salaries would lead to a significant drop in gross domestic product over the next couple of years.
More importantly, furloughs and downsizing of public workers will also have a negative impact on many of the essential services that the city offers.
What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness?
Hawaii is currently facing a homeless epidemic. Not only do we have one of the highest rates of homelessness per capita in the country, cost of living and lack of affordable housing make it difficult for many families to survive here in the islands.
If homelessness really is as a major priority for the city, it needs to be reflected in the city budget. For example, instead of investing $43.6 million for a partial redevelopment of the Blaisdell Center (as proposed in the mayor’s original budget), those monies should instead be used to help with the development of affordable housing or for the expansion of mobile hygiene centers, mental health treatment and addiction rehabilitation facilities.
We also cannot continue with our traditional “one size fits all approach.” Putting our houseless populations in shelters or other “housing first models” won’t solve the issue completely. It may work for some, but many suffer from issues such as drug abuse and mental illness that require specialized treatment and rehabilitation; and putting a roof over their head won’t address the root of the issue.
Therefore, I believe that we need to expand specialized outreach services and better support community partners and other local agencies who have the skillset and ability to effectively combat the issue.
Do you support or oppose stopping construction of the rail project at Middle Street? Please explain.
I oppose stopping construction of the rail project at Middle Street.
Stopping at Middle Street would erase about a fourth of the line and eight of its stations. Not only would we be left with an expensive and stunted rail line that fails to reach the urban center, but it could also mean fewer riders and leave us, the tax payers paying millions of dollars more each year to make up the difference for those lost fares.
Furthermore, failure to honor the full funding grant agreement with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) may jeopardize future federal funding for projects in Hawaii.
Do you support or oppose using new city funds to cover any shortfall in HART’s construction or operating costs? Please explain.
I am open to exploring ways that city funds can be used to cover any shortfall in HART’s construction and/or operating costs, but I do think that it will be very difficult to find “new funds” during this economic crisis.
Raising property taxes to cover these short falls is not the answer either.
The State Constitution puts counties in a difficult position because the only taxing authority that counties have complete jurisdiction over is property taxes. Everything else is at the discretion of the State Legislature.
Therefore, if funds are needed to cover HART’s shortfalls, the city may need to work with the legislature to find alternative revenue sources or collaborate with our congressional delegation to secure other potential federal funding.
Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.
We’re fortunate that here in Hawaii, people of color make up a large portion of our state’s population. While we do not have a large number of cases relating to police brutality and violence as compared to other states, it should not erase the fact that we still have room for improvement.
Given the events that have unfolded across the country, I believe that the Honolulu Police Department is taking steps in the right direction by reviewing their force policy by suspending the use of vascular neck restraints, pending a review and recommendation by an internal committee.
I am also in support of exploring possible options of providing the commission with stronger oversight over the affairs of the police department. However, Section 6-1606 of the Honolulu Charter outlines the powers, duties and function of the police commission.
Therefore, if reform of the commission is something that is needed, the only way to do so would be through a charter amendment.
What can county government do to mitigate the affects of sea-level rise on Oahu?
Honolulu needs to continue to be a global leader in implementing sustainable actions that will help in combating climate change and sea level rise. The Ola Oahu Resilience Strategy, an initiative led by the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency, needs to be the foundation on which we base our policy decisions from.
Sea level rise is also a critical issue for many areas in my district. Places like Mapunapuna and Kalihi Kai are already experiencing the effects of sea level rise and the negative impact that it has on residents and other local businesses. Allocating resources to improving our community infrastructure (i.e. roads and drainage systems) is needed in the short term, but I don’t believe that it is a long-term sustainable solution.
A more sustainable solution is the enactment of sensible policies that will aim to protect current infrastructure while also ensuring that future development projects are also protected from these future hazards. These aforementioned policies and guidelines need to be reflective of local sea level rise projections; and up to date on the latest data and science surrounding the issue.
The unfortunate reality is that sea level rise will occur and we need to be ready. By also enacting “planned retreat strategies” for communities across the island, we can begin identifying key infrastructure that may need to be relocated.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
As a third-generation product of public housing, I deeply understand the challenges that families in our communities face every. I grew up in poverty in a family that struggled to pay rent each month. During my childhood in the Kamehameha Homes, I learned how issues of environment, housing, and economic stability create real challenges for our keiki.
The next eight years will be the most crucial and we need need leaders who truly understand these issues and will fight to bring real change.
Like many who grew up in Kalihi, I’m a fighter. I’ve been fighting my entire life to overcome various challenges and obstacles, I’ve fought for everything that I’ve accomplished and I’ll take the same fighting spirit to the City Council where I will fight everyday for our community, for our residents and for the future of our island homes.
Our children deserve a chance to live and thrive here in the Hawaii and I am committed to that vision.
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