Name on ballot:
Honolulu city council – District 3
Founder Hawaii Olympian Project
Previous job history:
Small Retail & Food Service business owner, Engineering, Management, Teaching
Previous elected office, if any:
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Oahu.
I would start by saying as a candidate and a voter that I seek the same qualifications of my elected officials as I would expect and require of myself. My expected qualifications include baseline capability (IQ) requirements to character qualifications (CQ) to authentic leadership abilities (EQ) to selfless future vision (the quotient that’s hardest to locate in any candidate). Many seeking elected office possess the first two quotients through public service, vows of integrity, experience, and the usual level of education. Less candidates are able to demonstrate possession of the first three attributes. I would also clarify that management and leadership are different skill sets and competencies.
Some candidates cite their crisis management experience – I would push back and suggest many never studied crisis management of the level of the Spanish flu pandemic that killed 600,000 of the American population of 1918 or the natural, economic, and human error triggers that brought the Great Depression of 1929 to us. I have had the opportunity to study and research these most complex human and social problems – historical subject knowledge informs, directs, and generates future decisions. While I honor and preserve my heritage and ethnic traditions, I have also grasped the capacity to open oneself to the possibility of new ideas (not located through maintaining status quo, fear of change, or debilitating indecision). The late life strategist and Maui resident, Dr. Wayne Dyer often reminded us, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Creating a future vision is also what separates management from leadership. I possess one to offer where there exists no narrative at present – elected leaders serve not only their constituents, not only their Union endorsers, they have to create possibility and opportunity for those that cannot vote – for our children’s futures. I want to work with and hope we elect leaders to the City Council that possess the described qualifications and aspire to inspire the voters. We must elect a Mayor and Prosecuting Attorney that reflect these qualities as well.
I believe the City Council should be a relevant, collaborative force for each district and the Island. I believe the City Council can and should be a composition of complementary experiences, knowledge, and diversity in background. A diverse group of Council members is the key to connecting with the community, restoring trust, eliminating cynicism, and collectively solving our social, economic, and human challenges. We can positively alter and course-correct the direction for of our Island community. It is achievable.
What is the most pressing need for the people you seek to represent, and what can you do to address that need?
Preserving the quality of life is my mission and that requires addressing a double-edged need for the people I hope to represent – controlling the cost of living while improving the accessibility, reliability, and availability of services. Through this goal, managing, changing, and innovating all the known issues become the focus. Affordable housing, available housing, economic diversification, homelessness, public safety and security, food security, environmental preservation, adequate healthcare, legacy of Hawaiian justice, etc. make up these issues that challenge our quality of life.
Every candidate for elected office knows the “what”. It is their answers to the “how”, the “why”, and with our economy, the “when” that will determine their success and effectiveness. I would add attitude, capacity toward a future vision, and knowledge base (functional and academic) to the list. We look daily at the same half-filled glass of water. Your perception of reality often is your reality but it is the same glass. I see it optimistically as half-full with great potential to be overflowing.
As Hawaii faces the COVID-19 pandemic, what more should county government do to protect residents’ health?
County governments are trying to cautiously protect residents’ health. Unfortunately, the minority of Americans that marinate themselves in the “Me First” movement have taken to being reckless and irresponsible and either following anti-science or conspiracy theories to justify their self-serving behaviors. Isolated 2500 miles away from quick access to ventilators, adequate PPE supplies, reagents for testing kits, etc. (hey, even available stocks of Lysol and plexiglass) puts us in a precarious position. Yes, we need work, paychecks, and food too. Yes, actual details are changing regarding the nature of the virus – it mutates and changes – inflicting deleterious, permanent damage to human bodies even if it does not kill them.
County governments should ensure that insurance coverage for out of pocket expenses are covered by the Federal disaster funding. State governments have been left to fight and outbid each other State for medical supplies and equipment. I would like to see the military coordinate with County governments where possible to assist them in expediting our orders and raising our standing supply levels. I hope our hospital systems have their crisis management plans in place in the event we lose control of the pandemic spread. It is more contagious and deadly than the flu (influenza). That means it will infect faster if unchecked. Please refrain from passing ill-informed opinion as facts over social media until you get receive your virology or M.D. degree. We have to strategically use our geography to our advantage to control this pandemic.
What should county government do to help residents who have been economically affected by the pandemic?
The extension of unemployment benefits by the State and any other measure to offset any timely relief from the Federal government should be continued. At the County level, it is imperative that we find financial and non-financial ways to support our citizens in need. If elected, I would like to vote to freeze or even rollback property taxes for at least a year to give Island residents some certainty in their lives to figure their future family budgets.
We need to empower our social service agencies and non-profit organizations to assist by providing them additional funding as Cares Act money hopefully is disbursed. County government, where possible, should also support religious and community action groups to ramp up community engagement.
Temporarily decreasing the cost of food and utilities would be helpful to all Island residents. I would like to see our military jump in by securing/flying in for Islanders quantities of food/non-perishable, unsold livestock, and produce (now spoiling or being destroyed in farm states because there’s not enough supply chain vendors or warehouse storage space down the food line). Too idealistic? So you never heard of the Berlin airlift? Private business sectors would not approve? Some ignorant ideologue call out, “socialism” at this point.
If we do not put cash in consumer hands from some government action, there will be no cash flow, no circulation of currency in the LOCAL market, and the State will be panhandling to every multinational corporation along with other States for scraps of investment dollars. Corporations have the ability to cut forecasts, reduce dividends, written off (i.e. erased) projected losses, and have already were first in line and received generous [read: enormous] lines of future credit. The State (and you) cannot print money and you will get no ban by the government against collection agencies or trashing your credit rating – even though citizens had no control over the shutdown.
I would like to see farming communities ramp up growing/schedules where possible/feasible to deliver ‘farm to table’ produce and goods direct to consumers at reduced prices (via Meals on Wheels, food delivery companies). This should be backed by waiving any supply chain contracting limitations temporarily and subsidizing farmers for some of their grow costs through County funding till we can restart more economic activity and get working families back to the jobs. Why have systematic funding cutbacks been allowed at the Culinary School at KCC? This is an institution we should protect that should be supplying us with future food service professionals when we are able to ramp tourism up – it should be one of our exemplary Island attributes. We have an opportunity to strengthen other core competencies and begin to develop food security objectives and sustainable and self-reliant food strategies for Hawaii.
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?
Effective solutions to problems never exist in the realm of “either or ___”. A bureaucracy should continually be evaluated and improved. A budget shortfall of this magnitude requires much more intervention and modification with the goal of achieving efficiencies. The public workers earned their prior negotiated raises. City governance furloughs should start at the top not the bottom. The clerks, administrative, and customer service personnel are and have been doing their jobs. Those that see the public function as entitled and protected, need to understand that our City does not exist without them. Can the 200+ attorneys in the Prosecuting office, the tiered layers of supervisors and management, etc. afford a furlough day without crippling their personal financial situation? And for the SA cynics, no, I have no government union endorsements.
How about introducing the concept of “sabbaticals” for public sector management where you maintain your years of service but forego partial salary and spend the free days enriching your knowledge base? How about the City not launching into ‘dream projects’ without any firm plan or details, EIS in place, or other deceptive shortcuts that generate expensive, time-consuming lawsuits against the City? Pay cuts should be aimed at some of the top department positions not the service personnel or teachers – the whole pay structure is out of alignment because salary commissions are following Mainland templates to determine local government salary structures. Why were HART executives and the Chief of Police making more than the Mayor of Honolulu? Yet the Mayor is supposed to be overseeing the City and these appointees should be answering to the Mayor. There is a Mauna of cost savings to be found in reevaluating any City bureaucracy.
What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness?
Again, homelessness is not a singular problem. Many organizations and individuals have stepped in to combat the issue with varying success (see PIT counts). I have said elsewhere that affordable housing and available housing are at the core of this problem. We do not have enough housing to meet the needs of residents. Dept. of Planning and Permits needs to reorganize and Zoning and Land Use laws need to be updated and altered to address the types of housing we are able to build. The ordinances passed to incent developers to build affordable are unworkable. And here too, developers are not using best practices used on the Mainland, financing is too expensive locally, and the process is top down when it should be community-based and up from there. Continual development of high-end luxury condos skews up the cost of other housing segments, unbalances existing housing supply, drives up construction material costs and equipment availability. Our existing system is responsible for worsening the problem.
Some segments of the population that are homeless were working and living in tents or their cars before the pandemic. On the Mainland, many pay for motels as their source of shelter. I have not heard of any hotels offering to house homeless here even for a reasonable nightly fee. Yet, CA hotels were solicited by their governor and some responded to the State to assist and the State agreeing to compensate them for their cooperation. I have mentioned that potential abandoned or unused City or State buildings could be repurposed and rehabilitated even temporarily to house some segments of the homeless till permanent shelters could be constructed. We need collaborative cooperation by all private sectors, government levels, and non-profits to at least lesson the homeless population at present – not project a ‘silo’ possessive mentality.
While mental illness and drug addiction categorize some of the homeless population, solutions for them are going to have to be more complex, long term, and multi-organizational in composition. Incarceration of mentally ill requires facilities in place that can safely house them (not our prisons) and funding to those entities have been continually lacking. Drug addicted clients always been challenging to serve and require additional services currently hard-pressed by staffing shortages and funding cutbacks as well. Additional locations to accommodate these groups of homeless will be needed as well.
Criminalizing homelessness moves them off the street into government detention facilities funded with our eroding tax base. So is the answer now to incarcerate them and raise your taxes with our imminent economic recession upon us? Should they just get a job? Where and at what pay to afford any rent? We can temporarily house many now (not the violent or mentally ill). We need to act before some of our current citizens get displaced from their residences when the evictions ban is rescinded. We could get a second wave of homeless that will need more temporary shelters. It will take a community and vacant property owners (including our own government) to step up.
Do you support or oppose stopping construction of the rail project at Middle Street? Please explain.
Indulge my credentials explanation first before I can answer this question. My undergrad work was half Civil/Arch Engineering and half Sociology. Some of my grad degrees and research included city management, planning, (re)development, project management, contract law, compliance, international security, and public policy. Some of my early engineering career was on the prior CIP Honolulu Int’l. Airport focusing on signage and traffic and pedestrian flows/human cultural response behaviors.
This is the most frequently asked question by voter groups and it requires a follow up plan. I have my own plan that solves the O & M, some of the financial shortfalls. I also await the Federal investigation results to be able to complete any mathematical model simulations/regression analyses to better predict ridership projections. But I am not running for Mayor so in my position if elected, I have to wait to see who is elected and what that person’s decision is on Rail before I can provide useful support and advice.
That all said (apologies for the length), I would stop the Rail at Middle St., get the Rail operational to West Oahu asap, and pause any other work to reassess with updated findings. A 30 year P3 arrangement being currently debated is, frankly, insane, impractical, and will leave the City in possession of an obsolete system a generation later. Yes, there are alternative, reasonable solutions that no one has floated. It is a complex problem created by a City that did not have the expertise. Major CIP projects often end up like this – example, the Boston big dig. It’s these case studies one researches in project management & development graduate programs(before the pandemic) to avoid repeating and falling victim to them. These huge projects are always potential magnets for fraud, graft, and incompetence.
Historical memory question – Anyone remember developer Gentry powerboating his kids to school from Ewa after he started building? Castle and Cooke ramped up development plans and then D.R. Horton jumped onboard. Did the City/State get adequate developer and landowner exactions to offset or mitigate the traffic congestion and DOT-highways infrastructure costs that were coming and needed for West Oahu? Now, we need the Rail for sure. Who is stuck with the cost of Rail now?
Developers should not determine our Island future, contribute to traffic and density tensions, and extract profits away from Hawaii leaving us only with wide sidewalks and landscaping. Government officials should not be in the mix to determine and negotiate developer proposals if they have no experience, self-confidence, or ‘backbone’. Developers are free to go build in Cancun, Mexico or Guam if they do not like our terms. We should value our homeland as an asset unique and not duplicated anywhere else in the world. It is not a resource to be exploited by outsiders – who for sure are not experiencing your (before the pandemic) two hour plus commutes to and from work.
Do you support or oppose using new city funds to cover any shortfall in HART’s construction or operating costs? Please explain.
I oppose using any new city funds to cover any shortfall in HART’s construction costs. There are other, reasonable solutions to funding and supporting O & M costs that have not been suggested or vetted to date. These can and should be discussed during the ‘Pause’ phase. Fail to plan or plan to fail…again.
While I see the project potential correctly as an economic redevelopment catalyst for the City if planned properly instead of merely a mass transit CIP, I do not support its altered route, its ‘overblown’, a multiple permit exemption TOD feeding frenzy (and accompanying developers’ feeding trough fee luau), its potential windfall to the foreign owner of Ala Moana Center in a retail economic collapse, or City government attempts again to add job positions to the public sector organizational chart. Someone correct me if I am wrong but isn’t HART still in the process of trying to acquire private land along the last 4 miles of their adjusted route while others jockey to play Monopoly with proposed route last minute real estate purchases. This rush to complete the last rail section toward Waikiki does not pass the “smell test” on a high trade winds day.
For those that keep citing the Federal transportation funds deadline and sunk costs, as I state on my website, these are unprecedented times and the case has to be made for prudent reevaluation. There should have been, by basic contract law here, a Force Majeure clause to this CIP – seriously, a global pandemic should qualify. Again, there are better solutions creating greater public value opportunities – some counterintuitive – but they do exist that actually could benefit more of Oahu’s residents.
Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.
Yes, civil societies should never bypass an opportunity to evaluate and reform its public sector departments such as policing. We can always improve. Efforts to ban choke holds and aggressive tactics, use of ‘no knock’ warrants, and shielding police misconduct identification should be and are being reviewed/changed. As of this writing, Governor Ige has an opportunity to sign HB 285 to unseal police office misconduct and bring accountability and trust to this concern.
The global reaction to George Floyd’s death is an indication of how widespread aggressive police tactics have become even though we rarely experience it in our isolated Island State. Unless deadly force is required, the capacity to avoid apprehension by the police is futile in the Islands given existing, national law enforcement cooperation network and our geography. Over-the-top detention techniques are unneeded; apprehension is inevitable.
What can county government do to mitigate the affects of sea-level rise on Oahu?
What we first must do is to assume a proactive rather than reactive mindset with regard to the effects of climate change. The Island nations of Vanuatu and the Seychelles experience with sea level rise is not a hoax or fake news. While we cannot individually employ programs to single-handedly reverse global warming, we can participate in international efforts where possible to reduce our carbon footprints and eliminate pollution source externalities.
We prepare for hurricane events with storm surge incursions so we must also anticipate sea-level rise effects across the State by imposing a moratorium on new coastal construction, extending our ocean setback zoning to 1000 ft., limiting government liability for property loss by private owners’ risk-to-build along the ocean, work to restore reef health and regenerating reef to provide some barrier to wave action increases, redo the storm water runoff mitigation plan by Army Corps. with realistic and less expensive alternatives, redouble efforts to clear stream debris on a regular basis and dredging Ala Wai and other water inlets as required.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
I suspect the reader has heard enough of my narrative. I would just repeat that we have an opportunity now in City governance to bring in new ideas as well as seasoned reasoning. Most of our current issues are human-produced or human-generated so they are solvable. An Island mindset and geography does have advantages and is worth defending and preserving as a model to the rest of the World. That is also my feeling for my Windward district and family home – each neighborhood unique and valued and I intend to ensure the community retains those qualities. Thank you for your time, support, and my opportunity to serve as your connection to our communities and protector of our Island way of life.
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