comscore 2022 Election: Dion Mesta | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Election

2022 Election: Dion Mesta

  • Dion Mesta
Name on ballot:

Dion Mesta

Running for:

Honolulu city council – District 8

Political party:

No answer submitted

Campaign website:

dionmesta.com

Current occupation:

Legislative Aide

Age:

39

Previous job history:

Government, non-profit and private sector experience.

Previous elected office, if any:

No political office held.

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Oahu.

I have served the communities of District 8 for the last eight years as an Aide to Councilmember Brandon Elefante. I am aware of the range of issues that are top of mind for residents in the district and have spent years working alongside community leaders, legislators to help address and resolve these concerns.

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

Although concerns and issues range and differ from every street, neighborhood and community, some overarching concerns include the lack of truly affordable housing and affordable rental units for working families. The State, City and County of Honolulu, and private developers need to work collaboratively to increase the inventory of affordable housing and maintain these units, ensuring that they remain affordable in perpetuity. Some policy changes and actions I would like to see taken at the City, include the potential use of land trusts, increasing down payment subsidies at the City level, building affordable housing for teachers, emergency personnel and working families, providing City lands for affordable housing development, purchasing and refurbishing existing units for affordable housing, and having experienced organizations maintain these projects under contract.

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?

The City would have to tighten its budget belt to prevent increases in property taxes and fees which would put a further strain on working families here in Hawaii.

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

The list of things we have been doing and could do more of is a long one. We need to focus on beefing up existing programs such as The Crisis, Outreach, Response and Engagement program with a focus on responding to the medical, psychological, and social needs of houseless individuals. We need to increase shelter capacity and work closely with nonprofits to provide wrap around services. We need to consider and plan for additional hygiene centers, such as Punawai Rest Stop, in each district, partnering with navigation hubs of city and nonprofit partnerships to connect homeless and mentally ill with services needed. The City could use a “One Stop Shop” Housing Center where City and nonprofits housed under one location provide a range of services.

The fact of the matter is that the situation will remain the same as long as individuals choose to be homeless by refusing government and charitable help. What is sorely needed is a more specific approach to each of the following three categories of the homeless population with government resources allocated accordingly: Individuals or families temporarily homeless and in search of assistance; those homeless by choice, often plagued by drug addiction, who avail themselves of assistance with little or no intention of moving off public property; and those who are suffering from mental illness in need of medical assistance, who are often a threat to themselves and others. I would work closely with all stakeholders involved to ensure that the City does its part to reduce the number of individuals experiencing homelessness, even if it’s one person at a time.

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

Current Sunshine laws and reporting requirements imposed by law on the Honolulu City Council appear to be sufficient. The public is afforded ample opportunities to weigh in on legislative matters before the Council. The recent corruption cases, still subject of ongoing investigation, demonstrate the need for more trustworthy leadership, not more laws.

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

The City should build on lessons learned. Takeaways include addressing community concerns about the need for any island wide restrictions and emergency operations plans. Educational outreach and feedback from the general public on the restrictions would promote better compliance with any mandates deemed necessary to ensure public safety.

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

The City’s Administration has done a great job standing up the Office of Economic Revitalization. The Office of Economic Revitalization works with stakeholders ranging from government, businesses, and community groups to rebuild a more diverse and equitable economy.

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.

Considering where we are with funding, it was a sound business decision to temporarily halt the current plan. However, I believe we need to finish the project in its entirety to Ala Moana. There are concerns that this will be a permanent deferral which will negatively impact ridership. Completed as originally designed, the system will;
● Provide additional transportation alternatives for communities reliant on public transportation
● Allow for transient-oriented-development and opportunities for mixed use development around the rail stations
● Reduce vehicles on the road and alleviate traffic congestion

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

I support the use of the county TAT to help support the project. Costs will continue to escalate, so the longer we take to finish the project the more it will cost. It makes more economic sense to finish the project as soon as possible and get rail operational.

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

Although I would have preferred managed access for Stairway to Heaven, I can understand the needs and concerns of those who live at the entrance and have lived with the negative effects of hikers. In the end, we should consider the dilemma of those immediately affected and thus support the area Councilmember’s advocacy for removal.

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

I was born in Honolulu but spent many of my formative years in Saipan. It has given me a unique perspective of the social and economic pressures on an island economy. I am not a career politician nor do I aspire to be one. I simply want to dedicate part of my life to giving back to the community in a way that I feel can make a difference. My background and years of experience as a legislative aide at the City Council has prepared me better than most of the other candidates for the position. I will not disappoint.

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?

Yes, I am in support of Ordinance 22-7 (Bill 41) which limits rental bookings lasting fewer than 90 days to designated areas. This limit helps return housing inventory to long-term rental and for-sale marketplaces.

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

The City can play an active role in this area now that the State has placed a new emphasis on management rather than on simply promoting tourism. Many of the most popular tourist attractions are under the City’s purview. Hanauma Bay is a good example of an effort to control the impact of tourism while still making the resource accessible. This could serve as a model for other tourist destinations.

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

The most effective approach to mitigate the negative impact of sea level rise on Oahu, as well as elsewhere in the state, is to formulate a long range plan of comprehensive zoning to slow or prevent growth in vulnerable areas. The City can and should establish a schedule for the set back of development already in areas adversely affected as well as restrictions on development in areas projected to be affected in the future. The stark reality is that all ocean frontage properties will demand rigorous regulation that should have begun yesterday. This includes private beachfront residences as well as development in low lying areas. We cannot continue to allow construction or reconstruction of homes or businesses in areas that will suffer from sea level rise with the expectation that the city or the state will come to the rescue.


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