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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Profiles of the council candidates

 •  Voters to elect Mirikitani successor
 •  Mailing by council candidate under fire
 •  Previous story: Many issues face District 5

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser City Hall Writer

Sam Aiona
John Anderson
Danny Auyoung
Albert Furuto
Nasir Gazdar
Richard Gee
Kekoa Kaapu
Joe Kinoshita
Ann Kobayashi
Richard Lee
Ron Lockwood
Harris Murabayashi
Richard Soo
John Steelquist

Here are profiles of the 14 candidates running in Saturday's special election for the vacant seat in City Council District 5 (Manoa, Mo'ili'ili, McCully, Tantalus, Makiki, Pawa'a, Ala Moana and Kewalo).

Voters will choose a successor to former Councilman Andy Mirikitani, who was convicted of federal charges of theft, bribery, extortion, wire fraud and witness tampering.

Polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Bring a photo ID.

Registered voters also may vote earlier at the walk-in absentee voting site at Honolulu Hale. It is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Thursday.

For more information call the city clerk at 523-4293 or visit the City and County special election Web site.

• • •

Sam Aiona

Age: 36

Occupation: Mortgage company loan officer

Lives in: Makiki.

Background: Served in the state House 1996-98, representing Makiki-Manoa area.

Community involvement: Active in numerous community association, president Kuhio Lions Club; 1999 Pacific Century Fellow; member of the Reid Richards organization to help children whose parents have died. It is named for his cousin who died, leaving behind two children.

Candidate's views: Aiona said he's running for the Council because he believes there's a need for changes in the city's lawmakers.

He said he believes that many residents are not happy with the current Council. "I'd like to restore honesty and integrity to that body."

Aiona has gained support from gubernatorial candidate Linda Lingle and former Congresswoman Pat Saiki. Aiona said he combines many years of business experience in the tourism industry with some political experience. "I'm independent but I can stand up to the old boys," Aiona said. "We don't need the same old boys doing the same old thing. I'm offering myself as an agent of change."

Aiona said he wants to help the Manoa community stop the high-voltage power lines in Wa'ahila Ridge, above the valley.

• • •

John Anderson

Age: 55

Occupation: Elementary school counselor at Aliamanu Elementary School.

Lives in: Mo'ili'ili.

Background: Serves on city vision team for his area.

Community involvement: Serves on Elks Club scholarship committee

Candidate's views: Anderson says he's running for office because he's been involved in the community and thinks it's a natural next step. "Obviously, we need some change in our local government."

He describes himself as a grassroots community person. He said he's earned a reputation as an advocate for families, for children and their parents. "I don't have any agendas. I'm looking to start now and just help. It's purely a commitment to the community."

Anderson said he works to get things done. "I'm an honest person."

He noted the problems the district had recently when former Councilman Andy Mirikitani left office and the district had no council representation. "Maybe I can make a difference in the neighborhood from a council seat."

He is also working on his doctorate in educational policy studies at the University of Hawai'i.

• • •

Danny Auyoung

Age: 53

Occupation: Restaurateur and businessman. First-time political candidate.

Lives in: Makiki.

Background: One-time owner of Danny's restaurant in Manoa

Community involvement: Waikiki Rotary Club; Manoa Neighborhood board, Hawai'i Restaurant Association, coached Manoa girls softball and girls volleyball.

Candidate's views: Auyoung said he got involved in politics this year because he thinks the Council needs "real people instead of career politicians."

He said he feels that good people get discouraged from getting involved in government because of problems of past City Council members.

"I'm so fed up like everybody else, with what's happening in city government," Auyoung said. "There is a lack of honesty, integrity and leadership."

Auyoung favors mass transit. He's a smoker who doesn't smoke in restaurants but he doesn't like to see government over-regulating business. "I'm against the government telling us what to do every time."

A graduate of Punahou School, Auyoung earned his bachelor's degree in travel industry management from the University of Hawai'i.

• • •

Albert Furuto

Age: 48

Occupation: Stuntman and actor. Trustee for Local 665 International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees.

Lives in: McCully.

Background: Serves as elected board secretary to McCully/ Mo'ili'ili Neighborhood Board. University of Hawai'i graduate with bachelor's degree in psychology.

Community involvement: Chairman of community affairs for neighborhood board; president of Japanese Sword Society.

Candidate's views: While serving on the neighborhood board, Furuto says he realized the community wasn't getting good representation and lacked a "devoted and sincere" council member.

This is his first time running for paid elected office. When he started with the neighborhood board, he faced frustrations such as meetings running so late that it discouraged public participation.

Furuto said he saw the special election as "a good opportunity to make some changes" on a broader scale. "I'd like to work hard not to just represent the district but to lead, inform and educate the community."

He said he'd be an advocate for lower taxes and improved services. Although those may sound like contradictory statements, he said, "I think with progressive thinking and innovation, there's ways to add revenue to the city."

• • •

Nasir Gazdar

Age: 58

Occupation: Adjunct professor, University of Hawai'i Department of Geography, where he teaches a course called natural environment.

Lives in: McCully-Mo'ili'ili.

Background: Teacher all his life, from high school to university level at the University of Hawai'i for the last 10 years. He was formerly with the school of public health.

Community involvement: Served as member of the McCully-Mo'ili'ili Neighborhood Board; East-West Center Alumni Association; National Environmental Health Association.

Candidate's views: Gazdar said he is running for office as a way to encourage better public health and pride in the diverse district.

His goal is "to improve quality of life, public safety and health of the 'ohana by working to promote community stewardship."

Gadzar said too many trees have been cut down within urban Honolulu, from the University of Hawai'i to Punchbowl and Diamond Head.

He said the lack of greenery causes an increase in ground temperature and poor air quality. He said that contributes to the state's high rate of juvenile asthma.

Gazdar's immediate goal is to "plant 10,000 trees/shrubs" in the district to make the district more environmentally friendly.

• • •

Richard Gee

Age: 50

Occupation: Tree trimmer.

Lives in: Manoa.

Background: Artist and housebuilder.

Community involvement: He said he has lived in Manoa for 12 years, owning his own business.

Candidate's views: Gee said he believes he can help to continue to make the community a special place to live.

Although he's new to politics, he believes he has traits that would help. "I'm aware of what's going on. I'm honest," he said. "I listen to people."

Gee said he's had his own business for most of his life, even though he's done a variety of work, from buffet setup for a Waikiki hotel to lobster importer and produce clerk. Recently, he has designed and built custom treehouses.

For this race, he has relied on the help of friends to make some signs and do some roadside sign-waving but declined to take any contributions.

Gee wants more power allocated to the neighborhood boards, which would help government ensure more meaningful participation from the community. "I'm surprised that there's empty seats on some of the boards."

"I believe I have the experience, patience and knowledge to make a difference."

• • •

Kekoa Kaapu

Age: 64

Occupation: Retired.

Lives in: Mo'ili'ili.

Background: Served on Hono-lulu City Council 1964-69 and again during 1974-79. Delegate to the state Constitutional Conventions in 1968 and 1978.

Community involvement: Served on McCully-Mo'ili'ili Neighborhood for 12 years.

Candidate's views: Kaapu said he wants to bring his government experience back to work in a community that he has served for years.

"I'd like to see the city be as good a place to live as possible," Kaapu said. He sees the City Council as a key to improving life for O'ahu's citizens, from parks and better public transportation to improved land-use decisions.

Kaapu said he considers himself "the father of the bus system." In addition to serving in the Council, he worked in appointed office as an aide to Gov. John Burns, 1962-64.

A graduate of Kamehameha Schools and Harvard University, Kaapu also served as a captain in the Marine Corps and was a naval aviator and intelligence officer.

He said that as a councilman he helped author a bill to provide downtown city zoning that helped to bring more green space and boost a thriving community for businesses and residents alike.

• • •

Joe Kinoshita

Age: 66

Occupation: Attorney.

Lives in: Makiki.

Background: Had government experience as a deputy city prosecutor and a deputy attorney general. Served two years on the Diamond Head/Kapahulu/St. Louis Heights Neighborhood Board.

Community involvement: Served active duty and reserve in Air Force for 33 years. His duties included flying jets and air cargo and serving as a judge advocate general.

Candidate's views: Kinoshita said the diverse district has many needs. For example, he believes there needs to be improvement in traffic in Makiki.

In Manoa, he sees a need for taking a look at how to improve the city's real property tax system to make it more manageable for families.

"I would carry through the programs of the former councilman (Mirikitani) because I believe that's what the voters in the district expected," Kinoshita said. For example, he favors the revitalization of the Kaka'ako-Ala Moana area and believes in the Kapi'olani area, there should be stricter enforcement of the laws concerning hostess bars and strip clubs.

In the Mo'ili'ili-McCully area, "we're looking at programs for senior citizens and probably job opportunities," he said.

• • •

Ann Kobayashi

Age: 64

Occupation: Special assistant to Gov. Ben Cayetano for youth programs, for which she earns $1 a year.

Lives in: Manoa.

Background: Served in the state Senate 1980-1994.

Community involvement: Board member of various organizations including the Mo'ili'ili Community Center, Domestic Violence Clearinghouse, March of Dimes and Aloha United Way.

Candidate's views: Kobayashi represented a large chunk of the district for 14 years and has remained active in the community and government in appointed jobs and as a volunteer.

She said she is running this year because supporters convinced her that her legislative experience would make a critical difference.

Kobayashi is looking seriously at working to change the way the city handles real property taxes, which especially hits hard in older neighborhoods. "I worry about people being taxed out of their homes, those on fixed incomes."

And she's concerned about businesses such as bars and other commercial ventures that have encroached into residential communities. "We have to protect our neighborhoods."

Kobayashi said she has always been opposed to Hawaiian Electric Co.'s plan to run 138-kilovolt wires on Wa'ahila Ridge.

• • •

Richard Lee

Age: 54

Occupation: Attorney/certified public accountant.

Lives in: Kapi'olani.

Background: Real estate broker, former family court judge (1973-85) but was not reappointed.

Community involvement: Active in Jaycees, serving as state president, 1982-83; president, Honolulu Chinese Jaycees, 1978-79.

Candidate's views: Lee said the Sept. 11 attacks helped push him into running for office because of his concerns over the "severity of the economic situation."

Lee is president and chief executive officer of his attorney/CPA firm. He earned his bachelor's degree in economics from Stanford University; and got his law degree from Hastings Law School.

He said his qualifications of "being a successful businessman and leader in the community" set him apart from the other candidates.

"I feel like I'm the best qualified to do this," Lee said. He believes that political leaders must focus on economic solutions.

As an example, Lee favors the city's bus-rapid transit plan because of the boost to the construction industry and other businesses. "It's good for the economy. It will help the tax base. It will bring in federal dollar," he said.

Lee said he would not accept a council salary. He would return it to the general fund or donate it.

• • •

Ron Lockwood

Age: 53

Occupation: Special education teacher.

Lives in: Mo'ili'ili.

Background: Served on the McCully-Mo'ili'ili Neighborhood Board for seven years.

Community involvement: Been on the community vision team and worked with the Parent-Teacher Association for 11 years.

Candidate's views: Lockwood said he has progressively been more involved in community issues and thought this would be a good year for an advocate to step forward.

"The feeling in our neighborhood is that Mo'ili'ili is left out of things like playgrounds and park," Lockwood said. "We want to make sure that these issues are brought out."

He said he knows the district and has been a vocal advocate for residents frustrated by late-night noise from bars, especially in the Bingham Tract area.

Lockwood said much of his concern stems from being a parent of three children, ages 9, 11 and 14. "My focus has always been on long-term planning and things we can do for our children," said Lockwood, a special education teacher at Variety School.

Lockwood favors planting more trees in urban areas of the neighborhood, such as near Lunalilo Elementary, Washington Middle School and Kuhio Elementary.

• • •

Harris Murabayashi

Age: 73

Occupation: Retired analyst for City Clerk's Office.

Lives in: Makiki.

Background: Ran for governor in 1994. 1950 University of Hawai'i graduate with bachelor's in business.

Community involvement: Makiki resident for 26 years. He's also a small businessman who owns and operates more than 20 rental units.

Candidate's views: Murabayashi said he is running for office because "primarily I'm disappointed in our government."

He said one of the major concerns of the district is that there is "too much government."

Murabayashi is critical of Democrats who have held power so long that "they're not accountable, they don't care about anybody."

Murabayashi thinks government should be sparing in its approach. "Basically, I want government to only do the things that the private sector either cannot do or will not do," he said.

While working for the city, he said he designed the computer program that tracks the city's construction projects and said his familiarity with the budget process would help him be effective.

He said fixing roads would be a priority and that he would try to make the Board of Water Supply more efficient. He would also like to cut taxes.

• • •

Richard Soo

Age: 50

Occupation: Honolulu Fire Department captain and spokesperson.

Lives in: Kalawahine.

Background: Fire department 25 years, three years as bus driver.

Community involvement: Board member, Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association; board member, Manoa School Association of Parents/Teachers; former chair, Palolo Neighborhood Board.

Candidate's views: As a middle manager with the city, Soo said he is running because he understands the issues and can work with people to find solutions. Soo said he offers voters "someone who has a mortgage in this community, has kids going to the public schools in this community."

Soo took a month of vacation from the Fire Department to campaign for the Council seat. He plans to retire Feb. 16. He said he feels he can offer a fresh approach.

He sees this as a chance to be effective in a new way. "I have more of a sympathetic ear than a career politician."

He said he'll deal with issues on their own merits and not based on whether the are backed by others in the political process. "I am an independent thinker even though I'm a Democrat."

Soo grew up in Palolo and has worked and lived in the district for years. "I'm a people person."

• • •

John Steelquist

Age: 62

Occupation: business professor at Chaminade University; he and his wife own small business: Hawaiian Islands Medical Corp., which sells and rents wheelchairs and hospital beds.

Lives in: Makiki.

Background: Has been Makiki Neighborhood Board chairman for 15 years; co-chair of the Vision Team that includes Manoa, Makiki and McCully-Mo'ili'ili.

Community involvement: Vice president of Empower O'ahu, a citywide community-based job creation and coordination; working on social enterprise project at Central Union Church; and active with Rotary Club of East Honolulu.

Candidate's views: Steelquist, a longtime community advocate, said two important issues facing the Council are the city administration's latest public transportation plan, which features a combined expansion of the bus system with some rapid transit; and the development plan, which he believes needs more community input.

He said the Middle Street to Waikiki portion of the transportation plan does not not consider mauka to makai traffic or circulation within a community.

Steelquist grew up in Manoa. He is a graduate of Punahou and earned a doctorate from Texas A&M in industrial engineering. Steelquist spent 20 years in the Air Force and four years working with communications satellites.