Name on ballot:
President & CEO Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association
Previous job history:
Mayor of Honolulu; President, MFH Enterprises; Honolulu City Council; Director, Hawai‘i Office of International Relations and Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism; vice president, C. Brewer & Co.
Previous elected office, if any:
Mayor of Honolulu, Honolulu City Council
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Oahu.
I have proven, tested leadership skills and a solid record of achievement as mayor; experience with City operations and finances; solid relationships with legislators and elected officials; and the know-how to direct a multi-billion-dollar budget and 10,000-employee workforce, while crafting solutions to our public health and economic crises.
What is the most pressing need for the people you seek to represent, and what can you do to address that need?
We are in an unprecedented time, and the next mayor must have the ideas and wherewithal to restart and sustain the economy. My priority would be to execute my five-point plan: (1) a sensible plan for public health and safety that directs our resources at staying vigilant during the pandemic and ensuring our first-responders are trained and equipped for any emergency; (2) bringing business back by restarting tourism and expanding on synergistic, travel-related industries such as sports, film and TV production, cuisine/agriculture, education, national and international conferences, and health and fitness, among others; (3) making Honolulu world-class by completing the rail system within our means while not raising property taxes and catalyzing transit-oriented development to create housing and business opportunities along the rail route; (4) minding our money by implementing careful, thoughtful spending and fiscal policies; and (5) keeping Honolulu clean and sustainable through impact fees on heavily used public facilities, renewable energy use, and adopting climate change mitigation measures. See mufiforhonolulu.com for details.
As Hawaii faces the COVID-19 pandemic, what more should county government do to protect residents’ health?
In collaboration with the governor, lieutenant governor and mayors, we should form a multi-jurisdictional pandemic crisis working group drawing representation from across government, business, healthcare, the military, and other stakeholders, to develop a coordinated response and speak as one authoritative voice on the pandemic from Honolulu’s perspective. We would also form working groups for affected industries to develop a reopening plan and timetable, to include plans, standards, and coordination with government. Having these groups would also enable us to gauge the needs of the unemployed, coordinate food drives and giveaways, and respond in other ways.
The mayors should also join the governor in urging the White House and federal government to better organize and coordinate a national response to the pandemic: providing medical and testing supplies and ensuring distribution where most needed; establishing standardized travel and quarantine policies; having a uniform, consistent message; and having a general strategy as I’ve proposed at the state level above.
What should county government do to help residents who have been economically affected by the pandemic?
Aside from using CARES funding and other available sources of money, the coordinated response I suggested above would be applicable to identifying and helping residents who have been affected by the pandemic.
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?
It would be premature to propose specific cutbacks in public services until we take a full measure of City spending and revenue projections for the next two to three fiscal years, as well as an assessment of the current administration’s spending commitments. My mantra in reviewing the budget is to fund “need-to-have” not “nice-to-have.”
When I was first elected mayor, I organized a Mayor’s Review with membership representing a cross-section of our community, to evaluate City services and spending and make recommendations for the administration’s follow-through. This type of assessment process is worth repeating.
If cuts or furloughs are warranted , I will repeat the process that I did back in 2008 2009 to get us through the great recession then as mayor. We led by example by taking the 5% pay cut upfront , we cut the nice to have projects from our budget and emphasized essential city services . We then went to the unions and negotiated their pay cuts and furloughs rather than a top down executive order that was demonstrated by the state at that time as they imposed the concept of Furlough Fridays.
What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness?
City and State government agencies should continue to collaborate with the Partners in Care coalition and other entities to stretch resources and develop a comprehensive, coordinated approach to helping the homeless. We can support rapid rehousing to quickly connect people to housing and services, permanent supportive housing, crisis response systems of diversion and prevention, income support, and housing for low-income residents. The City must pursue all available federal funding opportunities, including CARES, CDBG/HOME money, and Continuum of Care grants.
It is imperative that we continue to work with the state government—which has the broader mandate and funding for social services, public health, and housing—to help in providing these services to the homeless, many of whom are suffering from drug abuse or mental health problems.
As head of the Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association, we donated more than $2 million to social service agencies assisting the homeless and supporting programs such as returning the homeless to their families on the mainland. We also secured $2 million—half in hotel room tax revenue and the other half matched by the hospitality industry—to provide to these nonprofit agencies. We will continue these successful collaborations involving the City, businesses, and nonprofits.
Do you support or oppose stopping construction of the rail project at Middle Street? Please explain.
Oppose. My goal is to complete the rail system to Ala Moana Center—in a fiscally responsible manner by not raising property taxes—and thus holding true to a policy of financial discipline and responsible spending that distinguished my past mayoral tenure; securing appropriated federal transit funding; seeking other sources of money, such as federal pandemic economic stimulus support for infrastructure; and establishing public-private partnerships.
Do you support or oppose using new city funds to cover any shortfall in HART’s construction or operating costs? Please explain.
I’m not sure what you mean by “new city funds,” but aside from the additional funding sources outlined in the response above, we will stay within our financial means. Concurrently, we should use rail to catalyze transit-oriented development, which will spur the construction of affordable housing, commercial and industrial enterprises, and other opportunities for investment and business growth along the transit route. There have been multiple announcements of TOD, including at Aloha Stadium, Pearl Harbor, and Kalihi, continued work in the Kaka‘ako-Ala Moana area, and the state public housing authority’s plans for the construction of 10,000 rental units within walking distance of the rail line. TOD will thereby generate partners to help pay for the construction of the transit network, generate more real property taxes, and support the building industry for years to come. At no time should we use property taxes to fund the construction of the rail system.
Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.
Honolulu has been ranked under my tenure as one of the safest big cities in the nation, according to the FBI and so I believe our police force is dedicated, capable, well-trained, and highly professional. Recently legislation was passed to provide more openness in police discipline cases, and I would attempt to work with the police chief and union toward achieving that goal. Obviously with a new administration coming in , it always provides an opportunity to revisit and or establish practices and policies that will strengthen the HPD going forward.
What can county government do to mitigate the affects of sea-level rise on Oahu?
The most pressing environmental issue for all island entities and near-shore cities is sea-level rise. We are already seeing the impact in shoreline erosion, high storm surges, king tides, and other phenomena. Addressing this concern, or any other environmental issue for that matter, will require the collaboration of the City, State, and federal governments. Such a collaboration would provide a process to identify our priorities, set near- and long-term goals, and develop a plan of action and assigned responsibilities to achieve them, be they relocating infrastructure and utilities, supporting renewable energy, having experts advise us on realistic courses of action, or other measures. It seems each government jurisdiction is pursuing its own priorities, in its own way. But we’re all facing the same challenges, and I see collaboration, communication, and cooperation as the best means of solving them together.
As a former board of trustee member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, I found that the organization provided an excellent forum for the exchange of ideas and best practices on issues like climate change. I intend to be an active member again of this august body, and I would encourage my neighbor island colleagues to join me.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
Given our situation with the pandemic and economic crisis, the City and County of Honolulu needs an experienced, tested leader in these tough times . Someone who governed before and amassed an 80% approval rating and was the only candidate that Frank Fasi ever endorsed for his ability to “get the job done , “ just like him .
Our economy is in critical condition . If you were faced with a personal decision of having a life-threatening operation performed with someone who’s never been a doctor or an experienced surgeon who has done it successfully several times – who would you choose ?
My campaign pledge is this: if you put me back at my old job , my mission is to put you back at yours. I humbly ask for your consideration and vote to get Honolulu working again. Mahalo!
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