August 1, 2016
Updated August 1, 2016 12:15am
Land development-related growing pains in the quickly changing West Oahu region are a key issue in the Honolulu City Council District I race, where the incumbent faces challenges from three contenders.
Trying to derail Councilwoman Kymberly Pine’s bid for a second four-year term are former Councilman Tom Berg, whom Pine unseated four years ago; longtime community activist Kioni Dudley; and political newcomer Marc Anthony.
District I includes the Waianae Coast, Kapolei-Makakilo, Kalaeloa and portions of Ewa-Ewa Beach.
In 2012 then state Rep. Pine and Berg, the incumbent, finished first and second, respectively, in a special election. Pine, who had served as a member of the state House for eight years, then beat Berg decisively in that November’s second special election by collecting 14,604 votes to Berg’s 8,966.
As a councilwoman, Pine has been a staunch supporter of the city’s rail transit line as well as the 11,750-unit Hoopili project being developed on agricultural lands between East Kapolei and Ewa.
Both Berg and Dudley have criticized Pine’s votes in support of the two controversial projects during the past four years.
Dudley, a Makakilo resident and an educator at the college and high school levels for more than four decades, ranks traffic as the top issue in the district.
He is among the biggest critics of D.R. Horton-Schuler Homes’ Hoopili community, and wants the city Department of Planning and Permitting to place a moratorium on the issuing of permits for all development projects in West and Central Oahu until traffic can be improved in the area. Dudley has persuaded four neighborhood boards to join in his call for a moratorium.
Additional lanes now in the works for the H-1, along with rail, won’t be enough to fix the problem, Dudley said.
“We’ve got 71,000 houses zoned (and unbuilt) out here in Central and Leeward Oahu. I’m saying give us a break, let us turn around the freeway situation,” Dudley said.
Asked what he’d tell people in search of a home, Dudley said, “There’s also the rest of the island, there’s Kakaako, there’s all sorts of places … and we’re not saying no more housing (in West and Central Oahu) for 25 years, we’re saying no more housing for a few years until we get our freeway situation straightened out. Build houses elsewhere for a couple of years and give us a break.”
He added, “Life is really hell out here.”
Dudley accused Pine of being beholden to developers and pointed out that nearly 90 percent of the contributions in her six-figure campaign account comes from developers, large property owners or those who would benefit from large-scale development.
Reports filed with the state Campaign Spending Commission show Friends of Kymberly Pine with a cash balance of $129,742 as of June 30. By contrast, Friends for Dudley showed a negative cash balance of $662 and a total deficit of $95,021 — a negative amount accumulated over several failed campaign bids. Friends of Tom Berg, meanwhile, showed a negative cash balance of $9,314 and an overall deficit of $30,871, accumulated from previous campaigns.
When asked to respond to Dudley’s criticism about her campaign funds, Pine said she is “proud to receive donations from organizations that employ more than half of my constituents, who my opponents want to put out of work and destroy their families.”
While it’s not uncommon for candidates to receive such donations, Pine said, “it is highly unusual for candidates to be so deeply in debt, which shows that they cannot even manage their own finances.”
State law does not bar someone who has outstanding debt to himself from previous campaigns from running for office in subsequent elections.
Hoopili is expected to generate jobs tied to more than $100 million in transportation improvements and will be built over a 30-year period in the area, Pine said, adding that many of her constituents told her they support the development. Dudley’s plan to halt major housing development would hurt younger families struggling to purchase homes during a tight real estate market, she said.
Pine, an Ewa Beach resident, is unapologetic for being one of rail’s staunchest supporters and has repeatedly spoken about how it would help a community where people must get out of the door before dawn to travel to work daily. She said advocating for the creation of new jobs in the area and connector roads such as the Makakilo Drive extension, Kapolei Parkway and thoroughfares along the Waianae Coast continue to be priorities.
Berg, an Ewa Beach resident who won the Council seat in December 2010 to fill a vacancy triggered by the resignation of then-Councilman Todd Apo, said he wants to return to the office because the city is not meeting the state Constitution’s requirement to preserve all important agricultural lands in perpetuity.
He maintains that the Oahu General Plan is being improperly applied to allow for Hoopili to uproot prime agricultural lands when the acreage should have been carved out and preserved.
What’s more, Berg said, the city should not be allowing projects to be approved when the General Plan, which is supposed to be reviewed and updated every five years, has not been revamped since 2002.
“They breached the public trust by not codifying the process,” Berg said. “We’ve been disenfranchised.”
Meanwhile, the city has failed to identify remaining important agricultural lands as it was tasked to do in a 2012 resolution approved by the Council, he said.
Berg wants land set aside by the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, the University of Hawaii West Oahu and Horton-Schuler as a habitat for barn owls that have lived in the area since they were brought there in the 1950s.
On rail, Berg has long been a proponent of magnetic levitation, or “maglev” technology, which he contends can be completed within the original budget price using what’s already been built. “That’s the one thing that can save this project,” he said, adding it could also more easily be extended to reach Makaha.
Candidate Anthony did not respond to requests for an interview.
If no candidate secures 50 percent plus one vote in the Aug. 13 election, then the top two vote-getters move on to the Nov. 8 ballot.
While five Honolulu City Council seats are now up for grabs, candidates for just two — Districts I and III — will appear on a primary election ballot.
That’s because the Honolulu City Charter says if there are just two candidates for a city seat, the two contenders will go up against each other in the November general election, not the August primary.
Councilman Ikaika Anderson is running unopposed for his District III seat and, according to the Charter, will need to get only one vote in next month’s first special election to be re-elected.
The other three races feature sitting Council members running for re-election against political novices.
In November, District V incumbent Ann Kobayashi will run against Kimberly Case, District 7 incumbent Joey Manahan faces a challenge from Chace Shigemasa and in District 9 incumbent Ron Menor will face off against Emil Svrcina.