Interfacing with the city

The city bureaucracy performs very important services for residents, but is often very difficult to navigate. Requests for help often result in being passed from clerk to clerk at various phone numbers; it's difficult to track the status of a request over time, because very little is in writing and there is no clear reference number; and unless a citizen knows someone within the city administration, the entire process can often be too opaque. Council members often try to help, but the real authority resides in the Mayor and the staffers below she or he.

I propose that the city adopt a unified web-based customer service platform to track all requests from the citizenry. Each request should have a ticket number, and residents should be able to log in and view the status of their request as it moves through the bureaucracy. 

These types of systems are very common in the cloud and are quite inexpensive to utilize. It's a simple innovation that will make the city more effective.

How to deal with vacation rentals

Illegal vacation rentals remove units from the local housing inventory, increasing scarcity and raising prices, and often lead to disputes within  neighborhoods between long-term residents and short-term vacationers. I believe that our public policy goal should be to prioritize the use of scarce land and housing for affordable residential use first. As a distant second goal, excess housing inventory should be allowed to be allocated for vacation use, but only once the primary goal of housing is achieved.

Based on this principle, it's clear that the first step is enforcement against illegal vacation rentals because they are removing housing inventory from the residential market. 

The Council is currently evaluating a new bill which raises fines for violations but also increases the quantity of allowed units. 

Rick Daysog writes:

The bill would increase the number of legal vacation rentals from 800 to about 4,000 and would allow owners of homes to rent out rooms to tourists. But it would not allow entire homes in residential areas to be used as vacations rentals.
"It's something that needs to be addressed. It's having a major impact on neighborhoods and also our visitor industry," Caldwell said.
Operators also have to pay higher property taxes and those that continue to operate illegally could face stiff fines ranging from $25,000 to $100,000, depending on the number of violations. Once they're issued, the fines are not negotiable.

The higher fines are a step in the right direction, but we need to have a broader conversation about how to ensure that enforcement is applied evenly and fairly.

I'm also concerned that the 4,000 limit is far too high and possibly quite arbitrary. I would recommend that the city arrive at a quantity based on our island's carrying capacity for tourism. And once that number is developed, I recommend that the permits be auctioned, similar to a medallion system for taxicabs.  This would allow the city to maximize the revenue collected for these valuable permits.

Let's pau hana in Moanalua


Please join us for a Moanalua Community Pau Hana on Monday 6pm. Come and meet your neighbors, discuss important issues and enjoy some good food.

Where: The Elmores -- 1420 Ala Mahamoe St
When: Monday July 9 6pm-7:30pm
Cost: Free

See you Monday!

Let's get the word out

Aloha kakou

Mahalo everyone – we hit our goal early! We have enough cash on hand to print a mailer. Now we need one more thing: $1. Your dollar will allow us to send the mailer to four voters. There are roughly 19,000 voters that we need to mail to, so we need help from 4,750 of our closest friends. Hiki ia'oe ke kokua? Can you help?

Here's why this is important: on July 20, just three weeks away, more than 25% of the likely voters will mail in their absentee ballots. I've knocked on or called approximately 15,000 homes, but there are still many likely voters (who are primarily kupuna) who rely on the mail to get information, and who expect candidates to send mailers.

We need to share our concerns about the future of our island with our aunties and uncles who are likely voters. So please help me get the word to them by a small donation for postage. And if you can donate by Saturday midnight, we can count you in the key June 30 Campaign Spending report. Mahalo!


Ride share is part of the solution; here's how to make sure it works for workers and the public interest

Mayor Caldwell has vetoed the Council's ban on surge pricing. This was the right move, in my opinion. Rideshare is transitional technology, en route to autonomy, more (not less) public transportation, and ultimately smarter cities which are designed for pedestrians, not cars.

Rather than seeking to prop up incumbent businesses, there's two better things which the Council could achieve with regard to rideshare:

1) Better labor standards. We should make it easier for the drivers of these vehicles to unionize or at least begin to receive the benefits that unions can offer, such as retirement and health benefits. 

2) Public-interest data. The data collected by the rideshare companies is tremendously valuable. Uber and Lyft know how frequently people utilize their services, from where and to where, when, as well as optimal pricing. I believe the city should strike an agreement with the rideshare companies in which that data is provided to the city in exchange for their ability to operate here. That data could then be used to identify new locations for TheBus stops, Biki stations, and even future rail stations.

Why I support the Blood Bank

Every six weeks I get a phone call asking me to stick a needle in my arm, and I'm happy to oblige. I've donated regularly for the past several years, and I'm proud to say that I've now contributed 20 pints.

I head, usually tardy, to the downtown location, near the old Hawaii Independent offices on Merchant St. Danny, the gentleman who manages the front of the office, is an affable guy, and he plays Laura Nyro over the ceiling speakers. I get my blood pressure checked, make a note of it in my iPhone for bragging later, and get poked for 10 minutes. And when the ordeal is over, there are free Cookie Corner cookies. I'd actually prefer them without nuts, but at this price, how could I complain?

In addition to chocolate chip cookies, I also derive a philosophical joy from the experience. When I was growing up, it was common to get questions, usually from other Hawaiians, about my blood quantum. Blood was politics, a product of congressional Republicans wanting to exclude future Hawaiians from the benefits of the Hawaiian Homelands Act.

I much prefer the consanguinity of the Blood Bank. In those vials, tubes, and syringes, our blood is fungible and intermixed. Blood isn't political shibboleth, but is simply a transmitter, delivering the nutrients from our land, and the oxygen from our air, to our people. A beautiful thing indeed.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

One of my heroes, Ernest “Juggie” Heen, would talk about how there are two ways to do politics: money and people. People can be the great counterbalance against the power of money, he believed; I agree. As I’ve gone door-to-door over the last nine months I’ve met scores of individuals who are passionate about their community. Democracy isn’t just about representation – it’s about the community being able to deal directly with its concerns, and to grow its own leadership to do just that. I’m writing today to propose a new organizing strategy in which our dedicated campaign volunteers and organizers are turned towards the needs of the community itself. My campaign will use a community-building strategy to fix and find solutions for the problems faced by our district and our island.

My proposed strategy is “lima”, which is a word used throughout the Pacific for ‘five’ and for ‘hand.’ Hold up your thumb – that’s you. Now raise the other four fingers on your hand – that’s the community that can carry out a project and accomplish it. In my thinking, "lima" is a philosophy and approach to community-building and empowerment that says that “we can do it!” “Hiki no!”. So long as we work together, as neighbors and fellow islanders.

There are many problems which I believe we can work on together in this manner. We can work with our neighbors to advocate for safer streets; we can develop information tools to connect people who have extra parking with those who need it; we can organize community movie nights in our underutilized parks; we can even fulfill basic services such as child and elder care. The underlying principle, I believe, should be an attention to the common good of our community.

Remarks to Kuleana Academy

Aloha, good morning and welcome to the Kuleana Academy. 

This is a tremendous time to seek public service. A time of transition with immense social problems, incredible technological change and environmental catastrophe. We're at a rare moment of flux and change, an opening where small actions can have big and lasting impact.

We need to remember our long history. We have entered into this history at different points but nonetheless this land is encoded with thousands of years of footsteps, of effort and activity, of love and abundance and development. 

When we seek public office, we're entering into that long history, in which a different, and I think clearer sense of leadership prevails. If the land and people are healthy and prosperous, than their leader is good and pono. A leader stands in front of his or her people in battle. And a bad leader can be removed by force.

It is tempting in our electron-frazzled, hyper stimulated world to forget these simple, and clear precepts. If you're going to pick up that Kuleana, remember that it is indeed heavy. The needs of the people and our land is the most weighty thing, and the most important.

We need to remember too that we're part of a broader movement, which should be strengthened and solidified. The revolutionaries in Cuba used to speak about building up a social movement such that the activist and guerilla can move like a fish in water. We need each district on our islands to feel like that. The metaphor that i prefer is the nae, the fiber netting of a chiefs cape. The feathers are beautiful but is the netting -- the organized social base of the movement that extends deep into the valleys of each island -- that will be the source of our strength.

Finally, I want us to remember our many successes. There were plans in the 60s and 70s to encircle this island with an iron lei of hotels and resorts. Our grassroots movement was able to stop much of these developments, and in places like Waiahole and Waikane, when the plantation laborers and the young UH ethnic studies kids got together with the taro farmers, they found support from the Governor and sympathetic legislators. When done right, a strong social base can encourage and grow which courageous political leaders to do the right thing.


It's now been more than a year since it happened, but I think it's useful to recall the Pani i ka Puka event. Such a truly wonderful demonstration of human collectivity and cooperation. From the Paepae o Heeia webpage:

The call was made. You responded. And what a morning it was! On December 12th between 7:30a and 12:30p, nearly 2,000 people from across the street, across our island chain and even across the Pacific joined us to turn a vision and dream into reality. The 50-year old puka in Heʻeia Fishpond is a puka no more. The human chain line spanning 2,000 feet moved several tons of coral and rock and the final mākāhā without it ever touching the ground. In our estimation, this feat and outpouring of community strength on behalf of fishpond restoration has not been seen in Hawaiʻi in over 200 years.

The message of the day is so powerful. Friends, families and strangers coming together, moving stones small and large to repair an 800-year old wall, in order to restore local food production. 800 years is a very long time, and it's the kind of timeframes in which we need to be thinking, planning and imagining our island. In order to mount the kind of massive redesign that our island needs to face the challenges of climate change and resource management, we'll need to continue coming together to fill the gaps.

Hawaii's legacy of progressivism

This new year brings with it a particularly ominous transition, with the exit of Barack Obama from the presidency, and the entrance to that office of a man whom I think many here would regard as far lesser. President Obama stood as a living example of the worlds’ best hopes for the United States: wisdom, class, and a generosity of spirit that will surely be missed come January 20.

We mustn’t allow his work to be undone on Capitol Hill or Pennsylvania Avenue.

And here on Beretania Street, we have a unique opportunity to take his ideas and give them new life. Let’s aim for universal health care.

After all, these are the islands whose values and culture set the framework for President Obama’s vision. Hawai‘i — for all of our problems and human failures — values justice and inclusion like few other places in the world.

This is the home of the Law of the Splintered Paddle, Kamehameha’s law which guarantees that the authorities cannot harm the aged and impoverished.

Just a few blocks from here, Kamehameha III began the process of creating universal literacy, making Hawai‘i the most literate country in the 19th century world.

We should remember Queen Lili‘uokalani, who in 1893 fought for universal suffrage, decades before its enactment in the United States as the 19th amendment.

Hawaii is the origin point of Baehr v. Miike, the Hawaii State Supreme Court opinion which launched the US marriage equality movement.

And this is the home of the Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Act, spearheaded by Yoshito Takamine, who brought the experience of laborers in Honokaa to ensure that all workers had minimum health care benefits provided by employers.

This is our legacy of progressivism. This is proof of our ability to create a new island model of economic and social justice, beginning with universal health care.

Come together

I've had the honor of going door-to-door within Kalihi, Kahauiki and Kapalama, and I've met wonderful people who have shared stories about their lives and their visions for our community. Our communities are full of leaders: mothers and fathers who have raised independent children; aunties who feed keiki and uncles who shelter veterans; fixers of sidewalks; future legislators; fishers of men; cooks, dog-watchers and bus driversvalleys full of leaders who are moving our community forward.

Come to celebrate these community leaders in a series of "purok" (Ilokano for neighborhood) meals this week at homes throughout State House District 28. These will be simple meals – our goal is primarily to feed our need for community and secondarily to feed our stomaches. Here's the schedule. You can click on the links below to RSVP, or shoot us an email at

Monday 7pm
Kalihi Valley Homes at Aunty Sandra's House

Tuesday 7pm
2257 Kula Kolea Drive

Wednesday 7pm
1517 Meyers Street

Thursday 7pm
1579 Moani Street

Friday 7pm
Location TBA

How to make our politics more like Scandinavia's

Clare Foran of The Atlantic interviewed George Lakey, author of Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got it Rightand How We Can, Too

Lakey: In the Nordic countries, people first created popular movements that used direct-action tactics like strikes, boycotts, and demonstrations. They also built movement infrastructure, like co-ops and study circles. As these movements gained momentum, they led to the creation of political parties that were controlled by the movements and represented the movements in parliament. In that way, politicians were accountable to the people.

That’s entirely different from what we have in the U.S. with the Democratic Party, for example, where the party is not really accountable to anyone except the economic elite. Today, the U.S. also has low voter participation compared with the Nordics. The path they took—building powerful grassroots movements that then control the politicians who represent them, might help us achieve the degree of democracy that they enjoy.

And Lakey on what Sanders supporters should do:

Lakey: The best thing for Sanders supporters to do would be to focus their energy on direct-action campaigns aimed at achieving specific policy goals. So, for example, if Sanders supporters took the goal of free higher education and turned that into a direct-action national campaign that protesters were willing to go to jail for, that would be a more effective way of achieving that goal than even getting Sanders elected to the presidency. Sanders in the Oval Office wouldn’t be able to get anything done with the current Congress, whereas with a direct-action pressure campaign, there is a better chance of actually getting something like free higher education or Medicare for all accomplished.