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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, October 28, 2002

Districts look to quell crime

 •  State Senate District 11
 •  State House District 27

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

Residents in Kalihi, Liliha, Punchbowl, Makiki and Ala Moana share many of the same concerns associated with urban living — traffic-congested streets, aging public schools in need of repairs and the struggling economy. But fighting crime is a pressing issue that unites the voters in state Senate District 11 and House District 27.

Both political districts have seen rising crime rates in recent years, and residents in both areas have filed applications to be part of a planned extension of the federal Weed & Seed crime-fighting program from the Kalihi-Palama/Chinatown area into their neighborhoods.

Both areas have formed working committees and are holding meetings looking for help combating problems with drug dealing, theft, prostitution and gambling. In Kalihi, crime is centered on the low-income areas, and in Ala Moana it's the "bar district" along Ke'eaumoku and Sheridan streets.

Candidates for the two legislative seats, Democrat Jennifer Waihee and Republican Corinne Wei Lan Ching in the House race and incumbent Democrat Sen. Carol Fukunaga and Republican Casey Choi in the Senate race, acknowledge that fighting crime is a top concern of constituents.

Senate District 11

Casey Choi (R)

• Address: 1516-7 Nehoa St.

• Occupation: Sales and marketing

• Family: Married, five children

• One big idea: Bring Asian athletes to Hawai'i by building an Olympic training complex. "Asian countries are crazy for the Olympic Games and Asian games. They need training. In winter they are looking for a practice area." Choi said by utilizing existing sports facilities and creating new ones where needed, hundreds of athletes and their support crews would come to Hawai'i, bringing much-needed tourist dollars.

Carol Fukunaga (D)

• Address: 1571 Pi'ikoi St.

• Occupation: State legislator

• Family: Single

• One big idea: Create community centers in the district. "We have had tremendous ideas coming from residents during the Weed & Seed organizational meetings where they are talking about organizing community centers to make safe places for youngsters to go after school — where older people could go and be safe and could tutor the youngsters; a place where you could have young and old working together in a real community and neighborhood setting."

House District 27

Corinne Wei Lan Ching (R)

• Address: 2040 Nu'uanu Ave.

• Occupation: Teacher

• Family: Single

• One big idea: Statewide business start-up centers. Bring together local chambers of commerce with state government to rehabilitate empty buildings and create office space for startup businesses using common areas and business tools such as computers and fax machines. The centers would also provide accounting and legal services. "This is not free space. They get a foothold in business and then fly on their own. They then will go into the community and help revitalize it."

Jennifer Waihee (D)

• Address: 246 Jack Lane

• Occupation: Attorney

• Family: Single

• One big idea: A one-stop customer service center, which residents could use to direct them to government and private sector services. She envisions "a location, a Web site and phone number so people can call or come in and ask about local and governmental services, social services, business questions and even nonprofits. "A lot of things that people want already exist, but people don't know how to find them. People could call there, one number, and they can direct you. Not everyone has the time to search for help."

"We need a strong legislator who will stand up for the community," said Teresa Russell, chairwoman of the Liliha/Kapalama Neighborhood Board. "Someone who will fight for us; who will stand up for what they believe in and not be kowtowed."

House District 27, which includes portions of Kalihi, Liliha and Pu'unui, is bordered by Vineyard Boulevard, Houghtailing Street, and Pali Highway running up to the Ko'olau ridgeline. It is one of the older neighborhoods in Honolulu, with many third, fourth and fifth generations of families living in the area.

There are 21,955 residents in the district. Most are of Japanese descent (25 percent), followed by Chinese (18 percent) and Filipino (15 percent). There are 17,971 eligible voters in the district, more than half of whom are 50 years old or older. Of those eligible, 11,988 have registered for the election.

Current Rep. Lei Ahu Isa, who switched parties in May and is now a Republican, did not seek re-election to the district. She chose to make a bid for the 12th Senatorial District seat but was defeated in the primary.

Both Waihee and Ching defeated primary election opponents and will face off in the general election Nov. 5.

Ching, 41, is a teacher and program coordinator for English for Second Language Learners at Ma'ema'e Elementary School. She has run for this House seat twice before, in 1996 and 1998, losing by 18 votes on her second attempt. She served three terms on the Liliha/Kapalama Neighborhood Board and traces her roots in the area to her great-grandfather, who owned a neighborhood store.

Ching said crime, education reform and providing for the elderly are her top campaign issues.

"I will push for the Weed & Seed expansion and parity in pay for police officers," Ching said. "We are losing officers to Mainland because they can make more pay."

Ching wants to make sure state money for the Lanakila Senior Center continues. Money for the center, which serves hundreds of seniors, was almost eliminated this year and is only guaranteed through 2004.

"Their funding was threatened to be cut and given to bedridden elderly programs," Ching said. "My feeling is that is the wrong approach. This program prevents people from getting to the point where they are bedridden. It gets them out of their house."

Ching, who is one of the few Republicans endorsed by the Sierra Club for her environmental work, is also advocating decentralization of public school boards to allow more community control of spending.

Jennifer Waihee, daughter of former Gov. John Waihee, is an attorney with Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel and has lived in Kalihi most of her life.

Waihee, 31, said crime is one of the top concerns she hears from residents while walking door-to-door in the district.

"It is really scary for people, especially in my district, because there so many are seniors," Waihee said. "A lot of it has to do with drugs. A lot has to do with the economy. If we can provide better jobs people will stop looking to crime."

Waihee also supports more local control to manage public schools, but wants money issues decided statewide to provide equality.

"Obviously, you want the schools to have a voice in management; you want that because who knows better what a school needs than the people who are there?" Waihee said. "But we need to oversee funding to make sure all schools are treated equally. I want to make sure money allocated for repairs gets to the schools."

Waihee would like to see lawmakers come up with some way to cut the cost of prescription drugs to help the elderly.

"People on fixed income worry about getting sick because they don't have adequate coverage," Waihee said. "We have to deal with our aging population and long-term care things to keep them affordable."

Waihee said being a good legislator means working well with others to find solutions.

"At the Legislature it is important to be able to take into consideration the needs within your community and balance that with statewide issues," Waihee said. "No matter what your point of view is, you have to put it to 50 other people, so you have to be able to work with them."

Senate District 11 includes Makiki, Punchbowl, Tantalus and Pawa'a, the busy residential and business area between Pensacola and McCully streets from Kapi'olani Boulevard to H-1 Freeway.

There are 46,246 residents in the district mostly of Japanese descent (24 percent), followed by Caucasian (18 percent) and Chinese (11 percent). There are 39,215 eligible voters in the district, evenly divided among all age groups. Of those eligible, 26,660 have registered for the election.

Along with crime, residents are concerned with development, traffic and education.

Wal-Mart's plan to develop a 24-hour business complex at the "Ke'eaumoku superblock" has many people worried about noise and congestion in their neighborhood.

Fukunaga was unopposed in the primary and Choi defeated one other Republican to reach the general election Nov. 5.

Fukunaga said the University of Hawai'i has just completed a report reviewing the developer's traffic study.

"Traffic is the biggest bone of contention," Fukunaga said. "I think some people would welcome the convenience of a Wal-Mart within walking distance. However, the big issue that has not been resolved is how traffic is going to be addressed."

Fukunaga, 54, said job creation and improving pubic schools are frequent topics when talking to constituents.

"We have worked real actively over the last two years in building a strong parent-community-business partnership for our schools," Fukunaga said. "It is now really beginning to show results, particularly in the Roosevelt complex, where we had over 500 classrooms either renovated or targeted for renovation."

Fukunaga, who has served in the state House and Senate for 20 years, said her experience benefits residents of the district.

"Experience and know-how is an important thing," Fukunaga said. "When you have problems that affect communities and residents you've got to harness everyone's talent and experience."

This political race is Choi's first attempt at public office. He is a Korean immigrant who works in tourism and marketing and sales.

Choi said creating a strong economy is his top priority and, if elected, he hopes to make Hawai'i the business center of the Pacific by creating schools to teach not only technology but English.

"Asia has many booming computer industries," Choi said. "Here, we can make English language high-tech schools. They come here, like Hawai'i's weather, and that will improve the economy. They cannot speak or read English very well. So we can provide those skills. With my background traveling in Asia, I can talk to them and bring more people here."

Choi, 43, said his second priority is to restore trust in government.

"I believe if we have a strong two-party system we can focus on issues and have real debates," Choi said. "Checks and balance."

Improving public education is the single most important thing government offers its citizens, Choi said.

"Public education is the largest item in the state budget," he said. "I support moving many of the Department of Education administrative functions down to the local level."

Choi said his lack of political experience can be considered a plus.

"I have experience in tourism, in business," he said. "We need people with more experience than just government."

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