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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, September 9, 2002

Old issues emerge out West

 •  Candidate profiles
 •  Map: City Council District 1

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

With John DeSoto vacating his City Council seat because of term limits, seven candidates — including two of his staffers — have jumped in the race seeking to represent the Wai'anae and 'Ewa district.

In addition to DeSoto aides Donna Broome and Pam Witty-Oakland, the nonpartisan primary includes Mike Chambrella, Mike Gabbard, John Kaopua, James Manaku Sr. and Cynthia Rezentes.

If the top vote-getter receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, he or she will win outright. Otherwise, the two leading candidates will face off in the general election in November. In a district of roughly 92,000 residents, only 34,000 are registered active voters.

The district includes Wai'anae, Nanakuli, Honokai Hale, Kapolei, Barbers Point, 'Ewa and 'Ewa Beach — areas where residents complain traffic is heavy and jobs are scarce, and fret that the Waimanalo Gulch landfill is weeks away from being filled to capacity.

Several candidates said they want to get these long-standing issues off the table before introducing new initiatives.

Broome, a part-time secretary for DeSoto for the past eight years, said she decided to run for office because "there's still a bunch of issues that still need to be finished and followed up on."

Topping her list is revising the sewer service charge, which she says penalizes residents in the dry Leeward area for watering their lawns because a straight fee is charged for all water used, whether in the house or in the yard.

She said she plans to go over old proposals to determine what has held back attempts to make the fees more equitable.

She also plans to focus on increasing funding for police, which would "solve a lot of the problems with drugs that we have on this island."

Broome said she would also like to pass a bill or resolution that would hold the city administration accountable to the City Council by requiring that reports be made about "where the money is going before you even spend it."

Chambrella, an attorney and assistant to Hawaii Teamsters union president Mel Kahele, said he was motivated to run because he wants to clean out corruption in city government and ensure that it is kept clean in the future.

He said he is also interested in seeing the progression of the Bus Rapid Transit system. "Obviously we need to correct the (traffic) problems," he said. "The Zipper Lane has helped some, but I think we need more done to relieve the congestion."

Chambrella said he will also focus on economic growth in the district by finding a way to speed up the processes for awarding city contracts. And, like many candidates, he looks forward to construction of the University of Hawai'i-West O'ahu campus in Kapolei to create construction jobs and stimulate business.

Going door-to-door around the district, local businessman Gabbard said he has been struck by the frustration, feelings of hopelessness and sense of isolation among the people he has talked to. "They feel that East Honolulu is getting all these goodies and West Honolulu is just getting the scraps," he said.

He emphasizes public safety, including the need for a greater police presence and more jet-powered watercraft for lifeguards on Leeward beaches.

Gabbard, who led a successful drive for a ban on same-sex marriages in 1998, said he would like to draw the community together. "I want to get in there and restore a sense of hope in the district," he said.

His first step would be trying to find a way to lower the cost of living. "The main thing tying all these things together is really the high cost of living," he said. "Both parents have to work, aggravating the traffic problem, and the kids aren't getting the attention they need."

Kaopua, a legislative liaison for the Ironworkers Stabilization Fund, said he wants to restore trust in government, noting that the convictions of former City Council members Andy Mirikitani for corruption and Rene Mansho for misuse of campaign money and city staff have made it tougher for candidates to engage voters. A member of the Wai'anae Coast Neighborhood Board for eight years, Kaopua would continue his community involvement, attending forums and neighborhood board meetings and using his staff to help him address issues raised by the public.

He would also press the state to move more quickly on the UH-West O'ahu campus, which along with tax credits and incentives for high-tech businesses, will help address the unemployment issue. The average unemployment rate on O'ahu is 4 percent, while neighborhoods in his district range from 5.3 percent in Kahe to 20.4 percent in Barbers Point.

Growth in Kapolei requires phasing out Waimanalo Gulch, Kaopua said. "There is a 430-foot mountain of trash right at the gateway to our second city," he said. "If they are really serious about making our second city into something that we all want, then we need to phase the dump out."

Manaku, who has been on the Wai'anae Coast Neighborhood Board for 15 years, said that after spending so much time testifying on Wai'anae issues before the City Council and the state Legislature, he decided to run for office.

With seven years' experience as chairman and co-chairman on the neighborhood board's transportation committee, Manaku said he would focus on issues such as traffic and alternate access routes.

He would also like to see how the city can use its staff more effectively, a possible alternative to awarding city contracts to private companies.

Manaku said there are so many issues confronting the district that it is difficult to prioritize them, but his first goal would be to get more police protection to combat drug use and property crime.

Rezentes, a member of the Wai'anae Coast Neighborhood Board since 1996 and chairwoman for four years, said she would like to move to the City Council to continue her work in improving "the general overall condition and perception in the area."

If Kapolei is truly to be developed into O'ahu's second urban center, "it impacts the whole Leeward Coast and needs to be handled in a way that is consistent with the quality of life," she said.

Part of Rezentes' mission would be to provide a stable basis for her constituents, including good jobs and places to learn job skills. "I think if people have good jobs that they don't have to travel into Honolulu for, if they're well-paying clean jobs, it takes a lot of stress out of the day-to-day living concerns," she said.

In addition to providing job training, a UH-West O'ahu campus would create jobs and attract businesses, Rezentes said. She said the district's land should be considered for diversified agriculture. "The broader we can make our economic base, the better off we will be," she said.

Witty-Oakland, DeSoto's chief aide and budget analyst, said she was asked by community members to continue DeSoto's work. "They wanted continuity, familiarity with what was going on," she said.

"Working with (DeSoto), I've been a member of the team that he has assembled. That's a philosophy I want to carry forward."

Witty-Oakland said she would like to see more roads, new technology to address the landfill issue and further development in Ko Olina and Kapolei. "We're going to have to lobby to get the West O'ahu campus up here," she said. With several sites under debate, Witty-Oakland recommends a 300-acre parcel on Farrington Highway, which would also serve as "a catalyst to make sure all the regional roads get built."

Resolving these issues will require a great deal of work, and Witty-Oakland said at this point she does not have any new initiatives. However, in light of the landfill issue, she will make a push for recycling and reducing the amount of trash that is produced.

Correction: An incorrect photograph ran with the background information on Honolulu City Council District 1 candidate Mike Chambrella in a previous version of this story.

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Donna Broome

Address: P.O. Box 1575, Wai'anae, 96792

• Occupation: Legislative aide

Family: Married, three children, eight grandchildren and one on the way

One big idea: "Create harmony and work hand-in-hand with my constituents by strict communication and common sense."

Mike Chambrella

Address: 91-216 Wakamali'i Place, Kapolei

Occupation: In-house legal counsel for Hawaii Teamsters Local 996 and assistant to the Teamsters president

Family: Single

One big idea: "I'd like to see some kind of implementation to follow up on the office of the auditor that the City Council is working on. I'd also like to see some body established outside of the City Council or a subcommittee in the City Council to make sure there's no legal misconduct."

Mike Gabbard

Address: P.O. Box 2217, 'Ewa Beach, 96706

Occupation: Entrepreneur running several businesses with products including music, marriage and lifestyle counseling, political communications and a confection business

Family: Married, five children, four grandchildren

One big idea: "Public servants need to be instilled with a sense of 'ohana and that is taking pride and enjoying their service to the larger family — their community."

John Kaopua

Address: 94-497 Ukee St., Waipahu

Occupation: Legislative liaison for Ironworkers Stabilization Fund

Family: Married, three daughters, one son

One big idea: "To restore honesty and trust into government."

James Manaku Sr.

Address: P.O. Box 1011, Wai'anae 96792

Occupation: Community volunteer

Family: Common-law marriage, five children, nine grandchildren

One big idea: "Police, crime, traffic. Most of my constituents already know where I stand in that. I've been an advocate for public safety in our community."

Cynthia Rezentes

Address: P.O. Box 338, Wai'anae, 96792

Occupation: Self-employed

Family: Divorced

One big idea: "To maintain our quality of life and still keep it somewhat 'old Hawai'i.' "

Pam Witty-Oakland

Address: P.O. Box 700610, Kapolei, 96707

Occupation: Legislative aide

Family: One son, two stepsons

One big idea: "We need to secure the community's fair share of funding to build the infrastructure — i.e., roads, parks and schools — to support our district as the place to live, work, learn and play."