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Election

2022 Election: Traci K Toguchi

Traci Toguchi
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Name on ballot:

Traci K Toguchi

Running for:

Honolulu city council – District 6

Political party:

No answer submitted

Campaign website:

www.traciktoguchi.com/

Current occupation:

Honolulu City Council District VI Legislative Analyst

Age:

47

Previous job history:

Public (city, state, federal), private (wide array of industries, structures and sizes), nonprofit, and small business sectors (including as an owner for 15 years) in Honolulu, New York City and Los Angeles:

City and County of Honolulu for four and a half years–at the City Council since January 2018 beginning with the Office of Council Services, then the District IV office (as Legislative Analyst) for all but one and a half years while serving as an Information Specialist II for the City Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

State of Hawaii Legislature Senate and House of Representatives (as Office Manager, Legislative Aide, and Committee Clerk), Department of Accounting and General Services State Procurement Office, and Department of Budget and Finance Employees’ Retirement System. U.S. Social Security Administration Office of Disability Adjudication and Review-Honolulu verbatim hearing recorder.

Small business owner, which includes Traci Toguchi, Inc. (entertainment (record label and recording/performing artist, songwriting publishing, voice and acting instructor); marketing (strategic planning, event and project coordination, public relations); administration (including legal services for attorneys); and web (administration/development) services).

Work experience includes: probate researcher at the Oahu First Circuit Court, special events officer for Central Pacific Bank (Honolulu), legal and executive assistant and secretary at law firms in New York City, Los Angeles and Honolulu, executive director for the James Bradley Peace Foundation (Rye, New York), and membership administrator for the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Los Angeles.

Previous elected office, if any:

No answer submitted

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Oahu.

Same as the “Current occupation” and “Previous job history” sections. As a paralegal (through education and work experience), currently working in this District VI office under the counsel of the City Council’s and City’s attorneys allows me to more effectively help District VI constituents. I also have institutional knowledge for this District and the City, as well as current City experience to know how to effectively and efficiently navigate within the City, and with state and federal agencies, and community stakeholders. As a member of the Hawaii Paralegal Association, I participate in ongoing continuing legal education, and complete additional certifications in areas including contracts, updates in respective laws, and judicial processes.

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

I consider crime to be the most pressing need to address for District VI. From January 1, 2022 to April 30, 2022, there were 9,532 property crimes (9,788 in 2021, and 8,165 in 2020), and 838 violent crimes (701 in 2021, and 634 in 2020), according to the Honolulu Police Department (HPD). I believe feeling physically safe in the place we live significantly contributes to our quality of life. When I lived in New York City in the late 1990s, I recall more police presence positively contributed to this need. I believe more HPD presence will also improve quality of life on Oahu.

Addressing vacancies will help HPD increase police visibility, which includes patrol officer presence at locations known for criminal activity. HPD was No. 1 in the City Department of Human Resources’ May 2022 Budget Committee presentation of department counts for vacancies (951 of 3,271), and retirement-eligible (351 of 2,320). Perhaps HPD’s Reserve Officer Program can be even more expanded. I support HPD with their determination of the most effective ways to address this issue, which include establishing yearly training academies, and a pilot program to increase staffing by 10% per shift. In a March 2022 City Council Budget Committee briefing, 329 uniformed vacant positions were reported.

Additionally, I would continue to support Weed and Seed programs, and do what I have been doing as a City Council District VI staff member, which is working closely with HPD and Prosecuting Attorney Alm’s office to address constituents’ criminal concerns.

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?

With respect to City jurisdiction, I look to respective subject matter experts, including the City Department of Budget and Fiscal Services (BFS), and Oahu Real Property Tax Advisory Commission (ORPTAC). Respective recommendations from the ORPTAC’s June 30, 2022 Final Report include revising sections of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu:

Relating to home exemptions by increasing to the amount to adjust for inflation and statewide property valuations (and consider excluding a certain percentage of high value properties from the homeowner’s exemption). This includes annual adjustments according to consumer price or inflation indices by the BFS Real Property Assessment Division accordingly.

Relating to the real property tax credit by increasing the credit amount to adjust for inflation and statewide property valuation, utilizing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development metrics.

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

With respect to combatting homelessness:

I encourage keeping as many imperative stakeholders in such ongoing discussions and efforts, including individuals who are unhoused and/or experienced houselessness on Oahu, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii (ACLU).

In addition to supporting subject matter professionals (including from social service and health care organizations, and government emergency medical services), as well as continuing to support current programs, including those related to mental health, and mobile bed and hygiene facilities, I suggest providing services accordingly including ongoing counseling, and education and/or job readiness and skill development, and job assistance with storage/places to keep important paperwork and clothes so they may—with dignity—attend work and/or school, including in locations to prepare to do so.

Perhaps offer comparable Weed and Seed and National Guard Youth Challenge community-based programs that currently invest in our youth, including with community resource centers (with office equipment).

And with respect to making housing more affordable to residents:

I encourage prioritizing and expanding affordable housing by focusing on affordable rentals, homeownership, and workforce housing, including by encouraging the use of government owned-land in urban/developed areas accordingly (particularly the City, due to my jurisdiction) to support such development, and looking at different partnership opportunities, incentives and use.

I suggest addressing current and future housing-related issues for Honolulu’s young local residents by bringing to the discussions respective stakeholders such as Housing Hawaii’s Future, which is led by young local residents working to create opportunities for their peers and future young residents by providing workforce housing.

Since large scale single-family dwellings (“monster houses”) continue to be pointed to as a significant source of driving local residents out of neighborhoods they and their families have lived in for several generations by increasing tax assessment valuations of its neighboring properties, I continue to read through the City Revised Ordinances of Honolulu, discuss with the departments and the Council’s and City’s attorneys, and learn from constituents, stakeholders and other subject matter experts to identify and effectively address loopholes in the City’s existing laws, rules and protocols.

Such review and discussion of the City’s existing laws, rules and protocols are also to identify and address any impediments to help ensure affordable housing can be most effectively planned and executed.

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

The Section 2-102 of Revised Charter of the City and County of Honolulu provides as purposes of the City that all City powers be administered in a transparent manner that is inclusive and encourage full participation by the citizenry in the process of governance.

I believe transparency in government is imperative to help foster public trust and citizen participation. Reforms I would propose include: reducing information gaps between the government and its citizens by seeking to ensure information is actively shared with the diverse people of the City and County of Honolulu (and beyond) accordingly so people can make informed decisions and hold government accountable for the conduct of its business; and ensuring responsiveness to inquiries to help foster citizens’ trust in administrative processes and actions so they do not feel distant nor excluded from the process of governance.

While serving as an Information Specialist II for the City’s Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, I was responsible for responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests through the Hawaii Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA). These laws provide very specific requirements for compliance. I would propose encouraging the City’s responsiveness and active sharing of information to diverse groups of people throughout the City perhaps through establishing comparable guidelines so that clearly defined requirements are not necessary. (This is to avoid placing more regulations, thus, more staff time and oversight to departments already facing staffing shortages.)

Perhaps the City Auditor’s office can assist with systematic reviews of transparency to help identify effective and efficient/cost-efficient ways to improve current policies and processes. Again, given staffing shortages (including at the State level), the goal would be to minimize adding more tasks for staff, perhaps through the use of electronic/automation technology when appropriate.

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

Continue to remain informed and updated, and seek to follow guidance provided by federal and state officials, including subject matter experts, and remain vigilant as circumstances and directives/recommendations seem to change on an ongoing basis.

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

Look at creative ways to assist residents in areas within the City’s jurisdiction, such as through fiscal and housing-related aid, and encouraging economic and workforce development.

The Honolulu City Council and Mayor and his Administration have been seeking to ensure that communities are supported and economic impacts are addressed through the allocation and expenditure of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund as part of the federal government’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Allowable uses include those related to addressing negative economic impacts, and the provision of services to disproportionately impacted communities, and premium pay. This provision of aid is allowable to households, small businesses, nonprofits, and certain industries. Premium pay is to assist essential employees or provide grants to their employers. (These include those that protect the health and safety of their communities.)

With respect to housing-related aid to residents, an example is the rental and utility relief program, which has been helping pandemic-effected residents remain in their respective housing accordingly through the payment of their back rent and utility bills.

The City Office of Economic Revitalization provides economic and workforce development-related information and resources of programs that focus on skill development for individuals and businesses to increase their competitiveness.

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 support the current proposal of a truncated project scope with an interim terminus at the Civic Center Station (in Kakaako) as this is how the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) is projecting completion within the amount of funding forecast to be available through its 2022 Recovery Plan to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The FTA’s approval would allow the project to receive the remaining $744 million in federal funding through the Full Funding Grant Agreement.

With respect to the completion of the full scope of the project to the Ala Moana Transit Center, HART states they remain fully committed to doing so in a subsequent phase of the project.

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

Generally, I support the use of City funds to aid this City project because I support ensuring this project is the safest, of best quality, and most cost-efficient (which includes completion timeliness) with effective utility (including maximizing ridership) and effective means to provide transportation equity (particularly for residents who continue to spend hours away from their families and other quality time commuting to and from the urban core—especially for work and school). I support helping to ensure this project is an effective, efficient and sustainable transportation and mobility alternative for all types of riders for daily commutes.

Considerations to aid shortfalls in construction or operating costs need to be received through documentation by HART, and evaluated/analyzed for determinations accordingly.

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

I support Resolution 21-154, thus, support the plan to dismantle the Stairway to Heaven for the reasons stated in its purpose: to stop trespassing, reduce disturbances to local neighborhoods, increase public safety, remove potential liability to the City, and protect the environment. I believe doing so addresses issues and concerns encountered, thus raised by the area residents.

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

As a public servant for the City and County of Honolulu (since January 2018), I value and take seriously my job of serving and advancing the general welfare, safety and aspirations of the people of the City (per the Revised Charter of the City and County of Honolulu), and thus, I am aware and value the increased responsibility of serving District VI constituents as its Councilmember.

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?

Generally, I support / support the intent of Ordinance 22-7 Relating to Transient Accommodations, as I have seen firsthand and sought to address issues as a District VI (and formerly District IV) staff member that have arisen as a result of short-term rental impacts in residential neighborhoods. However, it appears exceptions, including for temporary medical professionals, should have been / should be carefully considered and addressed, especially given current hospital staffing and capacity issues.

Acknowledging issues with City vacancies, which the City Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) is among the many departments affected, I support the DPP Director’s mention of dedicated enforcement staff, thus, with respect to the City Council, I support appropriating funds and seeking to help ensure the hiring and effectiveness of such staff, and protocols from which they need to effectively execute such enforcement.

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

Given the City continues to experience effects and policy changes related to the pandemic in addition to City department staffing vacancies, the timing of adding more City regulation does not seem to be prudent at this time. According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s (HTA) Oahu Destination Action Plan (DMAP) Spring 2022 Progress Report, the Oahu Visitors Bureau (OVB) and City’s Office of Economic Revitalization is acknowledged for their support and partnership in moving these DMAP actions forward.

Respective actions include the following:

Increasing enforcement and active management of sites and trails by exploring ways to improve the enforcement of parking rules at hotspots and popular visitor attractions, and cracking down on illegal tour vans and buses dropping people off at beaches and trails.

Managing visitors’ use of cars as transportation on Oahu. OVB and the City were reported to continue to discuss the development of the GetAroundOahu website to encourage different modes of transportation throughout the island, and are working with vendor, with the website projected to be online in Fall 2022.

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

Work with the City Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency, which includes the Climate Change Commission (as established by the Revised Charter of the City and County of Honolulu), including helping to ensure respective sea level rise provisions of Ordinance 20-47 (relating to the duties and responsibilities of CCSR) are implemented accordingly. This includes the City’s policy of employing a one water collaboration framework for climate change and sea level rise adaptation in the planning, design, construction, maintenance, and operation of the City’s infrastructure under the jurisdiction of the directors.

The Ordinance was intended to help develop actions and processes for implementing goals and strategies advised by the Climate Change Commission in its Directive 18-2, City and County of Honolulu Actions to Address Climate Change and Sea Level Rise. Directive procedures include developing place-specific guidance for shoreline policy changes based on additional policy guidance from the Climate Change Commission regarding new regulations, management procedures for affected coastal assets, and additional sea level rise projections that are as specific as possible, regularly updated, and delineate associated impacts.

The Commission’s Sea Level Rise Guidance of 2018, updated on July 29, 2022, provides advice and recommendations to the Mayor, City Council and executive departments for future climate scenarios. The purpose is to provide findings and recommendations relating to the federal interagency task force recommendations on sea level rise.

The Commission’s recommendations include the City: setting aside as a planning and policy benchmark the interagency Intermediate (1.16 m, 3.8 feet by 2100) sea level rise scenario, as modeled for the Honolulu Tide Station, as the minimum scenario for all planning and design, and continue to utilize the 3.2 feet SLR-XA until an updated SLR-XA map data is available; and setting as a planning and policy benchmark the interagency Intermediate High (1.78 m, 5.8 feet by 2100) sea level rise scenario for all planning and design of public infrastructure projects and other projects with low tolerance for risk, and continue to utilize the 6 feet passive flooding map layer from NOAA until updated map data is available.


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