Campaign 2016: 5 questions for mayoral candidate Charles Djou

Campaign 2016: 5 questions for mayoral candidate Charles Djou

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former Congressman Charles Djou entered the mayor's race in June, a late and somewhat unexpected addition.

He said he's challenging incumbent Mayor Kirk Caldwell and former Mayor Peter Carlisle in order to restore trust in government, address the city's homeless crisis, and put the rail project back on track.

Djou, a Republican, is an attorney and Army Reserve officer. He was a U.S. representative for Hawaii from 2010 to 2011, and previously served on the City Council and in the state House.

As a City Councilman, Djou opposed Oahu's rail project.

But he says his focus if elected as mayor will be to finish the largest public works project in Hawaii's history with an eye toward saving money and getting the work done as quickly as possible.

"I'm open to any reasonable alternative that's being put out there," he told reporters in June "For me, what's important as mayor is that you show real leadership, hold the developers and contractors accountable. We see cost overrun after cost overrun."

In advance of the primaries, Hawaii News Now wanted to learn more about how all three leading candidates stood on major issues facing Oahu, from rail to homelessness to the rising cost of living. To see how Caldwell responded to our five questions, click here. Read Carlisle's responses here.

Here's how Djou responded:

If elected, what are your three biggest priorities for your first term?         

Fix the mess with the rail system so it does not leave Oahu in financial ruin by: (a) vetoing any additional tax increases for rail; (b) stopping the cost overruns from going to $11 billion by capping costs for the $5.2 billion system at $7 billion; and (c) adopting any reasonable alternative, such as at grade, to provide a mass transit solution not just to Ala Moana, but also to Waikiki and the University of Hawaii.

Reduce the number of homeless living on our streets

Restore a sense of trust and confidence in the Mayor's office by rebuilding the City Ethics Commission, which was undermined by the Caldwell administration.

The most recent homeless count found homelessness appears to be getting worse.
What new solutions or efforts are you proposing for this crisis?

Homelessness has increased every year under Mayor Caldwell's watch and local families find it increasingly difficult to live here.  I support a comprehensive approach to addressing homelessness that increases support for non-profits to help those who need drug or mental health counseling; increased access to low income housing for those in financial need; and strict enforcement of the law for those who choose homelessness as a lifestyle.

The rising cost of housing is a related concern.
What would you do as mayor to address the lack of affordable housing on Oahu?

Hawaii families find it increasingly difficult to live here. The supply of affordable housing has decreased while the cost has increased. I support public-private partnerships that facilitate the expansion of low-income housing, and am supportive of a proposal to allow low-income housing residents to build equity to buy their own home.

The rail project is on the minds many voters. What assurances do you have for
voters about rail’s escalating costs and changing route?

Our community was promised that rail would be built "on time and on budget."  Rail is now at least five years behind schedule and billions over budget.  As mayor, I will veto any further tax increases for the project.  Unless we address this situation immediately, we risk bankrupting the city leaving us with few financial resources to address skyrocketing homelessness and neglected infrastructure.

As for the rail route, we must honor the commitments made to the people. Stopping the project at Middle Street does not make sense. I will utilize the portion of the rail system that is already built to create a mass transit solution to take us not only from Kapolei to Ala Moana, but to Waikiki and the University of Hawaii.

The cost of living on Oahu is driving many to get second or third jobs, or to leave the state altogether. What can the city do to ensure middle-class families can make ends meet in the islands?

People ask me why I have never voted for a tax increase. It's because I know how expensive it is to live in Hawaii and how so many families have to struggle just to make ends meet. That is why I am so concerned about the cost overruns on the rail project. I firmly believe that, at $11 billion dollars, the City will need to ask for increases in the General Excise Tax and/or property taxes.  We cannot allow rail to be built on the backs of our hard working families and seniors.  We need a mass transit solution that our community can afford.

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