Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, November 7, 2004

Traffic tops priority list

 •  Poll: Priorities for the new mayor

By Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Mayor-elect Mufi Hannemann's top priority should be to alleviate O'ahu's maddening traffic woes, according to a Honolulu Advertiser Hawai'i Poll conducted shortly before Tuesday's election.

The survey of 514 O'ahu registered voters who said they were "very likely" to vote found that, on average, they were more concerned about fixing traffic problems than with protecting the environment, addressing homelessness or increasing police patrols.

Building more parks and sponsoring parades and festivals were the lowest priorities of most voters on a list of 10 areas presented, the poll found.

"Traffic is the most important issue," said Kahala resident Joanne Fichtman. "Going anywhere, traffic is a big problem, and there has to be improvement."

Like many voters surveyed, Fichtman said she doesn't necessarily oppose city spending on beautification projects and special activities. "That's good, as long as you have the money to do that," she said.

Voters' second-highest priority is repairing roads and fixing potholes, the survey found.

"A lot of things have been improved, but some roads are in really bad shape," said Jackie Ung of Kailua. "They really need to take care of these things, because so many people depend on them."

Several people who were not included in the poll offered similar opinions. Dan Thompson, of 'Ewa Beach, said he believes Hannemann has a good grasp of the problems there.

"The Leeward side has been treated like a backwater," Thompson said. "They let all this development go in without the infrastructure to handle it."

The poll by Ward Research Inc. of Honolulu was taken in mid-October, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points, meaning a survey of all O'ahu voters would not likely produce a result more than 4.3 percentage points above or below the poll's findings.

Hannemann said he clearly recognizes that traffic problems are a major concern and had tailored his campaign accordingly.

"We focused very specifically on transportation," he said. "I had a plan, and we got it out in message in radio advertisements, campaign literature and speeches."

Hannemann has called for a rail transit system to help ease traffic, but cautions that it can't be built overnight. In the meantime, the city and state should start a ferry system linking 'Ewa with buses downtown, he said.

"That's something that's never been done before with previous ferry attempts, and when I tested it with voters, they liked it," he said.

Other plans are to stagger work hours for city employees so they don't all come in at the same time, he said.

"We may not be able to do all of this as quickly as people want, but what they're going to see in my administration is that we're going to tackle those problems immediately," Hannemann said.

Ung, of Kailua, said she's also concerned about the condition of the island's sewer pipes, and is troubled by the sewage spills that have closed beaches in her neighborhood and others in recent years. "It seems like that's always happening, and it's really bad," she said.

Repairing sewer lines was the third-highest priority of the voters surveyed. The city has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on sewer projects over the past decade, but some have fallen behind schedule and much more work is planned.

There have been more than 1,200 sewage spills since 1999, and a coalition of environmental groups is suing the city in federal court over what they say is a pattern of neglect. City officials say the suit is unwarranted, and that work has proceeded as quickly as possible.

Hannemann said he's committed to focusing limited resources on basic infrastructure, a position he took throughout his campaign.

"The whole thing is to focus on things we need to have rather than those that are nice to have," he said. "Watch people's money and make sure it goes toward those things that are very important to us."

Ward Research president Rebecca Ward said the poll shows that voters clearly relate to that sentiment. "One of the things that's very striking is that voters see the difference between building more parks and maintaining the parks that we have," she said. "Maintaining the parks that we have is a higher priority than building more."

Not all voters ranked traffic and road repair as top priorities.

Wendell Wong, of Halawa Heights, said he's very concerned about the increasing number of homeless people. "I go to the parks to exercise and they're all over the place," he said.

Ala Moana, Ke'ehi Lagoon, and Mo'ili'ili parks are among those were he sees the most people living, and it seems like the issue is not being addressed, Wong said.

Lynn Maunakea, executive director of the Institute for Human Services homeless shelter, said she's not surprised that most voters were more strongly concerned about other issues.

"When you look at the issues that are in our face on a daily basis and how they immediately impact us, maybe those priorities reflect our reality," she said. "We feel the potholes at the end of every day when we get to drive over those roads and sleep in a comfortable bed, and those who don't have that bed end up sleeping wherever they are. It's an easy problem to ignore, but it's getting a little bit harder to because the numbers are growing."

Maunakea worries that attempts to address homelessness have been too limited and too slow. "I think it will get worse before it gets better," she said.

Dwight Mascow, of Makiki, said crime is a key issue for him and many people he knows.

"Everybody is concerned about it because you never know when it will affect you," he said.

Crime was especially a concern for voters over age 55, the poll found.

Sierra Club Hawai'i president Jeff Mikulina said he's not overly disappointed that environmental protection was the priority ranked fifth overall.

"I've definitely found that when we talk about 'the environment,' it's so amorphous and vague that it's difficult to pin down," he said. "But when you talk about protecting the Ka Iwi coastline, or saving Sunset Beach, or the landfill, all of a sudden these issues come alive and people can relate to them."

Advertiser Staff Writer Mike Leidemann contributed to this report. Reach Johnny Brannon at 525-8070 or jbrannon@honoluluadvertiser.com.

• • •