Rail, homelessness among hot topics in first of mayor’s series of town halls

Nearly 180 people filled Ewa Makai Middle School’s cafeteria.
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 11:01 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 22, 2023 at 10:31 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Over two dozen city leaders and officials from more than 20 city departments were present at the mayor’s first town hall meeting Tuesday night in Ewa Beach.

“We’re excited as a team to learn from you and engage with you,” said Mayor Rick Blangiardi.

Nearly 180 people filled Ewa Makai Middle School’s cafeteria.

“It’s really exciting to see you’re all here,” said one Ewa Beach resident. “You keep our city moving, you’re doing a great job.”

The mayor and his team discussed integrating the rail and bus system that will soon begin running from Kapolei to Aloha Stadium.

Mike Formby, the City’s managing director, said they’re also closer to developing Varona Village.

Residents lined up with questions and concerns, most especially about taxes.

“Somebody’s got to step forward and put some guardrails on our property taxes. You don’t get to spend more money just because housing costs more on Oahu,” said an Ewa Beach resident.

“You’ve got to be able to find the dollar amount; the percentage can top it out.”

“Beyond the one-time tax credit that we’ve been talking about within there, we’re going to look at increasing the homeowner’s exemption and for our tax program that has been developed over many, many years,” said city Department of Budget and Fiscal Services Director Andrew Kawano.

Kawano added they will look at the lower income taxes.

Another hot topic was homelessness. Officials said they’re focused on building more housing and getting people off the streets.

Residents say they’re waiting for results.

“I do see that there has been an increase, and that is a major concern for me because I don’t want to see our community become, I guess, as difficult as some of these other places have become,” said Mike Kitchens of Stolen Stuff Hawaii.

“And I think that’s a big problem.”

“The key for us is just to have the services, the beds, the different facilities to service those decisions,” said Director of Community Services Anton Krucky.

He added that recent meetings with Councilmember Andria Tupola were focused on addressing homelessness in the Kapolei area with a possible “rest stop.”

The mayor’s next town hall is Thursday at Waianae District Park from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.