Name on ballot:
Kymberly Marcos Pine
City Council member, Dist. 1
Previous job history:
Four Terms State House, Two Terms City Council
Previous elected office, if any:
Four Terms State House, Two Terms City Council
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Oahu.
I am the mother of a five-year old; my husband is in the military; and we have a three-generation working class household, like most of Honolulu. As mayor, I would work to make Honolulu affordable, efficient, safe, ethical and resilient with an economy that no longer depends primarily on the outside world to feed our families and employ us. I have a proven track record of bringing people together to solve tough problems. As the Chair of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, I am already working on solutions to diversify our economy, to create truly affordable housing for all, to root out corruption and to usher in a new era of transparency in our government. I have a plan that will expand our agricultural sector with a billion-dollar-a-year industry that can be up and running in six months. As the only candidate who is currently serving on the city council, I know what our issues are; I know how city government works, its processes and its people. I am not beholden to special interests directing policy for me. I know what the problems are and what the solutions need to look like. I have been on the job making those decisions to keep us safe and I can provide solutions to the pandemic crisis effectively 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?
Our primary issues, because of the pandemic, are safety, jobs, restarting the economy and putting Honolulu back to work. We must be open to every possibility to facilitate emerging industries throughout the economic spectrum to revive our jobs and our economy, without turning solely to tourism for solutions and without putting our families at risk.
Hawaii should only reopen when it is safe. We need a top-notch medical team to respond and control the virus. That requires a lot more testing capability than we currently have, with faster results. We need more tracking and tracing in place. I’ve spoken to leaders in So. Korea about how they controlled the virus successfully, by tracking every case. Like So. Korea, we need to provide a safe place for isolation, especially in multi-generational homes, to keep kapuna safe.
Our residents must have food, a safe place to live and the everyday necesseties to survive and we must ensure that we have enough funding to do this.
We have spent millions of dollars to promote Hawaii’s tourism industry. We must turn away from promotion to managing the industry. But when we do, we should position ourselves for the luxury tourism market. Hawaii’s visitor arrivals have doubled since the 1980s – but the revenue from tourism has flattened. Fewer tourists who pay more for the experience, especially with Hawaii as a potential spa and health mecca, makes more sense to the economy, the people and to the āina.
The building industry has always played an essential role in our economic recovery. It will again. For projects that have the essential community approval, I will clear the path to shovel-ready construction. For project that address the crushing need for affordable housing, I will streamline permissions. To attract quality jobs in technology and biotech, we can ensure that our infrastructure is upgraded with high speed fiber optic cable. Our farmers need access to affordable high-quality fertilizers, affordable land and water, which must be prioritized to enhance our agricultural production. TCOM technology, thermal conversion of organic material, turns organic waste into high-grade fertilizer, creating clean energy in the process. This technology is currently in a University of Hawaii pilot program. As the Chair of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, I have explored many alternative industries, including clean energy.
The city needs to take the lead in partnering with the military to train small, local contractors to win bids. As mayor, I will work with military leaders to enable smaller local contracting firms to win contracts. This is a $2 billion industry that will add jobs and at least $1 billion to our local economy.
As Hawaii faces the COVID-19 pandemic, what more should county government do to protect residents’ health?
We have all witnessed the confusing messaging that emerges from our elected officials, often at odds with each other. We deserve to have cohesive statements from our leaders. We also must concentrate our focus on keeping residents safe, fed and housed while we hunker down during this pandemic. Until there is a cure or a vaccination, government must be clear about citizens wearing masks everywhere, about social distancing and washing hands.
By now, we should have created a standard best practices protocol for the visitor industry, food industry and public places that includes wearing masks, temperature-taking, testing protocols and sanitation procedures, rather than leaving it up to individual businesses and industries to decide what to do. There should be no doubt about our social responsibility to be safe. There are guidelines from the CDC that we can build on by making standards that are unambiguous. Ambiguity leaves many of our residents and our most vulnerable workers and their families at risk of contagion. For tracking and tracing infectious outbreaks, Honolulu can start with 500 trackers, but that number must increase to respond to the increase in cases and eventually, the increase in visitors. Last year, we received 35,000 visitors daily. That means 500 people tracking and tracing will not be enough. In addition, we need to isolate when people fall ill. We have seen how family clusters occur, spreading within the home. To reopen, we must be a safe destination. Testing should be simple, affordable, available and widespread, as well, with a quick turnaround time. Currently, the protocols for getting tested are an impediment to a quick response. Tracking, tracing, testing, isolation for infections, and safe practices – washing hands, masks, sanitizing, social distancing – must become the new norm.
What should county government do to help residents who have been economically affected by the pandemic?
Food and housing– that is what we need to ensure for our residents.
We must make sure that our residents are fed, that they have a home and their basic needs are met. If federal assistance doesn’t come, I would take out a government bond with interest close to zero to borrow because of our good credit rating, if the federal government doesn’t come through soon. It is possible that our situation will become more dire with the end of key federal programs.
Hawaii has been disproportionately hit with the economic downturn because of our dependence on tourism and we can seek funds from the federal CARES Act to assist. Our leaders have been piecemeal about the recovery, with no cohesive plan forward. Gov. Ige appointed Alan Oshima to lead the newly created Office of Economic Recovery, but the state legislature did not fund it.
We also have the House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness, which includes members of the tourism industry, such as Peter Ingram of Hawaiian Airlines and Chris Tatum, President and CEO of Hawaii Tourism Authority, who resigned this week. These competing organizations have not materially contributed to keeping people fed, to our health care or to paying the rent. Politics have been problematic since the pandemic arrived.
We need to have consensus and a single message.
If we cannot reopen tourism, we must find resiliency in self-reliance. This is a fluid situation – the governor just changed the date for travel to Sept. 1. Oahu is perfectly poised to feed itself. We must boost local food production and distribution systems. As a nation, we must come to some tough decisions about housing assistance with 30% of Americans missing their payments in June. That number will rise with the end of the “$600 up” unemployment payments and the end of PPP. With the uptick in COVID infections continuing, this is a national issue. Businesses are closing across the country. A housing apocalypse is predicted if the country cannot arrive at a rent/mortgage forgiveness, as suggested by the “Cancel Rent” movement.
Honolulu must be prepared as the federal government stalls in pandemic aid. In California, a plan that allows tenants ten years to repay rent that has gone unpaid during the pandemic allows courts to set up repayment plans for tenants. The plan would allow the state to take over unpaid rent in the form of tax credits. Hawaii needs such a plan to mitigate the risk of having a third of our residents houseless.
We must also decide how to move forward with our unemployment claims. The state has failed to pay claims in a timely manner. Many who are eligible are still waiting and Director Murakami is mysteriously still on paid leave. As mayor, I would ask the governor to remedy the situation immediately to respond to the families in need throughout Oahu.
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 mass layoffs. I believe when a large portion of the population is unemployed it is imperative that the rest of the population remain employed to keep the economy going.We must reduce expenses across the board and focus on providing essential city services to taxpayers. As mayor, I will improve the quality of services the city provides to the public. Newly proposed budget items that are not essential and that do not contribute to the economy and health of our residents will be cut. As a current city council member, my proposed budget cut funding for improvements to the Neal Blaisdell Center and Ala Moana Beach Park (over $100 million). Both are projects that the community has strongly opposed. Each year the Mayor’s office budgets more than it spends to direct monies to special projects. I have been highly critical of this practice. As mayor, I would use surplus funds to offer training to city employees to increase efficiency and to add staff to critically understaffed departments.
What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness?
We must investigate every innovation from around the world to resolve homelessness, including the construction of tiny homes, repurposing buildings that are now out of use due to the shutdown as shelter space and additional housing and service zones and hygiene facilities. Last year, I brought a plan to the council to spend $23 million to address homelessness. Each councilmember could use the money to address the problems in their district in the manner that fit their district. That included rest stops, shelters, outreach, affordable housing and service zones and hygiene facilities.
I do not agree with a sit-lie ban. That is not “compassionate disruption.” It is simply moving a homeless individual from one sidewalk to another. It does nothing to solve the problem. It is a means to reduce the visual and social reminder of homelessness.
We cannot solve homelessness by moving people off the sidewalk. It is essential to overcoming homelessness that we treat the mental health and addiction problems for many chronically homeless individuals. We can save money by having a case worker that manages that person through treatment to housing. We did a study that confirmed that treatment is less costly.
I will also continue what I have been doing and fast-track affordable housing projects. I propose to spend $60 million of CARES Act funding to build 5,000 tiny homes throughout the island and to create kauhale villages. My plan creates 5,000 tiny homes at $12,000 each.
This year I proposed that the city invest in mental health and addiction recovery, because that is at the heart of the problem. Chronically homeless individuals who suffer dual diagnoses require residential treatment, and we do not have adequate facilities or personnel. Nor are we able to help those whose mental health prevents them from using computers, accessing information, filling out forms and providing documentation. We need to remove these barriers to treatment. We need boots on the ground to evaluate and bring help to those who need it most without delays that can keep people on the streets in declining health for years. The city needs to coordinate with the state to secure funding for mental health and addiction services, and the city will allocate funds to fill the gaps.
Do you support or oppose stopping construction of the rail project at Middle Street? Please explain.
In 2008, voters approved a high-speed rail project by charter. We have a mandate to complete the project. However, the rail cannot stop at Middle Street. It is technically impossible to leave transit customers there, with the number of bus connections required to transport riders further on the route.
Do you support or oppose using new city funds to cover any shortfall in HART’s construction or operating costs? Please explain.
I have said that, since the beginning of the pandemic shutdown, funding for the rail will be determined as the pandemic impacts become clearer. With rail revenue falling to nearly zero, we simply can’t build a project without having the money for it. Economic conditions will determine its progress. Until new revenue streams come in through the Federal government awards money owed or the economy comes back, we just cannot build the rail. I am very disappointed in the people who allowed corruption and payoffs to infiltrate the rail construction and I hold them responsible for the delays and cost overruns that make people in my district, including me, sit in traffic for hours. I will do everything I can to fix HART. It was the city council’s investigation into HART that led to the current FBI investigation. As mayor, I would ensure that people who cheated the public by misappropriating funds and misusing their HART powers to benefit friends – will go to jail.
Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.
Our country has entered a national discussion about policing and discrimination. I have watched our police officers with pride as demonstrations have taken place across Hawai’i in peace and solidarity. We are all outraged by the senseless deaths of our citizens at the hands of law enforcement personnel.
HPD has suffered credibility because of former Chief Louis Kealoha and former Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha. Their trials revealed many instances of police corruption and misuse of power, which is particularly complicated. Years later, the arrests this week of Mike Miske and 11 others reopens the wounds with fresh disclosures in the Kealoha corruption case. The HPD has had several complaints of violence and shooting incidents, as well.
Bad actors in the police department have been shielded from public disclosure. That must change. We must follow other states and bring body cameras, vehicle cameras and transparency to Hawaii. Our police commission should be strengthened to investigate complaints against officers and to enforce civil procedures. As mayor, I would talk to former Commission Chair Loretta Sheehan and former Vice-Chair Steve Levinson to understand what they think we can do better.
What can county government do to mitigate the affects of sea-level rise on Oahu?
Oahu must continue our progress to fight climate change. In my district, the Leeward Coast, Farrington Highway is eroding into the sea. I have worked with the state and the Oahu Metropolitan Transportation Organization on the Makaha Realignment plan. The Council recently approved a resolution to initiate legal action against fossil-fuel companies to recover damages for their role in causing climate change and sea level rise, and associated impacts on the City and County of Honolulu.
The 2017 Hawai’i Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report shows that 3.2 feet of sea level rise will impact 3,880 structures and 13,300 residents, resulting in $12.9 billion in losses and damage to private property.
We have passed legislation that will increase setbacks for new construction near shorelines that are exposed to flooding in recognition of these conditions and raised structures above flood levels. These strategies have guided construction in the past and should be used going forward.
The council has also adopted a strategy and framework for reaching 100% clean energy as rapidly as possible and we sought to earmark funding sources to aid homeowners who will be affected by sea level rise.
As a council member, I have aggressively pursued strategies to mitigate environmental impacts. I introduced legislation for a flexible work week of four ten-hour days to reduce traffic and pollution and I support enhanced work-from-home strategies. I created several pieces of legislation to Keep Hawaii Hawaii that include an annual sustainability report from the visitor industry. I am proud of my work at City Council to help pass Bill 40, the most comprehensive phase-out of plastics in the nation.
This is what has been done at the City Council level, but we can do so much more if I am elected mayor.
I am exploring a path that will turn organic waste into clean energy with a byproduct of enriched fertilizer for our agricultural sector through TCOM (thermal conversion of organic material) technology. I will seek photo voltaic and solar energy for all our city buildings and replace our current fleet of vehicles with non-combustion engine vehicles.
I support University of Hawaii’s Dr. Camilo Mora’s plan to achieve carbon neutrality by planting 1,000 trees a day. In addition to reducing carbon, we can restore the native canopy, lower temperatures and address climate change, while providing recreational spaces and shade.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
As mayor, the community can count on my administration to restore integrity and transparency at Honolulu Hale and law enforcement at all levels. We must protect our unique land and culture, which is rich with possibilities. We could become a city of innovation, borrowing the best strategies from around the world for traffic, tourism, the environment, affordable housing, green building strategies and so much more. With our current challenges, we need a mayor who doesn’t cater to special interests, who has the necessary experience and can go to work for you right away. I believe we can be the smartest city in the world. We have to believe in ourselves and invest in education and technology. Our needs are too great to be catering to special interests. I believe the current crisis is an opportunity for the city to change for the better.
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