In my first 100 days in office, I will:
In my first 100 days in office, I will:
Order a financial audit of the rail project. The people deserve to know how their hard-earned money was spent and how much it will cost to finish the project. In just the five months since I announced my candidacy for mayor, the price tag for the rail project has increased several times from the original $5.2 billion to $6.9 billion to now $8.6 billion and may go as high as $10.8 billion
Request the Legislature reverse the State skim of rail funds. The State government unfairly takes the first 10% of all rail money for itself. This amounts to nearly $500 mil. in funds over 10 years. The reason the State today enjoys a $1 bil. surplus is largely because of its skim of rail funds. I will work to reverse this unfair skim.
Meet with the FTA and Congress to request additional Federal funds. I will meet with federal officials to obtain additional funds for rail. The current administration has asked for more Federal funds three separate times and each time received the exact same response – no. Although I can’t promise that I will automatically get a different response, a new administration with connections to members of Congress gives our community the chance to obtain new federal funds.
HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
Appoint a homeless czar. So many non-profits want to do good, but are often stymied by the byzantine government regulations and approval process. I will name a non-profit homeless czar from my administration to coordinate and handle all necessary government approvals to allow non-profits to do what they do best, instead of spending their time trying to navigate the city bureaucracy.
Restore the Community EMS Program. 99% of all people use the 911 system once every several years. But a tiny minority, disproportionately homeless, have taken to using 911 as a taxi service. I will restore the community EMS program, eliminated by the Caldwell administration, to dedicate paramedics to take care of this minority of habitual 911 callers, freeing the rest of the 911 system for real emergencies for the rest of the community.
Begin with “Boots on the Ground” assessment to find real and lasting solutions to our homeless crisis. I will work with our current employees and bring them together with everyone –homeless, service providers, all levels of government, business and committed citizens who want to help — to find real and lasting solutions to help our homeless find shelter, jobs, and services. I pledge that my administration and I will be “boots on the ground” until we find workable and sustained solutions for solving our homeless crisis.
Build housing that our residents –especially young families and seniors—can afford: In the first 100 days, I will introduce a plan to use the $30 mil. in unspent affordable housing funds to develop more affordable housing in our community. And along with solving the homeless problem is the bigger source of the problem: Building housing that our residents can afford. AFFORDABLE HOUSING is not affordable for most of Honolulu. We need to find real solutions for Honolulu’s people. I will work with everyone to find those solutions and ways we can build 10,000 – 12,000 new rentals for low income families, use the unspent current $30 million in the affordable housing fund and use tax-increment financing and other incentives to build housing for those with moderate incomes.
GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY AND ETHICS
Appoint a first rate cabinet based on merit. I will fill my cabinet with people who have subject matter expertise, who know city issues, and who can listen and make decisions with the affected communities — all of my appointments will be based on merit. In all areas. I will charge my directors and deputies to work with their department employees to better serve the people of Honolulu – all of us. I will listen to and work with my cabinet and city employees who are doing the work of the people. In my administration, City employees will be free to speak out on what is or is not working, and to suggest the best ways forward,
Ensure my administration will do the people’s business with honesty, transparency and accountability. And I will ensure that the ethics commission will have the independence to guide us to a government that is just and equal for us all. In the first 100 days, I will direct the Corporation Counsel to no longer exercise budget control over the Ethics Commission and allow the Ethics Commission to submit their budgets directly to the City Council without interference by the mayor’s office.
Introduce legislation to preclude the mayor from working a lucrative second job at a private company. Our governor and lieutenant governor are currently prohibited by state law from working a second job at a private company. The same should apply to our mayor. I will introduce legislation within 100 days to prohibit any future mayor from holding any job or position with a fiduciary responsibility to a for-profit entity.
Direct funding to maintenance of all City parks, not just those in urban Honolulu. The current administration’s practice of favoring select urban parks to the detriment of many parks in the rural areas of Oahu must end. Resources should be distributed fairly across Oahu.
Open discussion with the Humane Society for a dog park in urban Honolulu. We have several dog parks on Oahu, but none in our community’s urban core. In the first 100 days I will work with the Hawaii Humane Society to create a public-private partnership for a dog park adjacent to their property.
Explore a public-private partnership with the Honolulu Zoo Society for the Honolulu Zoo. Our beloved Honolulu Zoo has lost accreditation. To put our zoo back on the path to stability, I will work with the Honolulu Zoo Society to create a public-private partnership for the zoo, modeled on the City of San Diego’s zoo and the San Diego Zoological Society. This proposal was originally initiated in the final year of then Mayor Jeremy Harris and is worth exploring again to end the needless bureaucratic failures at our local zoo.
Initiate a race track task force. The time has come for the return of an automotive race track for Honolulu. In the first 100 days, I will start a task force to begin the process of identifying an appropriate location for a race track on Oahu.
Drop the Residential Class A litigation. The current administration supports legislation to double property taxes on all homes valued at over $1 million and lack a homeowner’s exemption. A state circuit court has ruled this ordinance unconstitutional. Rather than waste more money on further litigation, I will instruct the corporation counsel to drop all further appeals of this matter. A $1 million home on the mainland may be a luxury mansion, but many modest Oahu homes are valued at $1 million.
Initiate a real property tax reform commission. In 2003, I successfully worked with then Mayor Jeremy Harris to simplify Honolulu’s complex tax code to just two rates. I will start a tax reform commission to once again look at reforming and simplifying our tax code by 2018. I will name a reform commission to come up with a simplified code that is revenue neutral and doesn’t trigger any additional taxes for the average homeowner.
On the important issues facing the City, these are my plans:
Fix the mess with rail
At this point, we can’t stop the rail project. Too much of this system has already been built and tearing down what has been already constructed will likely cost as much as completing the project. While we need to finish the project, as mayor, my job will be to control the cost — something the previous administration has failed to do.
As mayor, you can count on me to:
- Reduce waste by ordering a financial audit of the rail project on my first day in office
- Stop the mismanagement of the rail project by building the project based on engineering rather than politics. No more rushing contracts to fit an election timeline or purchasing rail cars years before they are needed or hiring dozens of six-figure salary mainland consultants who know little about Hawaii construction conditions
- Work for the people of my community, NOT major rail contractors that make big donations to mayoral campaigns.
Additionally, I am strongly opposed to increasing general excise tax again for rail. The general excise tax is one of the most regressive taxes in the entire country: hurting the poorest in our community the most. We simply need to look at every alternative before asking our community to pay more for a project that was mismanaged by city government, largely for political purposes.
My plan to cover the shortfall on the rail project is to:
- Fight to end the unfair 10% skim of rail funds. 10% of all funds collected for the rail project are kept by the State government and used for other purposes. This amounts to an extra half a billion dollars for the rail project
- Utilize my connections as a former congressman to expand federal support for the project
- Force developers to pay for the benefit they get by being located near the rail project. Caldwell has no incentive to hold the developers that gave him large campaign donations accountable
- Work cooperatively and collaboratively with the City Council. Having been a councilmember for 7 years, I know how to work with the Council and have been endorsed by Chair Ernie Martin, Council Budget Chair Ann Kobayashi, and Council Zoning Chair Trevor Ozawa.
The incumbent mayor’s “plan” to do nothing and just stay the course of endless cost overruns and non-stop delays doesn’t make sense. Instead, we deserve a mayor who will actively work to eliminate rail mismanagement and hold the line on costs.
Create More Affordable Housing
I propose an affordable housing package aimed at creating 10-12,000 units for persons making less than 80% of area median income — the range where 75% of the total projected Honolulu housing demand resides — as well as affordable housing for “gap group” families.
The Djou Affordable Housing Plan has three points:
1. Construct “equity build” rent-to-own units. Hakim Ouansafi of the state Public Housing Authority has identified sites on state land within a one-mile radius of rail stations where 10-12,000 new rentals for low income families can be built. I strongly believe that in all new rental projects, we should guide families to home ownership by offering them 1) a chance to save their own down payment, and as they save, 2) helping them learn skills needed for successful home ownership. Tenants will pay rent, and as they do, the equity the unit gains will go into an escrow account for the tenant instead of to landlord profit. When the escrow account is enough for a home purchase down payment — maybe after 10 years — the tenant will move to a new home, which allows another tenant to take the departing new homeowner’s place.
2. Levy “TOD (Transit Oriented Development) impact fees” to finance rail and affordable housing. Impact fees on developments within 1/2 mile of transit’s 21 stations could possibly raise up to $2.5 billion total for rail and affordable housing. Developers should pay between $2.50 and $5.00 a square foot to have land re-zoned for new use, depending upon the degree of density, setbacks, height relief, reduced dedication fees, and other bonuses the developers seek.
It doesn’t make sense for the City to rezone land near transit stations without collecting impact fees in exchange for the benefits the new rail system provides developers. If landowners choose not to redevelop, no problem, they won’t pay the fees. But many (most?) will take advantage of the opportunity to rezone around each station.
“TOD impact fees” can make it unnecessary to increase excise or property taxes to pay for rail, while also supporting affordable housing.
3. Use the City’s Affordable Housing Fund Effectively.The City is already sitting on close to $30 million in its own affordable housing fund that remains unspent. An audit uncovered that $16 million of the funds the City did spend on affordable housing may have been misspent, and the City may have to refund the money to the Federal government. The City Council Zoning Committee deferred action on the Manaolana hotel and condo project because the City administration still has no final affordable housing plan and no idea if any in lieu fee for the project will actually be used for affordable housing. I am committed to making sure the City’s affordable housing fund is spent to creating more affordable housing and the spending is done property.
As mayor, rather than the current policy of simply disrupting homeless camps, I will focus my efforts in working with non-profit homeless providers to support programs that have been effective in providing services for mental health, drug and job counseling services. Much of the funding typically provided to non-profits via grants has been usurped by the city, leading to effective programs fighting homelessness being forced to reduce services. This is one of the reasons we have seen an increase in homelessness in our communities under Kirk Caldwell and why less people than ever are staying in shelters.
Private non-profit organizations have consistently provided far more effective counseling, more quickly and at a far lower cost than the City government.
These are three more key steps I will take to work towards addressing homelessness in our community:
- Direct resources to the non-profit community instead of the government. Non-profits are far more effective, efficient and will reach far more people than the government can to provide mental health, substance abuse, and job counseling services that lead to housing and long term, positive change. I support directing the increased spending on homelessness to non-profits instead of increasing the size of the government bureaucracy.
- Appoint a homeless czar. So many non-profits want to do good, but are often stymied by the byzantine government regulations and approval process. I will name a non-profit homeless czar in my administration to coordinate and handle all necessary government approvals to allow the non-profits to do what they do best, instead of spending their time trying to navigate the city bureaucracy.
- Restore the Community EMS Program. 99% of all people use the 911 system once every several years. But a tiny minority, disproportionately homeless, have taken to using 911 as a taxi service. Charles will restore the community EMS program, eliminated by Caldwell, to dedicate a couple of paramedics to take care of this minority of habitual 911 callers, freeing up the rest of the 911 system for real emergencies for the rest of the community
- Support construction of low income housing on .a large scale. As a recent Star-Advertiser editorial stated, “Getting people off the street, and keeping more people from falling into homelessness by addressing the need for low-income housing, is the only cure for this social ailment.” I will build 10-12,000 more low income units; spelled out in the plan’s “Affordable Housing” section.
Restore Ethics at City Hall
I believe that the personal integrity of elected officials is fundamental to our democracy. All major public policy goals start with an open and honest government.
As Mayor I will:
- Make the Ethics Commission independent of the Mayor’s office. I will work to separate the ethics commission from oversight by the Mayor’s office. Perhaps an odd-pursuit given that I’m running for mayor, but you may remember that just this year under the current mayor, the ethics commission was decimated. In case you missed it, after beginning an investigation into Kirk Caldwell’s fundraising practices, the ethics commission had their budget slashed by the mayor’s office. Later, Caldwell dodged reporters after 17 active investigations were dropped when the mayor refused to renew the contract of the city’s only investigator. Some of those investigations were into rail. Additionally, Chuck Totto, the City Ethics Director was forbidden to talk to media about what was happening in his department, forced to report on his activity every six minutes and eventually was pressured to resign. I will fight to make the city ethics commission a truly independent agency, instead of an agency that is attached to the City Corporation Counsel’s office.
- Introduce legislation to preclude the mayor from working a lucrative second job at a private company. Our governor and lieutenant governor are currently prohibited by state law. The same should apply to our mayor.
While I was in City Council, I worked to provide the strengthen the City Ethics Code and to provide the City Ethics Commission with added power to assess civil fines to city officials that were found to be involved in wrongdoing. I also fought to reform the Liquor Commission successfully — you may remember the political cartoons at the time.
Bring Back Honolulu’s Community EMS Program
The past four years the city has been plagued by shutdowns of the city’s EMS services, the firefighter’s union had a no confidence vote in the Caldwell appointee, and the Chief of Police is embroiled in a scandal that is calling into question his ability to lead. And yet, the current mayor doesn’t think anything needs to change. I disagree.
If elected Mayor, I will restart the Honolulu EMS Community Paramedic Program that was shut down by Kirk Caldwell in 2013. Right now, a significant number of homeless people are calling 911 on a daily basis for very minor complaints such as sore feet, small cuts or because they ran out of medications. This is tying up our emergency 911 ambulances, making them unable to respond to real emergencies such as heart attacks, strokes and car accidents.
The Community Paramedic Team, working separately from the 911 ambulances, would engage those in the Homeless Community frequently calling 911 and help direct them to more appropriate care, such as community health centers and mental health case management when warranted.
Ideally, we could initially use existing City paramedics who could volunteer for this special assignment. For the long term success of the program, I would favor a City paramedic to Physician’s Assistant (PA) work study program, much like the existing EMT to paramedic work study program the City has offered for many years. The team would then be comprised of an EMT with a dual certified Paramedic/PA-C partner.
The investment in our paramedics and Community Paramedic Team would not only help the most vulnerable members of our community, but also help reduce homelessness and ultimately save millions of dollars.