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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, October 18, 2002

Candidates offer urban solutions

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

The concerns of urban Honolulu residents are typical of voters across the state: improving public education, fighting crime and creating better economic conditions. But residents in state Senate District 12 and House District 21, two of the most congested areas of Honolulu, also have serious concerns about traffic, development and tourism.

State Senate District 12 runs along the Honolulu waterfront from Kapahulu Avenue to the Kapîlama Canal. The district includes all of Waikiki, Ala Moana Center, Kaka'ako, downtown and Kalihi. Hawai'i's major areas of tourism, finance and government are located within the district.

Nearly 47,000 people live in the district. Of those, 40,683 are over 18 and eligible to vote, but only 25,198, or 61.5 percent, have registered. Of those eligible to vote, 42 percent are 50 and older.

The largest ethnic group is Caucasians, who make up 28.8 percent of the population with 13,513 people, followed by Japanese with 15.3 percent (7,160), Chinese with 14.8 percent (6,969), Filipinos with 7.5 percent and Koreans with 7 percent (3,279).

The field of eight candidates in a hotly contested primary race to represent the district has been reduced to one candidate from each major political party who will face each other in the Nov. 5 general election — Democrat Jon Yoshimura and Republican Gordon M. Trimble.

For Yoshimura, who was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 1994, this is his first run for state office.

For Trimble, who defeated current state Rep. Lei Ahu Isa in the primary, this is his first attempt to gain public office.

Trimble, 58, said if the state economy can improve, solutions to most other problems will follow.

"My sense is when we address the economy we address making life better for everyone," Trimble said. "For example, if you are elderly and the economy doesn't get going, you are concerned about social services or police services, which are adversely affected."

Trimble's solution for improving the economy is to do away with taxes on business-to-business transactions and develop interisland and international ocean transportation systems to allow small businesses to grow and become more competitive in the national and international markets.

"When a business sells a service or product to another business, there is a tax paid," said Trimble. The tax is not imposed in most states and hurts small businesses that perform one step in a production process. "This tends to make them less competitive," he said.

"We all want the same things. We want policemen we can see, we want traffic that flows, we want parks we can use, we want schools where our children can learn and we want jobs for our children. How do we get these things? By growing our economy from the inside out, not waiting for the Japanese tourists to return. We need to look at what resources we have and combine them more effectively."

Yoshimura, 43, said there is no simple answer, but taking a close look at our core industries — agriculture, tourism, healthcare, education, high technology and construction —will lead to an improved economy.

"We need to look at these industries and say what do we need to do to jump-start them," Yoshimura said. "It will take a lot of good, small ideas to get us out of this economic malaise."

Yoshimura said tourism could be rejuvenated by marketing recent city improvements in Waikiki to develop new markets in Taiwan, Korea and China. Tax incentives for developers and farmers would help the construction and agriculture industries.

To fight crime, Yoshimura would like to offer police officers low-cost mortgage loans as an incentive to stay in Hawai'i rather than moving to more lucrative jobs on the Mainland.

"This has been used in many cities," Yoshimura said. "It gives public safety officers roots in their community and additional financial reasons to stay and it doesn't cost taxpayers a lot of money."

House District 21 is primarily residential, including homes on both sides of Kapahulu Avenue from Diamond Head Road to Kapi'olani Boulevard and from the Ala Wai Canal to Wai'alae Avenue and down Sixth Avenue. A small portion of Waikiki near Jefferson Elementary School is also included in the district.

A little more than 23,500 people live in the district. Of those, 20,112 are eligible to vote, and 14,720 or about 74 percent, are registered. Of those eligible to vote, 44 percent are 50 and older.

Japanese are the largest ethnic group, with 6,136 residents totaling 26 percent of the population, followed closely by Caucasians with 25 percent (5,951), Chinese with 10.5 percent (2,487) and Koreans with 4.6 percent (1,098).

Neither incumbent Republican Mindy Jaffe nor Democratic challenger Scott Nishimoto faced opposition in the primary election.

Nishimoto, a recent graduate from the University of Hawai'i William S. Richardson School of Law, sees education as the most critical issue to district residents.

"To me the first and foremost duty of government is to educate its citizens," Nishimoto said. "Our public school system is not doing as well as people would like."

Nishimoto said he would improve public school education by working to help parents become more involved with the school system.

Although Nishimoto has never held public office, he has worked as a staff assistant to U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye and for state Rep. Sylvia Luke. Nishimoto, 28, hopes his youth will bring more people into politics and to the polls.

"You hear how the political process doesn't interest young people and they feel like they can't really make a difference. That is completely false," Nishimoto said. "One way to get young people involved is to have younger candidates. I have mostly young people helping me, without any political experience. People our age can make a difference."

His opponent, Jaffe, is proud of her experience as a lawmaker and business person. Jaffe said most of her constituents are worried about speeding drivers, dangerous intersections and the lack of parking in the 80-year-old residential community.

Kapahulu resident Christen Mitchell said people are concerned about how the city's proposed Bus Rapid Transit system will affect traffic and safety in the area and about congestion caused by an increase of Waikiki workers parking on residential streets.

"I wish people would talk more about education, the economy and environmental protection — things that are important to me and I have some influence on as a state legislator — but safety in their neighborhoods is the single most important thing to people and what they are most concerned about," Jaffe said.

Jaffe, 52, said the single best thing legislators can do to improve the lives of Hawaii's families is to stop taxing groceries and medical services.

"The 4 percent (general excise tax) hurts the poorest among us the most," Jaffe said. "We should not tax people when they are buying food for their families, or when they are sick."

Jaffe would like to dismantle the state Department of Education in favor of local school districts run by locally elected boards and eliminate the Department of Accounting and General Services to cut government spending.

She also said the Pre-Paid Health Care Act, which requires all employers to provide healthcare coverage to employees, should be revised because it is unfair to businesses.

"It has had far-reaching unintended consequences, including imposing a crippling burden on small business and regulation of the healthcare industry that has driven competitors from the market," Jaffe said.

Senate District 12

Gordon M. Trimble (R)

ADDRESS: 1350 Ala Moana
OCCUPATION: Economist and teacher
FAMILY: Married, one adult son
ONE BIG IDEA: Create an interisland ferry service. "We are probably the only place in the world where you can't travel interisland by a vehicular ferry system. If we had a marine highway of vehicular ferries to unify our island chain, it would be a true engine of growth benefiting every sector of our economy. If we could put a family in car, drive onto a ship, then two and a half hours later be on Kaua'i in your car. People would travel more frequently and buy products there and bring them back. It would make travel for visitors and residents more accessible, convenient and affordable."

Jon Yoshimura (D)

ADDRESS: 1425 Ward Ave.
OCCUPATION: City Council member, attorney
FAMILY: Divorced, two sons
ONE BIG IDEA: Develop the Honolulu waterfront for commercial and recreational activities. "The Honolulu waterfront holds tremendous potential for development. We have a harbor master plan that sets out the possibilities. We would have to go down, do an inventory of properties and resources and find ways to do it. For years we have been trying to tie downtown to Waikiki and we are in a very good position now to make that finally happen with the redevelopment of Kaka'ako occurring."

House District 21
Mindy Jaffe (R)

ADDRESS: 234 Ohua Ave.
OCCUPATION: State legislator and part-time Jazzercise instructor
FAMILY: Single
ONE BIG IDEA: Mandatory sentencing laws for drug-related crimes. "I know of six drug houses in the area. They have been busted several times but continue to terrorize the neighborhoods. I want these guys busted. They are destroying my community. Drug users need treatment, but the dealers need to be permanently removed from the community."

Scott Y. Nishimoto (D)

ADDRESS: 3191 Charles St.
OCCUPATION: Recent law school graduate
FAMILY: Single
ONE BIG IDEA: Make the University of Hawai'i more of a driving force in Hawai'i's economy. "The University of Hawai'i has not reached its potential for helping our economy. It should be used to open up new industries to Hawai'i, diversifying, bringing in outside funding. I'd like to see us go after more out-of-state students, like Hawai'i Pacific University. I consider those students like semi-permanent tourists."

Reach James Gonser at jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2431.