Honolulu City Council
Teacher; legislative budget analyst; legislative committee clerk; business owner
Native Hawaiian Convention (Ha Hawaii 1999); Kalihi Valley Neighborhood Board
I am fortunate to have been raised in a strong Catholic family with core values of respect, dignity for all, and a sense of social justice. For me, my politics are an expression of that faith and those values; I practice what I believe. Since my adolescence, now decades past, I’ve been applying that philosophy to a single question: how to best care for our island home and its peoples. I’ve grappled with that question in many different ways over the years: as an activist, as a young man, as a school teacher, as a legislative staffer and budget analyst; as a social entrepreneur and business owner, as a publisher of a nationally-distributed magazine; as an advocate for affordable rents for senior citizens; and as a parent of three young children. My focus has always been the same, though Iʻve matured in my perspective, my focus has always been on improving our land, and our people.
#1: Affordability. Local residents are being displaced by high costs, fueled by global investors and the misprioritization of the rich over the regular. Our city council should be a voice for smart land use and development policies which rightly place our citizens at the center of our mission, not the search for profits. And I write this as a person who has invested in and derives revenue from real estate. Our city’s principal policymaking body should be an advocate for the people first and foremost. Our people matter to me.
#2: Quality of life. Our communities have deteriorated, as a result of the lack of affordability and social equity crisis in our city, but also due to a disinvestment in our public sphere. Fights now break out over parking stalls; gates are higher, neighbors spend less time together, our family time is spent in traffic instead of at the dinner table. Housing insecurity is corroding our social bonds and undermining our quality of life. My sense is that these are deeply systemic issues related to social inequality, but there are key changes that we can make at the city level to address these problems. We need an overhaul of our parking system, for example, which will reduce stress and conflict. We can encourage smarter urban growth patterns to reduce car dependency and strengthen community bonds. And we can hold the line on housing affordability, particularly on city lands, in order to reduce houselessness. There’s a lot we can do to restore a sense of grace and aloha that we expect in Honolulu.
#3: Climate change. When I was in sixth grade in 1990 our teacher had us read the Honolulu Advertiser and Star-Bulletin (this newspaper’s antecedents) every week, specifically looking for stories on the environment and human rights. I remember clearly reading early articles about climate change, including the radical (at the time) idea of a cap-and-trade system for controlling global carbon emissions. After decades of languishing public policy, I am heartened to see Hawai’i is finally taking climate change seriously. I refuse to believe that it is too late to make a difference in the quality of our future climate. We need to invest resources today, both intellectually and financially, in order to adapt adequately to the immediate and long-term effects of global warming, including sea level rise, increasing storm severity, and economic disruption. It’s cheaper to work on these issues now than it is to wait for decisions to be made for us by default. We should be proactive and future-oriented in our work at the Council to combat climate change.
Affordability. This includes investing in core city services; enforcing our laws regarding vacation rentals; amending rail so that it works for our long-term benefit; and holding the line on affordability when dealing with our construction industry partners. The key is elevating the interests of our people. People matter.
There’s much that the nine Councilmembers, in conjunction with the Mayor, can do to improve the lives of our constituents. Our neighborhood needs an updated parking system, for instance, which manages on-street parking and encourages a market for off-street parking. And we should also create a new customer-support system which makes it easy for residents to track requests – abandoned vehicle removal, pothole repair, etc. – through the city system.
People matter to me. When a community of senior citizens in Kakaako were concerned about rising rents, I helped to organize support from the broader public to keep rents down. When neighbors in Punchbowl were contending with the city’s removal of a historic banyan tree, I met with them and helped to canvass the neighborhood to find a solution to keep the tree in place. We were able to find a win-win solution: the tree would be trimmed, and it would continue to grow in place. I believe that win-win solutions exist for many of our city’s problems. My role is to bring people together to find these solutions.