Name on ballot:
Honolulu city council – District 6
No answer submitted
President, 721, LLC and President, Na Leo Pilimehana
Previous job history:
COO, Lawson & Associates, Inc, Sr VP, CommPac, AVP and Branch Manager, Bank Of Hawaii
Previous elected office, if any:
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Oahu.
I am a founding member of Na Leo Pilimehana. Over decades of being President of our record label, I have demonstrated my ability to withstand the test of time, friendships, commitment, integrity, hard work, and innovation. I have over 30 years of experience in various fields, including banking, management, the creative arts, intellectual property management, marketing, communications, and community engagement. I have started and owned several successful businesses, and have been both an employer and an employee. I have a BA in Business and an MS in Organizational Leadership: Strategic Innovation and Change, both from the University of Denver and co-founded a nonprofit in 2020 to elevate Hawai’i’s people. Raised my whole life by my grandparents and parents who emphasized Hawaiian cultural values, I have come to a deeper understanding of aloha and kuleana. I had the privilege of caring for my mother in her final years of life, and my Tutu before that. It impacted me greatly and helped me see the needs of all ages in Hawai’i. I am a critical thinker with new ideas, a bridge-builder, and a facilitator, and I have successfully utilized these skills in business and community leadership. I respect this place, care about Hawai’i’s people, and have no motive to seek this office other than to serve District 6 and our City.
What is the most pressing need for the people you seek to represent, and what will you do to address that need?
In talking with residents, business owners, and seniors in District 6, their most significant issue is crime. As public servants, the safety of our citizens must be our #1 priority. I support the men and women in blue, and continue to call for HPD’s focus on filling the police officer vacancies and to provide the resources needed. As a Councilmember, I will use my position to vigilantly keep the Mayor and HPD Chief’s focus on recruiting, training, and efficient management of HPD. Residents are asking for foot patrols in high-crime areas and quicker responses. To support HPD, I will push for the City budgets, management, and oversight needed to ensure that our officers have the training, tools, and resources they need. As a City Councilmember, I will ask for timelines and strategic plans from HPD leadership. Most importantly, I will continue to press on this issue to ensure it doesn’t lose momentum, because crime and homelessness is on the rise and we must change that trend. I will use my business management and organizational leadership background to make progress and support the changes needed to maintain and improve the safety of our community.
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?
Inflation is rising due to many factors. Locally, we need to provide immediate relief to taxpayers whose monthly budgets were previously tight and are now in dangerous territory, especially those on fixed incomes or living paycheck to paycheck, such as ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) families. At the city level, temporary tax breaks, including property tax, GET, motor vehicle fees, and utility bills, would provide welcome relief to those in jeopardy. Businesses that have already struggled through the pandemic need tax relief too. But the long-term solution is to look at our overall cost of living in Hawaii. Housing and food costs are our most significant items in Hawaii, and these continue to climb due to high taxes, years of government inefficiency, and overburdening regulations. Taxes need to be reduced in Hawaii, and we should constantly look at ways to do that, not increasing taxes or finding new ones every year.
What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness and to make housing more affordable to residents?
I refuse to ignore or accept homelessness as a way of life in Hawai’i. We need to refocus on the needs of all Hawai’i’s residents and their challenges to determine what is fair and compassionate overall. First, build more affordable housing, and diversify our economy to provide good jobs and careers for people so they can make it here. Second, it is not fair, safe, clean, or compassionate for anyone to have people sleeping on public sidewalks. Next, we need to address the chronically homeless with drug and mental illness issues and do more to get them into treatment. Mental health professionals understand that the severely mentally ill and chronic drug users do not have the capacity to make good decisions in that mental state – intervention is needed. Homeless service programs need to minimize their impact on the public and private spaces around them through better management or decentralization. Lastly, the City and State need to work together to repatriate the homeless that travel to Hawai’i simply because it is easier to be homeless in our beautiful State. Hawai’i is not their answer.
I believe the Honolulu City Council’s role is to support and advocate for more affordable housing built on O’ahu. I will focus on management strategies and new processes that improve zoning approvals, speed up permitting, reduce regulations and eliminate red tape. I will work with the other Councilmembers, the City administration, and the State, and have already begun to seek input from private industry. The end-users of these services, namely builders and developers, feel that much can be done to improve these government processes, and I have the will and skill to lead that effort at the council level.
What reforms, if any, would you propose to make local government more transparent to the public?
Using the police commission as an example, the City Council must vet all appointments thoroughly. We will restore the public’s confidence when there are qualified, ethical people in office who are representing them and not their careers or special interests. This means voting out career politicians and supporting people with experience, a track record of honesty and ethics, and who serve the people, not the machine. Put the right people in the right seats, and we will start seeing change and improvements. I will always support transparency and honesty in the City Council’s processes and operations.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, what should city government do to help protect residents’ health?
I believe clear communication and regular dissemination of accurate information is essential. People need continued access to testing, medication, and treatments with respect for everyone’s medical privacy, civil rights, and personal medical decisions, without coercion or punishment. The City Council and administration should be having conversations now about what was effective and what was not, to be prepared for future crises, to improve our response, and provide clarity to residents, businesses, and organizations.
What should city government do to help residents who have been economically affected by the pandemic?
The City should focus on getting all city services up and running at normal capacity while supporting the needs of Hawai’i’s businesses and institutions to open back up fully. I am especially concerned about people who lost their jobs and companies forced to shut down during the pandemic. Every attempt should be made to restore City and State employees who were involuntarily let go, back to full employment.
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.
I believe any changes to the formerly approved plan should be substantiated with complete, reliable, and accurate information – which has not yet been done. The FTA must also approve any changes to avoid losing federal funds – which has not yet been done. All options should be considered to complete the project reasonably, provide value to the taxpayers, and limit the costs that are already far above previous budgets. The public trust has been eroded to the point that any new proposals, new deadlines, and new budgets are met with frustration and distrust.
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 new city funds to cover shortfalls on a project that has already taken too large a share of the city tax revenues. Many core services have been reduced or deferred to find money for HART. HART’s operations and maintenance costs will also need to be accounted for with accurate numbers and contingencies to avoid the further ballooning of these project costs.
Do you support or oppose the plan to dismantle the Stairway to Heaven? Please explain.
The Stairway to Heaven is a beautiful hike and was enjoyed by many. But the City’s track record has shown that it did not safely manage the site, nor has it been able to address property owners’ concerns related to noise and trespassing. Sadly, for those reasons, it should be dismantled.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
I am running for City Council D6 because I have a heart to serve our community representing the residents of D6. The people in D6 tell me they’re concerned about crime, homelessness and affordable housing, so I will focus on that. I am not a career politician, have no affiliation with either party, and do not represent any special interest groups. I encourage voters to go to our website https://www.vote4nalani.com/ to learn more, and I humbly ask for their vote on election day. Mahalo.
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 don’t support the new law as written because I don’t believe it will bring a permanent solution to the problem. It could be effectively enforced if the City had the will to enforce the vacation rental laws consistently, but that has not happened. I agree with the need to enforce zoning regulations, including those concerning illegal vacation rentals. But with previous lack of enforcement, it appears that merely changing the law will not bring the intended outcome. The City Council needed to address the root issues of why violations were not enforced and determine the best long-term solution.
Do you think more needs to be done at the city level to manage tourism? If so, what would you propose?
At the City level, we should do more to manage the impact of tourism on our island and our local population. Tourism is an important industry and employs many people in Hawai’i. The significant decline in tourism revenues during COVID was a wake-up call, but it also showed residents what it would be like if tourism’s impact were reduced, and residents could once again enjoy the beaches, parks, and facilities that their tax dollars are going to support. I support the proper management of funding and resources for parks, beaches, city facilities and public safety to ensure that we maintain the beauty of our island for all to enjoy. This includes cleaning up the homeless at our parks and beaches, improving parking and restrooms so locals can utilize them along with tourisms, and managing and directing impact fees at various heavily traveled tourist attractions (i.e. Hanauma Bay) towards their intended use, to beautify and maintain these places.
What can city government do to mitigate the affects of sea-level rise on Oahu?
The City must be mindful of roads, parks, beaches, infrastructure, and buildings that are subject to damage from sea-level rise, specifically the effects of flooding and erosion over time. I will support funding that addresses these issues to maintain or upgrade our core services, parks, beaches, and facilities, in collaboration with the City’s Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency. I will also be looking closely at the costs associated with all budgets to ascertain where our taxpayer dollars should best be spent to be effective and efficient and make the most impact. This will be a long-term effort and we must find long-term solutions, not just band-aids.
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