comscore 2022 Election: Charmaine T. Doran | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

2022 Election: Charmaine T. Doran

  • Charmaine Doran
Name on ballot:

Charmaine T. Doran

Running for:

Honolulu city council – District 8

Political party:

No answer submitted

Campaign website:

Current occupation:

Small Business Entrepreneur



Previous job history:

Legislative Analyst
Legislative Auditor
Council Chief of Staff
Director, Office of Council Services

Previous elected office, if any:

Pearl City Neighborhood Board

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Oahu.

I am a local girl. Born and raised in Hawai’i. I am a wife and a mother of a young child in public school. I spent about 30 years working for the Legislative Branch to draft policy, laws, and budgets. I started in public service at the age of 18 and I put myself through college at night. I have earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Master’s degree in Public Administration. I currently serve on the Pearl City Neighborhood Board and chair its Legislative Committee. On the Board, I’ve used my extensive knowledge of the Council to pass a record number of resolutions outlining key legislative priorities for our district.

We need and deserve a champion at City Council—someone with the proven courage to put local people first and the experience to create real solutions. That’s the public servant I have been and the Councilmember I intend to be.

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

Preserving our quality of life. Traditionally, local government led with Aloha and supported innovative programs that helped local people thrive. This is no longer the case. For decades, new homes have been built for rich speculators, not kamaaina. Residents now work multiple jobs just to pay the rent in microunits and for most, a home purchase is entirely out of reach. We live from paycheck to paycheck. Without adequate safety nets in place, homelessness has continued to grow. If elected, I will work diligently to require more and real affordable housing units in developments, and re-establish the city’s construction of rental housing units. Additionally, we must also concentrate on preventive services and establish new city programs to offer housing, rental, food, and utility assistance. We must work to keep local people thriving and offer aid if they encounter financial, health, or housing crises.

Finally, as one of the larger employers in Honolulu, the government must evaluate its current pay structure and its benefit package. Way too many public employees live near or at the poverty line.

Rising inflation has significantly worsened Hawaii’s already high cost of living. What can be done at the county level to help Oahu residents cope with high consumer prices?

Even before inflation it was tough. Inflation and covid has made it much worse. Our dollars don’t stretch as far. The city has a responsibility to help residents. The city should only take and keep the money it really needs. Waving the fuel tax, keeping fees flat and returning property tax money would help our local families tremendously.

We also need to create a new and permanent city program to provide essential aid to families with rent, food, child care, and utilities. This would be new for the city, but our local families need and deserve it.

What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness and to make housing more affordable to residents?

Homelessness is a humanitarian crisis at the local level. We cannot arrest our way out of homelessness. We must proactively work to prevent homelessness and actively house those in need. Federal COVID recovery funds can help the city to establish housing and homelessness prevention services. Wrap-around services, shelters, and bridge housing are all a necessary. In addition, the city must put local people first, and mandate new affordable housing units at lower median income levels in developments. Finally, long ago the city mostly abandoned its housing program. The city has to get back in the housing business and also expand its rental assistance programs.

What reforms, if any, would you propose to make local government more transparent to the public?

To address ongoing corruption, we must enhance public integrity by focusing on three priorities. Transparency, accountability, and oversight. The council must set out laws that increase transparency such as requiring all ethics complaints to be public record, limiting fees for public records, mandating income tax records be included with financial disclosures, and reducing the use of executive sessions and closed door meetings at the Council. Creating a complaint or ombudsman agency to address public concerns and operational issues will also strengthen accountability. Establishing a new code enforcement division would also increase transparency and government efficiency. The city currently has no comprehensive policy or plan to address on-going corruption or to increase transparency. Both are needed immediately.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, what should city government do to help protect residents’ health?

COVID highlighted how vulnerable and isolated we are as a people. It also underscored that even after missile-gate and decades of post 9-11 planning and millions in funding, there are still huge flaws in our emergency operations and inter-governmental communications. At the start of the COVID pandemic, this left many of us in limbo trying to navigate the crisis. Better organization and planning is absolutely necessary between the city and state. Moving forward, the city should continue to make available vaccines, PPE, and follow best practice protocols to help residents stay healthy. We also need to create a new permanent city program to provide essential aid to families to help with rent, food, child care, and utilities. The long-term health of local families is dependent on whether they truly prosper in the city.

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

COVID brought to the forefront how many of us live on the edge of financial collapse. As one of the most expensive places to live, many of our residents work multiple jobs just to stay afloat. COVID dealt a devastating blow to many of these local families. To help these struggling families, the city must work to establish a permanent and comprehensive program to help local residents with housing, food, child care, and utility costs. Aid when it is needed most will help to increase the resiliency of both our local people and the city.

Next to tourism, government is one of our largest employers. While at the federal level employees receive a COLA to offset the high-cost, state and local government do not offer this type of assistance. The state and city must look closely at employee pay and benefits packages. Especially for those lowest on the payscale. Too many of our government employees live very close to or at the poverty line.

Residents working for the tourism industry have been hit particularly hard during the pandemic. Some are still experiencing job instability. In addition to financial aid for essentials, our city should also work to expand its economic office into greater job placement and economic diversification activities. By reinvesting in economic development, Honolulu can emerge as a remote hub for international businesses, entrepreneurial sector, culinary and agri-business hot-spot, and the tech capital of the pacific. The city must develop a real vision for economic development and diversification, and then work to extend these opportunities to our local residents.

Do you support or oppose the current plan to stop construction of the rail project in Kakaako instead of near Ala Moana Center? Please explain.

Connectivity is an essential part of rail transit. Throughout the world, the success of rail is heavily dependent on connecting work centers with residential populations. Cutting short the rail line should be considered necessary, but only temporary. And we got here as a direct result of poor planning and weak oversight.

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

In 2006, after a military vehicle struck the overpass, I sat along with thousands of other Leeward residents in traffic for about four hours. It would not be the first or last time I sat for hours in traffic. Of course, rail will not solve traffic congestion. But rail will offer residents a choice and increase transportation equity on the Leeward side. This is long overdue. However, the out-of-control cost and constant project changes are unacceptable. Recently, our district felt the sting of rail changes, when its long-promised parking facility was unceremoniously postponed. Unbeknownst to us, the postponement originally surfaced several years earlier. Yet, we the public, did not find out until 2022. This is the type of mishandling that has caused dislike of the rail project.

The City Council exercises little control over the project or HART. And HART behaves like public funding is endless. Both must change. To regain control, the Council must adopt a rail transparency policy for spending and demand a real and improved CIP program. Right now, as operations shift to transportation services, the Council must dictate funding sources as well as limits. HART also needs to develop a plan to show extra revenue streams, such as advertising and developer fees. Finally, we must create a new fiscal and accountability board to oversee project finances and to better advise the Council.

To allocate more sources of money without changes to increase oversight, a valid CIP or a new financing plan for operations, would be both irresponsible and a huge violation of the public trust.

Do you support or oppose the plan to dismantle the Stairway to Heaven? Please explain.

The stairway dilemma is an unfortunate situation, but not uncommon. The Waikiki Natatorium, several city parks, and numerous hiking locations, are all experiencing similar conditions. Many favorite local spots outside of Waikiki have become overrun by visitors. Without adequate city services, these sites have become a burden to surrounding communities. As a result, residents are being pushed out of areas accessed for generations. We need to hold government accountable. For far too long the city has ignored access and use issues. The city needs to establish clear and immediate “levels of service” requirements (bathrooms, parking, security, emergency services, etc) for all public facilities. We must also explore limiting visitor use at certain sites.

The Haiku stairs is a symptom of local governments antiquated “all or nothing” approach to tourism. If we want to stay competitive in the tourism industry, we should strive to protect our environment, our culture, and our communities.

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

Today, our city is at a troubling crossroads, facing many of the same longstanding issues. If we want our local people to thrive in the future, the time for half-hearted action is pau. We need a champion at the City Council—someone with the proven courage to put local people first. Not just talk about it. That’s the public servant I have been and the Councilmember I intend to be. If we want change, we have to vote for it.
I humbly ask for your vote in this primary election.

Do you support or oppose the newly revised city law to combat vacation rentals that violate zoning regulations, and do you think it can be effectively enforced?

I support it. Illegal vacation rentals put a huge strain on housing inventory and our local communities. This is not new, enforcement has been an issue for decades. The city has earmarked about 20 million dollars to modernize DPP to help with system gaps and to deter corruption. However, the city and the public may be better served using these funds to establish a separate code enforcement branch to deal with vacation rentals, monster homes, and the many other community nuisances that have long been ignored.

Do you think more needs to be done at the city level to manage tourism? If so, what would you propose?  

Absolutely. Visitors are most often using city facilities when visiting O’ahu. The city needs to establish clear and immediate “levels of service” requirements (bathrooms, parking, security, emergency services, etc) for all public facilities. We must also explore banning visitors at certain sites, collecting user fees from tourist – including the cost of rescues. The city’s antiquated “all or nothing” tourism strategy combined with minimal infrastructure investment has left local communities carrying a heavy burden. If we want to stay economically competitive in this industry, we should strive to protect what makes us unique – our environment and our people.

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

The city must do more to address climate change to help reduce the impact of sea-level rise. While the city has made strides in making plans, we can still take more action to become a zero-waste and zero-emission community. For example, immediately developing telework benchmarks for city agencies can help to decrease transportation emissions and department cooling costs. Adopting a timeline for all city facilities to transition to solar power and smart buildings is already long overdue. Prioritizing funding for residential solar installations and to bolster the recycling industry, will help us to be “greener.” On a larger scale, the city must advocate to harden our infrastructure against rising sea levels and pursue urban greening for sidewalks and roadways to decrease stormwater run-off. Plus, we must mandate increased affordable housing, green spaces, and solar power in all new developments. Lastly, while we strive to do our part to help our planet, we must decrease waste and develop waste-to-energy facilities that are environmentally sound.

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