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Kobayashi, Menor, And Pine Reflect On Their Time At Honolulu Hale

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Casey Harlow / HPR
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Five new councilmembers will be sworn in this Saturday at Honolulu Hale. The people they replace spent the last eight years shaping O?ahu's communities and addressing critical issues.

This Saturday, Ann Kobayashi, Joey Manahan, Ron Menor and Kym Pine will bid farewell to Honolulu Hale. 

During their time on the council, these members had to address some of the most challenging issues in recent memory – ranging from the rail project, homelessness, affordable housing, climate change and COVID-19 related efforts.

While the complexity of some issues requires more time to solve, each member believes they have made a positive impact on their districts.

Chair Kobayashi says she's worked hard to improve parks in her community.

"We finally got the Old Stadium Park into shape, but that took quite a few years," she said. "Parks are very important, and especially Ala Moana Park. I think we finally got the administration to recognize that Ala Moana Park is a people's park."

Councilmember Kymberly Pine believes her efforts at Honolulu Hale helped to develop and improve Leeward O?ahu communities – especially for families.

"I'm very proud that we have made a very strong effort to start the Hire Leeward program, which we helped over 6,000 residents on the Leeward Coast find jobs close to home," she said. "I've shown my district that they deserve to be treated just as good as someone from Kahala. That we deserve to have the over $100 million in imporvement that we mde throughout the district."

Pine and Chair Emeritus Ron Menor both chaired the council's zoning, planning and housing committee during their tenure. Both say their efforts have helped create more affordable housing.

"The Council approved legislation, introduced by myself, that led to the establishment of the city's accessory dwelling unit – or ADU – program, which really had the potential to increase the inventory of affordable rental units on this island," Menor said.

Menor says he's also led efforts to better regulate illegal short-term vacation rentals under Bill 89 (2019).

"Since the 1980s, previous mayors and councils had tried, but failed to pass legislation to address the proliferation of thousands of illegal vacation rentals," he said. "Under my leadership, I'm proud to say that we made it happen."

The councilmembers acknowledge they would have liked to have done more to address a series of issues. Kobayashi says she would have liked to have done more on the rail project, while Menor says he would have liked to address homelessness.

But Pine believes she has addressed her top priorities – particularly in food security and sustainability, as well as improving the city's zoning codes.

All agree that the new council faces a number of challenges – starting with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Our island economy has ben devastated by the pandemic, and economic experts have indicated that it will take years for our economy to fully recover," Menor said. "The economic downturn is causing, and will continue to cause, huge budgetary and fiscal problems for our state and county governments."

"The homeless problem doesn't seem to be geting better," Kobayashi said. "And with more people being unemployed, that problem may worsen."

Menor and Kobayashi cite the rail project as a challenge in the upcoming years, as construction approaches the city center.

Pine says the pandemic has provided an opportunity for the next administration and council to improve city government.

"This is the perfect time to reform government to make it more efficient," she said. "We need to completely reform DPP (Department of Planning and Permitting), which I think is the key to reforming our economy."

Kobayashi, Pine and Menor say they will continue working with their communities to address issues and assist the next administration and council. Pine and Menor plan to work in the private sector. While Kobayashi says she's been asked to join the board of several communty organizations.

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