Name on ballot:
Honolulu city council – District 9
Retired in 2018 from the Hawaii State Legislature
Previous job history:
Hawaii state senator (16 years), Hawaii state representative (3 years), Ewa by Gentry Community Association (4 years), D.R. Horton (2 years), Executive Secretary of Neighborhood Commission, Mayor Frank Fasi administration (8 years); Chaney Brooks, Property Manager of West Loch Estates & West Loch Fairways
Previous elected office, if any:
Hawaii State Senator, Hawaii State Representative, Ewa Neighbirhood Board member
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Oahu.
After graduating from Seattle University, I relocated to Oahu 38 years ago and moved to Ewa Beach in 1989 where I bought my current home in Ewa by Gentry. I have over 20 years of volunteer community service, 19 years as a Hawaii legislator, and 12 years in the private sector. I served as the Ewa Neighborhood Board chair, Hawaii Senate Vice-president, a City agency head under Mayor Fasi, president of the Oahu Filipino Jaycees, and I co-founded the West Oahu Economic Development Association. I represent working middle-class families, and I fully understand how local government works.
In the Legislature, I had 99 of my bills introduced and passed. Moreover, my colleagues and I funded over $1 billion in capital improvement projects for West and Central Oahu.
What is the most pressing need for the people you seek to represent, and what can you do to address that need?
I believe the cost of living in Hawaii is the most pressing issue for many in my district and on Oahu. Housing costs are possibly the biggest expense of many families. This issue could be addressed by working to streamline the approval process for housing, supporting transit-oriented development with high density housing, and offering, where possible, City land to developers for low-cost affordable rentals for families and our elderly. Working with the Department of Hawaiian Homelands is also an initiative I would begin in order to get more Native Hawaiians on their land. I will also advocate to the state for a higher minimum wage and a living wage.
As Hawaii faces the COVID-19 pandemic, what more should county government do to protect residents’ health?
The county should mandate wearing a mask when individuals are not in their homes. The county and state should also collaborate together for more screening and testing sites. More contact tracers should also be hired to deal with the pandemic.
There needs to be a continuous effort to educate our residents with public service announcements about social distancing, wearing a mask, washing hands often, cleaning & sanitizing, and avoiding large crowds and gatherings.
What should county government do to help residents who have been economically affected by the pandemic?
The county is in a position to help organize food drives for those in need. It can also look at temporarily deferring property taxes for those homeowners who are under-employed or unemployed. Free monthly bus passes and discounted water bills may be an option. Depending on funds and revenue, grants can also be given to non-profits who are directly helping our needy residents.
Government should also look to those industries or jobs with minimal or low-risk impact to our health and safety. The City should support and encourage their opening and usage by our local population. Examples include culture and the arts, alternative energy, construction, and agriculture.
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?
The City and County should first look at other sources of revenues. A visitor fee would be helpful once tourists start arriving again. Higher property taxes on investment properties for out-of-state homeowners should be considered. Fast tracking leases of County land to generate income should occur.
Public workers help the economy with their wages. They spend their checks on rent or mortgages, food, clothing, gasoline, utilities, and other necessities. A pay cut should be considered as the final last resort.
What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness?
The first item on the agenda would be to get immediate shelter for the houseless. This could be converted buses, yurts, tents, and shipping containers in limited parks or open spaces which have restroom facilities and a degree of security. The Police Department’s Homeless Outreach and Navigation for Unsheltered Persons (HONU) should continue and be expanded. The national model of the Housing First program should also be expanded. More funding for mental health treatment and drug treatment for the houseless should be a priority. Dormitory style housing for adults who would share restrooms and a kitchen area is a possibility. Tiny home communities would work for some individuals and couples. Incentives for landlords who rent to people on our houseless lists is an option. The City working with the Department of Hawaiian Homelands to get Hawaiians on their land should be beneficial. Transit-oriented development focusing on high density units will be very helpful and practical. A new program to allow houseless individuals to get involved with farming and agriculture could be worth the effort. They could live on the ag land and learn about farming in order to help Hawaii with food security and growing more crops locally. Sending homeless from the mainland back home to the mainland should continue where appropriate. Social workers and volunteers helping people with mentoring, job searches, and living skills would add value to the cause.
Do you support or oppose stopping construction of the rail project at Middle Street? Please explain.
I oppose stopping the rail at Middle Street because it is not a work destination or high density area. In order to maximize ridership, the rail should finish at Ala Moana shopping center where tourists and locals congregate and utilize heavily.
Do you support or oppose using new city funds to cover any shortfall in HART’s construction or operating costs? Please explain.
I am currently opposed to using new City funds to cover any shortfall in HART’s construction or operating costs. We should first look at other revenue sources like private sector advertising along the rail line, commercial activities like vending machines, and tourists fees for operating costs. These will not fully cover all costs, but they can be useful for our budget. More federal stimulus funds should also be requested since the feds could boost overall construction to help with the effects of the COVID-18 pandemic on our economy. A public-private partnership, if done properly, can help with construction costs. A low interest rate loan from the federal government may also be an option for construction.
Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.
In the Hawaii Legislature, I was involved with passing reform legislation as I chaired the Senate Public Safety, Intergovernmental, and Military Affairs Committee.
My passed legislation included more transparency and openess in police misconduct annual reports and the only statewide Independent Review Board to review fatal police-involved shootings. I was also able to get HPD to end its policy on allowing officers to drink alcohol and carry a gun. Before, it was the officer’s discretion.
In the City Council, I will support fully funded body camera usage for officers, a permanent ban on chokeholds, a review of high speed chases on congested roadways, and more training on de-escalation tactics and handling of domestic violence cases. Giving the Police Commission more authority over the police department will improve civilian oversight. Keeping records of fired officers and a national data base of fired officers will be very useful. The militarization of our police force is another issue I would look into.
I also support the ongoing effort to create statewide standards for all law enforcement officers. In the past, I had introduced legislation to this effect. A certification and decertification of officers is needed in Hawaii.
Finally, I was the only legislator to publicly state that then-Chief Kealoha step down from his position while he’s under investigation. This should be the norm when the chief is under investigation by the federal government or the state attorney general. And there should be no golden parachute payout until an innocent verdict is determined.
What can county government do to mitigate the affects of sea-level rise on Oahu?
The county government determines what, when, and where structures are built. Anything too close to the shoreline should be rejected. No new buildings or add-ons should be allowed.
A turn to alternative energy and a gradual weaning away from fossil fuels should also continue. Solar and wind energy need to be encouraged and supported.
The Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency should be fully funded and supported.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
I am humbled and honored to be endorsed by the Sierra Club of Hawaii, HGEA, HSTA, Firefighters Association, ILWU, Carpenters, Operating Engineers, Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers, Hawaii Laborers, Ironworkers, Painters & Allied Trades, Masons, Teamsters, Construction Alliance, Laborers-Employers Cooperation & Education Fund, Our Revolution Hawaii, and 350 Hawaii.
My priorities are for the working men and women of Oahu, their families, our elderly and our youth. Thank you for your consideration. Please visit willespero.com for more information.
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