Businessman Keith Amemiya, 54, joined Spotlight Hawaii to talk about his bid for Honolulu mayor.
While new to politics, Amemiya says he has plenty of executive experience, as a business leader, a former member of the UH Board of Regents, the Honolulu Police Commission, and the state Board of Education. But Amemiya said it was his 12 years as the executive director of the Hawaii High School Athletics Association that formed the basis for why he is running.
“I had a chance to go across the state and meet many different people in all communities, across the state and especially on Oahu, and I learned firsthand their struggles to make ends meet,” Amemiya said. “That in nutshell is why I’m running for mayor. I want to make a difference, I want to fight for the working-class people and the underdogs without a voice.”
Amemiya said if elected, one of his priorities would be to create more housing that people can actually afford while protecting the more rural parts of Oahu.
“I’ve been the first and only candidate with a housing for all plan that seeks to address the massive 22,000 unit shortage we have in terms of housing here on the island,” he said. “It’s a delicate balance because we need more housing and we are an island state, so we only have so much open space, so we have to find places where they best fit. In terms of addressing the housing shortage, the urban core is a natural place to look, especially along the rail line, it’s already developed.”
Amemiya supports completing the rail project to Ala Moana Center.
“It’s an important means of transportation, it’s an important alternative to cars, getting people off the road,” he said. “It will help our environment. And also, we can’t afford to have to give back the $800 million we’ve already received in federal subsidies for the rail project if we don’t complete rail all the way to Ala Moana.”
Amemiya said his administration would include a new office of community engagement, whose sole purpose would be to get feedback from community members before decisions are made.
“Too often the public feels that they are the last to know about a project in their neighborhood, and that upsets them and rightfully so,” he said.
Amemiya said his candidacy is about change.
“The voters have a choice,” he said. “They can choose between the status quo or they can choose change.”
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday and Wednesday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. This month, Yunji de Nies and Ryan Kalei Tsuji conduct one-on-one interviews with Honolulu mayoral candidates. Here is the lineup:
July 6 – Colleen Hanabusa
July 8 – Mufi Hannemann
July 13 – Rick Blangiardi
July 15 – Choon James
July 20 – Keith Amemiya
July 22 – Kym Pine