comscore 2020 Election: Rick Blangiardi | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Election

2020 Election: Rick Blangiardi

  • Rick Blangiardi
Name on ballot:

Rick Blangiardi

Running for:

Honolulu mayor

Political party:

Independent

Campaign website:

www.rickblangiardiformayor.com

Current occupation:

Retired General Manager of Hawaii News Now

Age:

73

Previous job history:

Broadcast Executive 43 years
University of Hawaii football Coach (1971-77); Associate Head Coach/ Defensive Coordinator

Previous elected office, if any:

N/A

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Oahu.

I have served in Senior Executive leadership positions throughout my broadcast career requiring me to run large complex organizations, in major cities across the United States and in Hawaii.
I have also worked extensively with numerous labor unions. In addition, I served on numerous community boards including Chair of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, Hawaii Chapter Red Cross, Hawaii Food Bank, Trustee Hawaii Public Schools Foundation, President Aloha Council Boy Scouts of America to name but a few.

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

Ensuring the health and safety of our community’s public health and rebuilding Honolulu’s economy during the COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest concern for our community. Honolulu is truly at a crossroads, and it is time for government to work for and support our community directly.
We must ensure that Honolulu Hale is protecting our small businesses and working families. In the absence of tourism, we must make sure our small businesses are able to return to work, and are protected both health-wise and financially during these difficult times. To do so, I intend to:
1) Distribute federal COVID-19 aid the City receives to those small businesses in financial need.
2) Expand our workforce development programs such as our WorkHawaii Division to provide small businesses with the guidelines, training, and supplies such as PPE needed to ensure that they can conduct their business in a safe manner.
3) Help our small businesses navigate the complex system of City, State, and Federal COVID-19 relief programs, if they are eligible.
Our City must also support the economic wellbeing of our workers and working families in this time of need, especially as major industries such as tourism are failing, and many of our workers are losing their jobs. I will:
1) Distribute federal COVID-19 aid our City receives to our working families in need.
2) Expand our WorkHawaii Division to ensure that our unemployed workers have the skills they need to competitively seek jobs in a difficult job market, and even transition into another profession.
3) Prioritize our shovel ready public works projects in order to create good paying jobs for our community.

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

We need to work with the State to ensure rigorous testing is available and results provided in a timely manner. We must work to ensure we keep our COVID-19 numbers low, by identifying and controlling outbreaks. I will work with our State, Federal, and private sector partners to coordinate our efforts and pool resources to maximize all of our efforts.
Coming from a career in broadcasting, and having our public’s trust to disseminate accurate, timely, and lifesaving information during emergencies, I understand the importance of clear, trustworthy, and coordinated communication. As Mayor, I will bring this level of professionalism and clarity in communication that our communities can rely on. Our City must pay particular attention to work closer with the State and Federal government to improve and coordinate communication with our residents. This is critical. Doing so will not only share critical information to protect those most at risk, but can also instill confidence in our people to get through this crisis together.

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

It is important the City steps up to support our small businesses and working families in order to survive this financial crisis. As Honolulu Mayor, I intend to make a coordinated effort with the State and Federal agencies to obtain additional Federal assistance. There are still billions of dollars of Federal CARES funding that has not been distributed. We should also use Federal pandemic money for a rental subsidy program for working families. There also has to be a viable partnership initiative between the City, State, and the private sector to open up “core” employers in a safe and responsible manner by helping them get equipped with proper PPE and safety protocols. It is imperative that we do not sacrifice our public health in the process.
We should also get Federal funding to help non-profits such as the Hawaii Food Bank or for shelter through programs like the Institute for Human Services to help with those most severely impacted by COVID-19.

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?

No, there are many alternatives the City can take in order to get through this crisis in a fiscally responsible manner, without denying our City workers pay, workhours, or their jobs. I will first look to eliminate waste on a systematic basis in our City government, we must look carefully at each City department in order to do so. Our taxpayers must get more ‘bang for their buck,’ and doing so can help our departments do more with less as our City’s finances are increasingly impacted by this pandemic. There are also steps we can take to reprioritize money in our City budget, such as eliminating many of the vacant positions our City. Redirecting this money to services our City needs most will help protect essential services for our residents, and ensure that those who are currently employed at the City are able to keep their salary and job.

What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness?

For our chronic homeless, many of whom suffer from severe mental illness and substance abuse issues, we must take on a ‘tough love approach.’ Those who are a danger to themselves and others, and cannot help themselves must receive the services and treatment they need. To do so, I will work to expand the number of treatment facilities we have on-island, and will work closely with our courts to ensure that our chronically homeless individuals receive this needed help.
However, with COVID-19, I fear that many local families may be put on the brink of homelessness. For these individuals, I will do everything I can in my administration to keep them in their homes until this pandemic is over, including relieving or deferring property tax payments where possible. Keeping a roof over our local family’s heads is essential. For those that slip through the cracks of our City’s efforts, I will work to ensure that we have the shelter space, food, and resources to stop our families from living on the streets and our keiki from growing hungry. Helping get our workers and families who fall on hard times because of this pandemic rebound will be a priority for me, and is why I want to expand our workforce development program to help our families work and bring in an income. As I reprioritize our City budget, this will be one of my biggest priorities.

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

I am of the opinion that we must remain flexible in order to make the smart, educated, and responsible decision for our community when the time comes. If it is the case that we can pursue and acquire enough federal funding to complete the rail project to Ala Moana as planned, then I will do so. However, we cannot count on this. If these funds do not manifest themselves, and we would have to raise taxes on our residents to finish the rail project, I will look to end the rail early instead—possibly at Middle Street. However, right now, we do not even know what the cost of the City Center segment of the rail will be, and it is just too early to say.

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

No, I do not support using more City funds to cover any budget shortfall in HART’s construction and operating costs. Doing so would put more strain on our City’s finances, and possibly mean raising more taxes on our residents. I will NOT raise taxes on our community for the sake of finishing the rail project. We must continue to prioritize the services our residents will be needing most during this pandemic. However, I will aim to acquire as much federal funding as possible for the rail project in order to make up the difference. This crisis is not the time for empty promises or wishful thinking, but a time for responsible decision making.

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

I support all efforts to increase transparency and accountability in our police department and City government as a whole. These is always room for improvement, and I am confident in the efforts of Chief Susan Ballard and our police commission to work to review and improve HPD for the betterment of our community. However, I do not support defunding our police, especially with a department as understaffed as ours. As a perspective, HPD currently has over 300 vacancies that need to be filled—which makes up about 15% of the entire department. As the new mayor I will reprioritize our budget, to ensure our police, and other essential first responders such as our firefighters, EMS personnel, and ocean safety officers, receive the support, funding, and resources they need to keep our communities and neighborhoods safe.

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

Sea-level rise is a major and looming threat to our community’s way of life, and especially for our coastal infrastructure and beaches. As a member of the commission that published Oahu’s Resilience Strategy Plan, I worked to promote concrete actions our City must take to mitigate many threats to our island, and become a more resilient place overall. A large part of my focus was on mitigating the effects of sea-level rise.
I will work in office to promote the concrete recommendations the plan made. Some of the actions we outlined were the need to modernize our building codes and coastal setback regulations to ensure we have resilient coastal infrastructure. We also need to crack down on the development of illegal sea walls, which have been proven to accelerate the erosion of our island’s natural beaches. We must also utilize the $345 million we received from our federal government to protect our Ala Wai watershed and our surrounding communities from potential severe flooding.

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

Hawaii has been my home since 1965. I attended the University of Hawaii both as an undergraduate and graduate student, successfully completing my Master’s Degree in Educational Administration in 1973.

I am also very proud to have been recognized by the University of Hawaii as a Distinguished Alumnus and was inducted in the University of Hawaii Circle of Honor.

I have three grown children, all of whom were born in Hawaii (Matt, Ryan, Laura), and I am married to Ms. Karen Chang.


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