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2020 Election: Colleen Hanabusa

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  • Colleen Hanabusa
Name on ballot:

Colleen Hanabusa

Running for:

Honolulu mayor

Political party:


Campaign website:

Current occupation:




Previous job history:

Attorney, Hawaii State Senator, U.S. Congresswoman

Previous elected office, if any:

Hawaii State Senate, U.S. Congress

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Oahu.

Thanks to the people of Hawaii, I have the experience and knowledge of how government operates on all levels. And especially in these times of COVID and the uncertainty on jobs, health, safety and welfare, we will need to access resources and understand how to navigate through the federal and state systems. I best fit the criteria. It is critical to understand government is not business. Government’s purpose is to serve and to assist those who need help. It is not a profit motivated entity.

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

Public confidence, especially for the people of the City & County of Honolulu who have witnessed public corruption at the highest levels and who continue to wonder when the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office will indict more individuals. I will listen and best address the concerns of the people and return their voice to government. Without public buy in, we will not be able to restore our City.

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

The City must put our residents’ health as the priority. It cannot equivocate and send conflicting messages. Opening the state up safely to trans-Pacific travel can only happen when we either have a vaccine for COVID or with comprehensive testing and contact tracing. At this time, though the 72-hour rule has been adopted in Alaska, we must adopt the whole plan which would need to include a subsequent test within 5 days or so. At this time, we do not have sufficient test kits or an adequate number of contact tracers. Until a vaccine is developed and available, we must do everything to protect our people.

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

The City must be willing to think outside of the box and be more proactive in allocating resources to meet the needs of our people. The City should be thinking of how to use the CARES Act funds, so people can directly benefit from it. Also, though the U.S. House of Representatives have passed the HEROES Act, there is still a need to secure the funding and more importantly, to have the flexibility in its use. The mayor must be able to understand and navigate federal funding.

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 one wants to furlough or cut pay because that will raise a different set of problems. I served in the Hawaii State Legislature during September 11. I was vice president of the Senate at that time and president of the Senate during the Great Recession. When it comes to public sector employees, the mayor must negotiate with the public sector unions and hopefully, reach a compromise. We also know from the Great Recession that there are sources of funds that can be tapped. That is what the Legislature did to address the draconian furloughs of the Administration at that time. During that time, the City did not suffer the level of revenue loss as the State because the City’s funding sources are different. The mayor must act in a way that is best for all.

What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness?

To take the problem over and have all branches of government report to the City. The problem right now is there are too many agencies doing too many similar things. The City and State do not appear to fully appreciate the frustrations of the residents who want their sidewalks and parks back. Yet, the homeless need shelter. Like the Ninth Circuit said in addressing Idaho’s “sit lie” bill, there must be adequate shelter. We need one entity to step up and address the problem in a legal, compassionate and permanent fashion so that it is not just constant sweeps of areas. I will do it.

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

I oppose a permanent stop at Middle Street because it will raise further problems with the federal government. I also believe the 2017 extension of the GET and implementation of the TAT to the year 2030 will provide sufficient funds to go to the Ala Moana Center as agreed to with the FTA. However, if this pandemic does not appear to have a resolution and the P3 which the FTA is waiting for does not materialize, then we may need to pause the project and it could pause at Middle Street.

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

I do not support the use real property taxes to cover the shortfall; however, the City removed 5307 FTA funds (bus funding) from the initial financial plan and must replace that. Also, as to operating costs, it is the City’s responsibility because the Legislature made very clear that the GET and the TAT would not be used for operations and maintenance. In 2016, by charter amendment, the voters of Honolulu put the operations of the rail into the City’s Department of Transportation Services, so it is not under HART.

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

Yes. I believe reform must be structural with the police commission and residents must have a say on this. We know that oversight of the police must come by way of a Charter Amendment. At this time, the police commission does not have the power. I believe police is a paramilitary organization and like the military, should have civilians in charge.

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

County government can support the efforts to go have the RPS at 100% by the year 2045. There must be sufficient support and commitment to the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency. During these times, the county should put its efforts into construction related projects that address sea level rise and mitigate its effect.

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

I have had an amazing political journey, thanks to your investment in me as an elected official. I have served in elected office for 16 years. I humbly ask for your vote, so I can continue to use the knowledge and experience that you have so kindly permitted me to gain so I can lead us out of this pandemic and together with you we can define a better Honolulu.

View more candidate questionnaires or see more 2022 Hawaii elections coverage.
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