Name on ballot:
Anthony Makana Paris
Honolulu city council – District 1
Previous job history:
Legislative Assistant, Hawaiʻi Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor; Campus Minister for Community Service & Social Justice, Chaminade University; Mathematics & Astronomy Lecturer, Chaminade University; Campus Staff Member, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship; Research Assistant, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Botany Department; Assistant Systems Administrator, MIT Media Laboratory; Lecturer, Leeward Community College; Teacher, Hawaiʻi Upward Bound
Previous elected office, if any:
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Oahu.
Aloha. My name is Anthony Makana Paris and I seek to serve as an Oʻahu councilmember representing District 1, from ʻEwa to Mākua. I am running to restore health to our communities. I grew up fishing and farming in Lualualei valley and along the shores of West O‘ahu, graduated from Nānākuli Elementary, and was raised in the faith community of St. Rita’s on Hawaiian Home Lands. I was also houseless for a time, and I know the struggles of living paycheck-to-paycheck. My mother is a retired janitor and my father is a retired ironworker. Through hard work and community support, I received an engineering degree from MIT, a philosophy/theology degree from Santa Clara University, and a law degree from Hawaii’s own University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa William S. Richardson School of Law. Our communities raised me and prepared me, and now I wish to serve them in return.
What is the most pressing need for the people you seek to represent, and what can you do to address that need?
Public health. Restoring health to our communities is the beating heart of our campaign. Many of our people are at risk of significant health consequences due to combinations of age, chronic disease, ethnicity, poor public infrastructure, houselessness, economic insecurity, or exposure to the disproportionate amount of environmental hazards located in District 1. Now our health is under greater threat because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For years, I have worked alongside our communities to address the systemic causes and negative social determinants of our poor health, such as appropriate placement of landfills. Public health studies show that living next to landfills can lower infant birth weights, increase birth defects, and cause headaches, sleepiness, and psychological, central nervous system, and gastrointestinal issues. Residential exposure to hydrogen sulfide gas from landfills is associated with lung cancer, respiratory illnesses and death. I am proud of the community’s advocacy and significant progress towards ensuring that any new landfills are at least ½-mile away from homes, hospitals, and schools. We must protect the lives and livelihood of our entire District 1 community.
To address our public health crisis, the City must fund and support essential services and create new policies that better prioritize public health.
As Hawaii faces the COVID-19 pandemic, what more should county government do to protect residents’ health?
We must safeguard the lives of our loved ones from COVID-19. The City government ought to coordinate with the state, other counties, and the Federal government to implement the best-recommended public health policies as advised by the World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health, and our local public health experts. Such recommendations currently include preventing reintroduction of the virus from outside of Hawaiʻi — meaning we need to stop the virus at our airports and harbors. This means pre-travel test-based screening for travelers and quarantine for those that are not tested and found negative. We must support the creation of a more robust testing system, contract tracing, surveillance systems, and isolation for those that test positive and quarantine programs for travelers not tested negative and those likely to be infected. Groups of over 10 must continue to be prohibited. We must also coordinate a phased opening of business and government services that is responsive to the current infection rates. Masks ought to be worn by all our community members that are able to wear them while out in public.
The City ought to continue collaborating on a plan for testing of airplane passengers for COVID-19 prior to travel with appropriate quarantine protocols and growing our in-state testing capacity, timely contact tracing, and isolation and quarantine services. It should also increase the clarity on protocols for voluntary placement of COVID-19 patients who are unable to isolate at home safely to enter a quarantine facility, and increase test-based surveillance of our communities, including high-risk populations, including our front line workers, health care workers, shelters, prisons, public housing, nursing homes, and at essential services like grocery stores and public transportation. Such recommendations will be improved upon and refined as our public health experts and scientists provide better information about how we can fight COVID-19.
I believe that the City could also improve its public relations efforts on sharing our collective journey of fighting against COVID-19. A journey of hope, mutual sacrifice, resilience, and care for each other – especially the stories of how we protected and cared for our keiki, kūpuna, and the most vulnerable among us.
Finally, the City should coordinate with the state to support our workers that are unable to access MEDQUEST by providing some level of health insurance coverage for the uninsured.
What should county government do to help residents who have been economically affected by the pandemic?
The City should continue to partner with the state and federal governments, businesses, and nonprofits to provide kōkua for those needing assistance during these unprecedented times. The City ought to consider continuing the City and County of Honolulu Household Hardship Relief Fund Program and City & County of Honolulu Small Business Relief Recovery Fund Program, and supporting programs liked the Aloha United Way COVID-19 Rent & Utility Assistance Program, and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
The City should use its resources to provide COVID-19 related relief to citizens and small businesses, support our renters, and help “mom and pop” landlords make mortgage payments. The City ought to continue its food assistance to those in need and ensure adequate and safe public transportation. The City must also continue to do outreach to our houseless communities and provide vital support services.
As we continue to navigate the public health crisis, City services can improve their digital capabilities and responsiveness, so that we can remain accessible to Honolulu residents and taxpayers while following new public health and social distancing guidelines now and into the future. Our City must adapt to ensure that our citizens are receiving the services they rely upon from our local government.
Should public worker furloughs, pay cuts or downsizing be used to help the county deal with lower tax revenues and higher expenses during the pandemic? Why or why not?
The struggles we face are substantial. We learned from the last recession that austerity – increasing taxes and drastically cutting spending – is the worst possible response. We must draw upon our local wisdom and expertise as well as best practices from abroad to shore up our finances. We should support the retooling, diversification, and reopening of our economy and getting our people back to work, all while protecting us and providing essential services to our communities.
The Federal Reserve is buying municipal bonds at rock-bottom interest rates and we should explore issuing bonds to fund our operations and investments in a diversified economy and reimagined visitor industry. We should also explore taxes and fees that ensure that everyone is paying their fair share, including our out-of-state investors and visitors. I support spending wisely and planning to reduce maintenance costs and liabilities. One way we can increase City revenue is by reclaiming the island’s construction and demolition waste stream in a municipality-owned waste processing facility and landfill. This would result in an annual revenue stream of tens of millions of dollars in fees and sales of recycled material.
If budget cuts are necessary, they should start with council member salaries and expenses.
What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness?
Houselessness is a social justice and public health crisis in Hawaiʻi, made worse by the pandemic and economic devastation. Houselessness is a symptom of Hawaii’s significant lack of truly affordable housing. Affordable housing must be accessible to our most vulnerable that make below 60% AMI, yet most current “affordable” housing projects are constructed for those earning 80% to 140% AMI. Such projects are not accessible to most of our families. We must and can do better. We should explore partnerships with the state, charitable trusts, and the Department of Hawaiian Homelands to get our residents into affordable homes. We ought to explore the creation of a City housing department and crafting policies to encourage affordable rentals.
Further, we should not be targeting our houseless community members with our law enforcement officers. We should target them through providing support services they need. I support a community-first approach where we address the root causes of houselessness. Houselessness is also a personal issue to me, having lived pay-check to pay-check and having been houseless for a time, and having my sister (who suffers from mental illness and drug addiction) live in a chronically houseless state. I understand how helpless one can feel when we cannot help our loved ones directly — or even ourselves at times. Our government, in concert with our civic society and business partners, can help to address these considerations. We ought to fund shelter beds, rehabilitation and mental health services, transitional homes, and provide greater access to food, education, and job training. We will reach our affordable housing goals for all our communities by building upon the good work of those Councils and Mayoral administrations before us.
Do you support or oppose stopping construction of the rail project at Middle Street? Please explain.
I support the rail project as a social justice issue for our working families and as an investment in infrastructure that will bring our families home with the development of affordable and workforce housing through transit orientated development. I support the rail project to Middle Street and beyond. For Council District 1, connecting the East Kapolei station to a West Kapolei station is crucial for responsible Kapolei growth. The pandemic has created new possibilities for us to reimagine and envision a more sustainable island community. The rail will provide both locals and visitors with a cleaner and cheaper alternative way to commute, helping us take huge strides toward our social justice and climate adaptation goals.
For the long-term, we should invest in parks, bike-lanes, comfort stations, roadways, and sewage and water infrastructure. We can modernize and increase our City administrative capacity, including at the Department of Planning and Permitting. If we act swiftly, we could provide our City with an economic adrenaline shot! We will be able to improve our island’s economic health through wise investment today for generations to come. Thus, creating desperately needed jobs and housing while preparing our island home to welcome our visitors back.
Do you support or oppose using new city funds to cover any shortfall in HART’s construction or operating costs? Please explain.
The ideal future for HART is to complete the current rail project in an open and transparent way, on time and on budget, with adjustments necessary to address the COVID-19 economic situation. Investment in public infrastructure projects, like rail, will be key to the island’s economic recovery. The cost of rail should be viewed alongside the benefits it will provide to our island society: allowing families to no longer have to own multiple automobiles and pay monthly car payments and associated fees, decreasing the amount of space required for parking across the City, reducing automobile generated greenhouse gas emissions, and promoting transit-orientated development that will allow for vertical ahupuaʻa — whole communities that are highly self-sustaining that are bikeable and walkable — with new opportunities for affordable and workforce housing. For residents of District 1, the rail will significantly cut down on commute times, allowing for workers to spend more quality time with their ‘ohana. We should investigate issuing bonds to fund an acceleration of the rail project, including completion through Ala Moana and appropriate connections to Waikīkī, the University of Hawaiʻi, and West Kapolei. The City should explore how best to capture wealth from the development around the rail stations to fund operation, maintenance, and future transit projects for the short-term.
Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.
We learn from social justice movements and history that one of the structural issues with the police as an institution is a city’s overreliance on them for non-law enforcement activities. Cities across the country, including Honolulu, have struggled with funding and supporting domestic violence services, mental health programs, and youth activities for years. Police departments have had to provide support services to our community without the training or resources necessary to address them. Armed coercion should not be the first response to a non-criminal emergency – you should not send a firefighter to water your garden when your plants are dry.
The City must figure out how to provide essential services to better protect and safeguard our communities for the long-term. By increasing these essential services, we can refocus our officers in blue on their primary kuleana of deterring crime, closing cases, and protecting our streets in cooperation with the community.
What can county government do to mitigate the affects of sea-level rise on Oahu?
As a trained MIT Environmental Engineer and a policy analyst, I have had the privilege to work with the City, state, and community stakeholders to investigate our island’s approach to climate change.
Despite decreases in greenhouse gas emissions during this pandemic, climate change continues undeterred. The seas are rising, storms are getting stronger, and we must coordinate on how best to adapt. We must explore zoning that encourages a mauka retreat, establish shoreline buffers through parks and estuaries, raise roads and bridges, and protect our critical services like our airport and harbors. Honolulu should seek federal resources to mitigate these inevitable effects on our island home and investigate public-private partnerships to give resorts and other stakeholders a direct way to participate in maintaining our coasts.
The reefs have had a nice rest during this break from visitors, but warming oceans, reef bleaching, and soil runoff will continue to occur even without our visitors. We must encourage appropriate watershed maintenance up mauka and use advancements in reef maintenance and coral spread to maintain, replant, and create new reefs using environmentally safe refuse.
We must fight this environmental crisis, together, and strive to not let our neighbors become climate change victims.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
I grew up in district, fishing and farming and received higher education on the U.S. West Coast, the U.S. East Coast and home here in the islands.
I have served as a teacher, campus minister, and environmental-scientist/lab specialist, as an advisor to the Hawai‘i Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, and as a member of the State Central Committee of the Democratic party. I am a small business owner and I help the working families and businesses of Hawaiʻi through my work as a research analyst for the Iron Workers Stabilization Fund. I also serve as President of the Prince Kūhiō Hawaiian Civic Club and am on the board of the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Hawaiʻi.
My priorities include public health and safety, job and business growth, public infrastructure improvement, affordable workforce housing, climate adaptation and resilience, and promoting a healthy environment.
Together, we shall recover well from COVID-19, and build a better Oʻahu for our keiki and kūpuna. My name is Anthony Makana Paris, and I am running for Honolulu City Council District 1.
E hoʻoulu lāhui aloha — join with us, to build a better Oʻahu for all. Mahalo.