Rail Is Top Issue With City Council Candidates

The Kapolei Chamber of Commerce luncheon drew about 100 people to Kroc Center July 13, where political dialogue stirred up as much dust inside as the busy construction sites outside.

Salvation Army Maj. Phil Lum welcomed guests to the gleaming new community center where 50 youths in summer day camp played. “We are happy to be here,” he declared to the crowd. “We’ve been open since Feb. 1, and we recently topped 10,000 members. Obviously we’re meeting a need of the community.”

Then it was time for the District 1 City Council Forum.

The chamber had invited the “top four” candidates to make statements and answer questions, leaving E.J. Delacruz, 19, off the guest list. “This is very unfortunate, and I was disappointed to hear of my exclusion,” Delacruz stated on his campaign Facebook page. “I am against the rail project, and would have offered valid input on the issue.”

His four opponents had plenty to say on that issue, and it boiled down to state Rep. Kymberly Pine for, veteran Democrat Alex Santiago for, union leader Mel Kahele for, and City Councilman Tom Berg against.

Emcee Gina Mangieri urged the panel and crowd to “keep it civil, and no boos and no applause until the end.”

* Longtime Makakilo resident Kahele spoke of his large family, including 15 grandchildren, and how he wants them to find jobs in West Oahu where they live. Rail would do that. Stepped-up recycling and more parks also are important. Speaking as a sports coach, he said: “We don’t have a regional park for the Leeward Coast, we’re the only area without a district park. Sometimes 11 different teams practice on one field!” Kahele also believes in the power of negotiation and compromise at the City Council level. “Sometimes something instead of nothing is best. Let’s unify.”

* Berg wants rail back on the ballot. “The 2008 decision is not the same anymore; the city has stumbled and failed,” he said. “Ben (Cayetano) is going to win, and I’m the only one who can work with him. Stop the propaganda! Rail can be done right, but you’ve been lied to. Rail will generate only 600 local jobs, and all other jobs will be out-of-state people. Buses beat rail in all ways. Rail doesn’t move freight, roads do; and rail sucks funds away from fixing our sewers, parks and water mains.” He called his own website “loud and obnoxious – but I’m saying it because no one else is saying it.” He also pointed out his remedies for the homeless (use of modular shipping containers) and getting a bill passed to fund a full-time position dedicated to the technology of reducing waste.

* Pine “can’t wait to get to work” on the City Council and bring attention and funding to the Second City’s schools and parks. “Indecision has delayed our prosperity,” said the Ewa Beach resident and athlete. Speeding up the permitting process should “make everything move faster.” She’d also seek to have the rail cars built here while there’s still time. Working for US Vets helped her understand homelessness and its lack of dignity, she noted. She would work for more affordable housing units and attention to those with mental illness. She praised Campbell High’s academic success and wants all area schools to have that same chance. “I want to make sure we’re not forgotten, and make sure I’m not just a complainer on the City Council.”

* Santiago is a Makaha social worker who now directs PHOCUSED (Protecting Hawaii’s Ohana, Children, Under-served, Elderly and Disabled). He believes in public service and wants to be a leader who brings balance (in development), fairness and strength to the Council. “How many have the opportunity to create a Second City?” He’d make sure District 1 gets the tools it needs, and he’d also collaborate with the legislature. “I won’t jump up and down and pound my chest,” he said. “Just tell me what you want.”

All panelists obeyed timekeeper Rene Mansho, and at one point – when the sound system faltered and someone shouted “Blame it on KITV!” – they laughed, in unity.