Name on ballot:
Honolulu city council – District 7
Chief of Staff, Office of Councilmember Joey Manahan; Radio Host, FilAm Courier Community Hour; Assistant Editor, FilAm Courier
Previous job history:
• Legislative Aide, Hawai‘i State House of Representatives
• Community representative in nonprofit organization
• Program manager in nonprofit organization
• Front desk in two Waikiki hotels
• Office clerk at the Second Language Studies department, UH Mānoa
• Disability Access Services Assistant, Office for Students with Disabilities, Kōkua Program, UH Mānoa
Previous elected office, if any:
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Oahu.
I have dedicated my career of service to the community that raised me with ten years in local government, as well as serving the community in local media, our hospitality industry, and local nonprofits with a focus on keiki development and our persons with disabilities in different organizations. I graduated from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa with a Bachelor’s in Political Science, Bachelor’s in American Studies, and Master’s in Public Administration. I have worked at both the state and county legislative branches and have used my 15 years of overall work experience as well as my life experiences to continue to foster relationships to work towards community-driven solutions.
Our neighborhoods are getting less affordable, our economy more unequal. Sea-levels are rising. Our infrastructure is deteriorating. Our district needs a leader who doesn’t need a learning curve and can hit the ground running and will rise to these challenges with the urgency to take action now. I have a track record of real accomplishment from even before my work in local government, and the vision to lay the groundwork for a better tomorrow. I’m running to work together with my community and county to build a more sustainable and more equitable Honolulu for all of us. I am committed to expanding housing options and guiding Oahu’s growth to support local residents. I want to work together with our community stakeholders and service providers to provide wrap-around services for those neighbors who are experiencing homelessness. I will be a champion for expanding transportation choices and making our streets safer for everyone. I will prioritize the health and sustainability of our island home, including revitalizing our parks and public spaces, supporting urban/community gardens, and will work with our communities towards transformational action to meet our clean energy goals.
What is the most pressing need for the people you seek to represent, and what can you do to address that need?
This pandemic has only saturated the most pressing need for affordable housing and solutions to housing in our communities. The stay-at-home/safer-at-home orders was a struggle for families who did not have have a permanent home. In my own place of residency, many renters had to break their leases and find alternative shared housing or move away from the islands just in these past few months.
I will collaborate toward fundamental mechanisms to ensure that current tenants are not displaced, that enough new units are truly affordable, and that they’re more integrated and sustainable than what we’ve built to date. I will also work to strengthen and help meet the demand by updating our zoning and density requirements and repurposing both city inventory and older buildings to add more units. Another way to ensure housing is prioritized is to make sure we’ve got the infrastructure needed to sustain growth. Also, we must genuinely engage community voices to shape places where families will thrive, and that new units are built with the climate crisis in mind — near transit and energy-efficient.
Increasing our supply of housing is essential, but, without designing for our residents most in need, will exacerbate the problem. An intensive community engagement strategy, upheld by watchful Council leadership, must ensure that each proposal meets aggressive affordable housing goals and actually benefits every resident living in our city — especially those who need it the most.
As Hawaii faces the COVID-19 pandemic, what more should county government do to protect residents’ health?
The county is in the position to expend CARES funds for the benefit of our neighbors in need. It is key that the counties keep up their coordination with the state and federal governments for clear communications to residents and visitors alike.
The county government can and has assisted in the need to protect those who experience socioeconomic disparities and economic inequality by supporting economic inclusion and equitable development, which are critical factors for the public health, safety and economic competitiveness of our city.
The City can continue to support COVID-19 testing as well as the state’s tracing programs. The City can also work with the State to also evaluate if businesses are operating with ample safety procedures. I understand that many feel that this is an overreach of government, but, there are huge risks of surges of infections, and if we cannot shut down again, then we need to take extra precautions as we open back up again.
What should county government do to help residents who have been economically affected by the pandemic?
Just as with the household hardship relief program and small business protection program, the City has prioritized our local residents as the economy opens back up.
The State needs to partner with the City to fight for more funds so we can then allocate funds for more concerns that thousands of residents have, such as loss of healthcare, losing unemployment benefits, and helping businesses provide health and safety procedures and materials for their staff and customers.
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?
I would not support worker furloughs, pay cuts, in our county government at any point, especially during a pandemic. Furloughs or layoffs will only hinder the city’s response to our communities and negatively impact our local economy.
It is crucial that the City maintains its essential services to local residents and visitors. I believe in modernizing county services and implementing improved digital infrastructure to enable city departments to reduce their budget needs for office space and storage, as well as work toward efficient yet antiquated systems to cut costs.
What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness?
As an active community volunteer, I have volunteered directly with persons experiencing homelessness. In my career, I extensively I have worked on projects with the council to provide the nation’s largest comprehensive hygiene center that will soon have health and mental health services above it, expanding our substance abuse response and rehabilitation centers and programs, domestic violence programs, and homeless youth programs. I feel that we also must reevaluate the city’s inventory, I would push for vacant units in buildings to be repurposed for housing. I will also forge immediate partnerships with the state to push for further opportunities in housing as the city has limited land but can help build these opportunities.
I support Housing First because it guides persons experiencing homelessness in multifaceted approaches while placing them in permanent supportive housing for safety and security. Many fail to recognize that Housing First initiatives are not complete without the extensive and individually-tailored services they are provided when service providers then visit clients in their homes and offer assistance with mental illness, substance abuse, job training and placement, and other life skills. It is not primarily housing people that is the answer, it is meeting our neighbors at their abilities and capabilities.
As council member, I will lead efforts to refocus our city budget to prioritize support for social service agencies that address the vast range of issues that cause barriers for persons experiencing homelessness.
Do you support or oppose stopping construction of the rail project at Middle Street? Please explain.
Rail is a major investment not only towards our public transportation system but for Oahu’s residents and communities. I support the completion of rail to Ala Moana and to UH Mānoa pursuant to the Full Federal Grant Agreement (FFGA) and the locally preferred alternative (LPA), the financial and legislative framework of the rail project. The City and County has an obligation to our federal partners, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), to finish the minimum operating segment (MOS), 20 miles 21 stations from Kapolei to Ala Moana, pursuant to the FFGA the City and County of Honolulu entered into with the FTA in 2012. We still have close to half of the original $1.55 billion in federal grant monies left on the table, and finishing rail to Ala Moana at a minimum is required for us to receive those funds.
More importantly, the City Council should stay true to the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA), which requires the system to be built to the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. Not only does this make the system more efficient and viable, since it would be connecting UHM to UH West Oahu and all campuses in between with a single ride, but for my district, home to 8 of the 21 stations (and not to mention the highest projected ridership for rail), the investment will dramatically improve the quality of life for residents who will not have to sit in traffic while going from home to work or commuting from work to school and more.
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 City funds to cover any construction shortfall. In 2005, the Legislature created the half percent county surcharge, a dedicated tax levied by the State for the sole purpose of constructing rail. The general excise tax (GET) was the preferred revenue source, because it was determined by the City and the State that the City needed an infusion of new revenue to be able to carry out the project without hurting its bond rating. In 2017 the Legislature created a hybrid funding system that tied rail construction to transient accommodations tax (TAT), which has proven to be disastrous in this pandemic. To make matters worse, any shortfalls, cost overruns, and/or delays would have to be shouldered by the City under the current financial plan.
HART recently announced that the funding shortfall would be upwards of $400 million dollars as a result of the pandemic and plummeting TAT and GET revenues.
That’s a growing number, and it can potentially bankrupt the City if the Legislature doesn’t grant the City an extension on the half percent GET surcharge soon.
Therefore, I would support going back to the Legislature and requesting an extension on the half percent GET surcharge to cover the cost of rail construction to Ala Moana.
Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.
When we talk about starting anew, we are going to take time to engage the public, businesses, schools, and even police officers to talk about what ways they do not feel safe, and what would it take to actually be safe. As a member of Neighborhood Security Watch and Citizen’s Patrol groups in Salt Lake and Kalihi, I have seen the benefits of community-driven action to build and reclaim community with our own neighbors.
Before we take necessary actions to provide reform to the police department and even fill these important seats on the police commission, we need to hear from the communities which are directly affected by their conduct. I want to directly engage the people in our working-class neighborhoods who most need the police to work for them, not against them, as well as to hear from officers, too, to hear what changes they would like to see made.
We have to look at the roots of the issues that we are now normally having police respond to, and assess if we should be investing less in police force of action and more into an array of other professions that can resolve many of the issues (such as social services, mental health counselors, conflict management specialists, etc.).
What can county government do to mitigate the affects of sea-level rise on Oahu?
The counties are uniquely positioned to implement land use policy tools to shape our state and counties’ efforts to successfully adapt to rising sea levels in the coming decades and these challenges require leadership and bold action and I am prepared to continue working with my community, city, state, and federal officials to ensure successful adaptation and resilience to sea level rise.
Our county must continue to prioritize resiliency efforts against the adverse effects of climate change, especially sea-level rise, that can impact and threaten our ecosystems, infrastructure, and even economic drivers such as our harbors, airports, local residents and businesses, sewage and drainage and more. As a county, we need to continue to accelerate towards short- and long-term cost savings by implementing sea level rise adaptation measures, including relocating infrastructure now as opposed to continued maintenance of our chronically threatened public infrastructure.
The effects of sea-level rise for my district already causes flooding from high and king tides, and if not mitigated, can cause saltwater intrusion of our drainage systems, and damage our coastal homes and businesses, including our airport. The county must implement now in all of our projects the baseline activity and infrastructure assessment and development with regard to sea-level rise with the planning benchmark of up to 6 feet, which is the expected global mean sea level rise toward the end of our century. Regulatory tools through our zoning and overlay zones changes are needed with the beginning of the county adopting new energy and building codes and implementing necessary conservation easements where necessary after thorough consideration. Each city department then must be supported with the adequate resources, funds, and capacity to implement these resiliency recommendations to proactively plan for sea-level rise, especially because it will cost more to be reactive versus proactive in response to climate change. Our city’s property information sheets should also include disclosures on all assessed properties that are in the 3.2 and 6 feet sea level rise-exposure areas.
As Councilmember, I will continue to push for and support capital improvement decisions to mitigate impacts to infrastructure and critical facilities related to sea level rise. Climate adaptation measures must be implemented through planning for flood control, implementing zone changes, and coastal zone management when planning and allocating our capital improvement projects. Policy changes must continue to be made to our sustainable community development plans and development plans, which has been prioritized by the county government in this last administration and councils. I support our county’s “O ‘ahu Resilience Strategy” and strongly believe that it must continue to be updated and improved to reflect the priorities of our community as we move toward reaching our goal of climate resiliency.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
My priorities for my life’s work, even beyond this campaign, stems from my very life experiences. Every day, I think about how people get around and how I can work with them to make it safer to do so, because my own aunt was killed after being hit with a car while crossing the street. I think about the negative effects of losing a home or how the county can support different types of places people can call home, because I know what it is like to have our family take people in and vice versa, with sleepless nights worrying how safe me and my family is there. Also, I know very well that one job is not enough, as someone who saw her parents, grandparents, and experienced for my own self having to juggle more than three or more jobs, even up to the beginning of my campaign, to keep living in Hawai‘i and put myself through college.
I have chosen this career in public service because I experienced and recognized these barriers to our government services. I dedicate my life’s work to amplify the voices of our community and allow them the opportunity to speak for themselves — because, more often than not, participation in our local government is still for the few and not all of us. That is why I will push for equitable city services. I truly want our neighbors to be a part of our decisonmaking. Although elected officials have the pulse of their community, our neighbors provide perspectives of their every day struggles that we as candidates all run to represent and fight for.
View more candidate questionnaires or see more 2020 Hawaii elections coverage.