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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 13, 2002

'Ewa candidates talk traffic

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

There's no arguing the most pressing daily concern for residents of House District 42: traffic.

Rida Cabanilla (D)

Address: PO Box 60490, 'Ewa Beach

Occupation: Registered nurse at St. Francis Hospital-West

Family: Divorced, two children

One big idea: "We need to continue to work on resolving the traffic problem, address school issues and build a gymnasium for our youth."

Alfonso Jimenez (R)

Address: 91-1031 Laaulu St. 25G, 'Ewa Beach

Occupation: Family physician in private practice

Family: Married, two children

One big idea: "We have to change government by not re-electing the same politicians, so we can improve our schools, get our north-south road built and deal with the problem of crystal methamphetamine in our community."

Rodolfo V. Ramos (D)

Address: 91-1401 Kamahoi St., 'Ewa Beach

Occupation: Job resource specialist

Family: Married, two children

One big idea: "Right now the most pressing issues that need to be looked at are the economy and jobs. We can't seem to get the economy moving."

Tulasi Gabbard Tamayo (D)

Address: PO Box 2237, 'Ewa Beach

Occupation: Self-employed martial arts instructor and coordinator for nonprofit environmental education program

Family: Married

One big idea: "Real leaders are willing to make personal sacrifices for the common good. I will bring that attitude of public service to the Legislature."

Gerald Vidal (D)

Address: P.O. Box 208-DR, Pearl City

Occupation: Retired fabric worker from Pearl Harbor shipyard, student at Leeward Community College in digital media

Family: Divorced, one child

One big idea: "Short term, I want to secure District 42 by reducing auto accidents and burglaries. Long term, reduce traffic with more lanes or alternate roads to open into Waipahu."

Yet none of the five candidates vying for the 'Ewa House seat has to endure the daily commute.

Among the Democratic candidates, Rida Cabanilla is a registered nurse at St. Francis Hospital-West, Rodolfo Ramos is a job resource specialist in 'Ewa Beach, Gerald Vidal is a student at Leeward Community College and Tulasi Gabbard Tamayo is a self-employed martial arts instructor.

Dr. Alfonso Jimenez, the lone Republican, runs a private practice near Campbell High School.

But all say they understand the traffic problem and the underlying issue of development without adequate infrastructure, and place both as top priorities on their political agendas.

The area's population has more than doubled in the past 10 years, but transportation improvements have not kept up with growth.

There is still only one main access road out of 'Ewa — Fort Weaver Road — and traffic flow is slowed by 12 stoplights.

A second access route to deal with the additional drivers heading into town each morning may not be ready for years.

And traffic just keeps getting worse, and development just keeps coming.

The heavily Democratic district, which also includes Waipahu and Honouliuli, already has more than 22,000 residents, 16,000 of whom are eligible to vote. About 36 percent of the population is Filipino, 9.71 percent Japanese and 9.35 percent Caucasian.

More than 100,000 more people are projected to settle in the 'Ewa region within the next decade.

The City Council is looking at a measure that would place impact fees on 'Ewa developers for future development. In the short term, developers and landowners in Leeward O'ahu have agreed to pay the state's share of six badly needed road projects, and plans are in the works to expand Fort Weaver Road to six lanes and complete a north-south road from Kapolei to H-1.

But residents are tired of waiting for something to be done.

"It's a mess, with all the development and the lack of an infrastructure," said Jeff Alexander, 'Ewa Neighborhood Board chairman and lifelong 'Ewa Beach resident. "All I want is a nice, comfortable place for everybody to live without all this congestion and hassle. The quality of life here has really gone down."

Alexander, a carpenter by trade, will turn down work in town because he hates the commute, which takes more than an hour during the morning rush.

"I have to, to keep my sanity," he said. "Once in a while I'll get stuck in traffic and it's miserable. It's Kalaniana'ole Highway, but tripled."

The candidates don't disagree.

"We shouldn't build thousands of homes in the 'Ewa area without proper planning and without considering the impact it will have on the surrounding community," said Tamayo, 21. "We need to ensure that the state and developers work together and that they provide basic services, such as transportation infrastructure, schools and parks in these new developments."

Cabanilla has been active against what she calls "irresponsible overdevelopment." She has stood on Fort Weaver Road holding a sign that read "Stop Home Construction," and had residents sign petitions calling for a halt to development until the state builds an infrastructure that can sustain the area's rapid growth.

"The traffic situation is atrocious," said Cabanilla, 49, who lives in Soda Creek. "I'm not against development. I'm for responsible development."

Development options

Beyond just deploring the traffic situation, the candidates have proposed alternative solutions.

Vidal, 58, sees possibilities in developing the dirt roads that run along the harbor, in particular the one behind Leeward Community College.

He feels that developing the coastline and cleaning up the harbor may bring people back into the area, once known for its fishing and limu.

Jimenez, 39, who moved to 'Ewa Beach six years ago, wants to see the construction of a marina, which he said would lure restaurants and retail business to the area and possibly increase the property value of homes.

"This could be the Hawai'i Kai of the Leeward Coast," said Jimenez, who grew up in Mountain View, Calif. "If this place is ever going to get up and running, this has to be done."

Ramos, 56, believes building Leeward O'ahu into a "second city" would help ease traffic into town. But luring businesses into the area isn't easy, he said.

"We have a lot of land here, but it's taking so long to get businesses to occupy or lease the land," Ramos said. "And that's what we need. We need businesses and jobs to get the economy going."

Focus also on children

Creating an infrastructure doesn't just mean constructing enough roads, Cabanilla said. Building schools and providing necessary community services, such as a youth recreation center, are just as important.

"We need a place where kids can go," she said.

The only permanent place in the area where kids can study and play is the 'Ewa Beach Boys and Girls clubhouse, which opened this year. The air-conditioned $2.7 million center, on Fort Weaver Road next to 'Ilima Intermediate School, boasts pool tables, arcade video games and an indoor gymnasium.

But there hasn't been a public pool in the neighborhood for more than 20 years, and park improvements have been adequate but slow. According to longtime residents, the last swimming pool was cemented over and houses were built on it.

"We've been pushing for a rec center, but one for adults, too," Alexander said. "But developers don't want to spend money on stuff like this. And in these hard economic times, the city or the state can't do anything for us. They won't even fill the potholes."

The concern is that the district's children and teens aren't given healthy options with which to spend their free time.

"There are kids out there in cars and on the the streets late at night," said Vidal, who hails from lower Waipahu. "I cannot see why they don't have a place to go."

Crime, drugs prevalent

Despite efforts to combat crime and drugs, both remain concerns.

This year 'Ewa implemented the Weed & Seed program, which recruits area residents to help reduce drug activity and related crime in their neighborhoods.

Jimenez, an emergency-room doctor at St. Francis Hospital-West, said he sees more drug users than the community realizes. Crystal methamphetamine and heroin are prevalent in the district, he said.

"No one is addressing the problem with drugs (in the district)," he said. "Everyone is talking about the north-south road. Yes, we need to improve congestion. ... But there are more important issues that need to be addressed."

The district's crime and drug problems are also a priority to Tamayo, who, like the other candidates, supports the Weed & Seed program.

"Our community is coming together," she said. "We are working toward creating a safer environment for our families to live, work and play."

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