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Duties: The County Council is the legislative branch of the County. Council is responsible for passing the laws that govern the city and county, as enacted by ordinance and written in the Charter of the City and Council of Honolulu.Areas Represented: Ahuimanu, Heeia, Haiku, Kaneohe, Maunawili, Kailua, Olomana, Enchanted Lake, and WaimanaloHow Elected: The County Council consists of nine members elected from geographical districts. Members are elected on a non-partisan basis. A Councilmember must be a qualified resident and registered voter of the district from which the person is to be elected.Term: Four years, limited to a maximum of two consecutive full terms.Base Salary: Councilmember - $68,904; Chairperson - $76,968

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    Esther KIAAINA

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    Greg THIELEN

Biographical Information

Please provide a brief Candidate Statement describing your qualifications and why you are running for this office.

What are your top two goals and how will you achieve them if elected?

What do you think about the state of women in Hawaii's elected and appointed public offices? What have you done to support women in government? What will you do?

How would you address concerns about a lack of transparency at all levels of government?

Do you support automatically registering people to vote when they apply for a driver’s license or state identification card, provided they can voluntarily opt out of registering. (Senate Bill 2005 passed the senate and is currently in the Hawaii House Judiciary.)

What, if any, actions would you work towards in your first 100 days to address the threats facing Hawaii due to climate change?

Do you believe the response to the COVID-19 crisis could have been improved, and if so, how?

Phone (808) 782-0401
Email Address
I believe my cumulative work experience and determination will make a meaningful difference for our community. I have over 25 years of public, private and non-profit experience in Hawaii, Washington, D.C., and the Pacific Region, including: Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior serving President Barack Obama; First Deputy at Hawaiʻi’s Department of Land and Natural Resources;Land Asset Manager at the Kamehameha Schools; Chief of Staff for Congressmen Ed Case and Robert Underwood, and Legislative Assistant for Senator Daniel Akaka; and Chief Advocate at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. I am currently the Executive Director for the Pacific Basin Development Council, a regional non-profit that works on economic development.
My top two goals includes Public Health and Safety and Economic Recovery. I will work with our communities and leaders at all levels of government to achieve both of these goals. The state has received billions in federal funds to address the COVID-19 pandemic. I will work with health and law enforcement to ensure adequate resources and protocols are in place to safeguard our health and safety. I will also ensure that we continue to fund those individuals, small businesses, and non-profit organizations that need assistance the most. Economic recovery includes a sustainable level of tourism, shoring up our construction and federal industries, helping our agricultural and small business communities, and promoting a more diversified economy.
We need to continue to support greater gender and racial diversity in Hawai`i's elected and appointed public offices. Throughout my professional career in government, I have always done my best to hire or promote qualified women. I also do my best to mentor younger women in their interest in government and public service. I will continue to promote the elevation of women in government in all that I do.
Government should be transparent and accountable to its people. The State's recent action to suspend the open government laws temporarily shows how our government has not kept up with the technology upgrades and appropriate practices to digitize and make information publicly available. The State’s and all Counties' IT systems should be upgraded with the latest technology available to ensure two-way communications between the government and public are achievable. Federal funding that has been provided to the county and state governments to help on the impacts of the pandemic should allow for this to happen. We need to look at this crisis as an opportunity to do what should have been done all these years.
Yes, I support all efforts to increase voter registration efforts.

Honolulu signing on to the Paris Climate Agreement and implementing policies to support net carbon neutrality and clean energy goals provide a solid foundation. I will continue to support the efforts undertaken by Honolulu’s Climate Change Commission and implemented by the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency. With its first-ever 2019 Annual Sustainability Report, the City is on the right track to planning for the impacts of climate change and sea level rise. What is needed is the willpower, funding, policies and infrastructure to meet the objectives. I hope to help the City with these efforts and work closely with state, federal, regional, and international climate change advocates to leverage our resources.
I believe closer coordination and communications among the Governor, the Lt. Governor, the Mayor, the Congressional Delegation, and the leaders of the State Legislature at the outset could have helped in the decision-making process and information being shared with the public.

In addition, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for the self-employed, gig workers, and independent contractors should not have taken as long to set up as compared to the general unemployment program as both were authorized under the federal CARES Act. It caused a lot of unnecessary pain to individuals and families with poor information on whether they were eligible or not. Improvement of the IT system could have prevented all of these challenges.
Phone (808) 263-4900
Email Address
The credibility and accountability of our City Government is at an all time low. I am running for City Council because I believe I can help turn this around. In my professional and personal life, I have demonstrated a high level of integrity and commitment towards broad community benefit. As a small business owner, home builder, and advocate for housing, I have keen insights into the inner workings and failings of our City Government. I was born and raised on the Windward side, and I am deeply connected and committed to our community and the people that live here. I humbly ask for your vote to represent you on the Honolulu City Council.
My first goal is to rebuild trust in our City government by acting with integrity and transparency, which the City has sorely lacked. My second goal is to help guide the City through the economic turmoil that COVID-19 has and will continue to wreak on our community, via a three pronged approach. First we need to reopen tourism in a safe and measured way. Secondly we need to foster innovation and entrepreneurship via incubators and grants, especially those that diversify our economy and provide worker retraining. Finally we need to make significant investments in our CIP budget with priority given to infrastructure projects that support housing in the urban core and projects like those outlined in the report “Greening Our Economic Recovery.
I have been fortunate to come from a family with two powerful female role models in public office whom I have campaigned for myself. While I do not have a government background myself, I have served on a nominations committee for a volunteer board of directors for many years. Throughout that time I made a point of starting each year’s meeting with a reminder that our board should include a diversity of gender, race and professional experience. I was proud of our success in accomplishing this and will bring this same attitude and commitment to serving on the City Council.
Transparency has been a cornerstone of my success in business. I am unafraid of it because I act with integrity. When elected officials express annoyance and displeasure with abiding by the public’s need to know, they erode public confidence and their own ability to accomplish their priorities. Trust is hard to earn, easy to lose and doubly hard to earn back. There is no easy road to increasing public confidence in government transparency. I can only commit to doing the hard work to restore it.
I do support anything that makes it easier to register people to vote. I do not think, though, that difficulty registering has much to do with our poor voter turnout. Voter apathy in my opinion is largely rooted in public perception that the system is rigged against them, controlled by special interests and it doesn’t matter who they vote for. We can only overcome this by having elected officials that are committed to winning back public trust. We also need everyone to commit to showing the public that they can make a difference. My mother would do this in schools with her “Legislative Roadshow” and that is a tradition I plan to carry on.
The City’s primary responsibilities to address climate change are resiliency and mitigation. Some easy and immediate steps that can be taken include adding a set aside within CIP funds for tree planting and other “Greening Our Economic Recovery” efforts. We can and also should embark on hardening our City buildings to withstand the larger hurricanes we are seeing as a result of climate change. While hurricane shelters are State facilities, the State is not doing an adequate job of preparing them. The City should be prepared rather than point fingers after the damage is done.
When the Stay at Home Order was issued in March it was with the understanding that we were doing so to flatten the curve and give the government time to ramp up hospital capacity, increase accessibility of PPE and establish a robust testing and contract tracing system. We as citizens did our part, but the Government didn’t. There was poor coordination between City and State in issuing orders and inconsistencies like more restrictions and a slowed reopening even as cases dwindled. Lastly, there’s been poor communication on a path forward. Our City and State leaders need to quickly reach an informed, effective decision on our current and future response and communicate this path clearly to local businesses, residents and the tourism sector.