Kaka‘ako Development is the Hot-Button Issue for Democrats Brickwood Galuteria and Sharon Moriwaki
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Touching old-time McCully and Mö‘ili‘ili, the golden sands of Waikïkï and the tense mix of Honolulu’s housing wealth and poverty — Kaka‘ako, the state Senate’s 12th District is a touchstone of the old Hawai‘i moving into the future.
Voters in the urban Honolulu district will decide one of the state’s most interesting races: the Democratic Primary match-up between incumbent Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, a 10-year veteran, and former state government official and University of Hawai‘i leader Sharon Moriwaki.
Galuteria, a former Hawai‘i Democratic Party chairman (2004 to 2006), was first elected to the state Senate in 2008.
He has been a local radio personality, a spokesman for a bank and a car dealership and a Waikïkï entertainer.
Moriwaki’s career has been a cross between state government and UH. She attended the University of Southern California and earned a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate from the school of sociology; she also has a law degree from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
She is the former associate director of the University of Hawai‘i’s Public Policy Center and was state director of human resources under Gov. John Waihee. Moriwaki also served as administrative director of the Hawai‘i Court System and as a UH assistant vice president. A resident of Kaka‘ako for the past decade, she is the founding president of Kakaako United.
It could be a close race. Galuteria is well known, with strong public recognition, and Moriwaki has become one of the strongest supporters of stopping runaway development of Kaka‘ako.
The district has 28,312 registered voters, but with a primary turnout of only 30 percent, just 8,664 voters will pick the Democratic Senate candidate for the changing area. The winner will face Republican Lynn Barry Mariano in the general election for the four-year term that pays $61,380 a year.
“There needs to be a change in the Senate,” says Moriwaki. “We need more community voices. We paid their salary; we should have a say in representative democracy. I’m trying to have a different approach to care for the community.”
Galuteria counters that the 12th is not a district of simple answers.
“It is not a one-trick pony kind of district,” Galuteria said in an interview. “It is important to not look at just one aspect. Obviously, Kaka‘ako is front and center. But, I’m about balanced growth; the face of Kaka‘ako has to be the face of Hawai‘i.”
Moriwaki, however, says she is running because Galuteria and other senators did not listen to Kaka‘ako United’s complaints about over-development in the area.
“We need representation. Scott Saiki (Speaker of the House) is our representative and he is good about representing the district. Scott has been very good for us. The Senate is like pulling teeth,” Moriwaki says.
Galuteria counters that he is looking to support balanced development.
“I’m trying to bring in a combination, a balanced inventory,” Galuteria says. “We are going to have market-priced housing, special reserve-priced housing that will be affordable. Listen, the face of Kaka‘ako has to have young families in it.”
The two Democrats agree that voters in the 12th District are looking for solutions to more than just over-development in pricey Kaka‘ako. The portions of McCully and Mö‘ili‘ili that are in the district have their own challenges, including homeless encampments and an older population that has special concerns.
“Fifty-six percent of the district is 65 and older. They are the longtime residents living in Waikïkï and McCully and Mö‘ili‘ili. People are afraid to go out at night. There is a feeling they are unsafe,” Moriwaki says.
Galuteria notes that he helped to get funding to convert the historic, but rundown Ala Moana pump station into the Na Kupuna Makamae Center for senior citizens. The center, located on Ala Moana Boulevard, sponsors art and exercise classes for older citizens.
The 12th District also includes much of Waikïkï, and the state’s tourism hub presents its own set of problems.
Galuteria says the area attracts runaway teens, which creates problems.
“Waikïkï’s problems are the product of a dense urban environment. The homeless situation is really bad in Waikïkï. Waikïkï becomes a place where you can find like-minded individuals,” he says.
The state’s homeless crisis shows up with a dramatic regularity in Waikïkï, Moriwaki says, adding that the problems caused by deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill has only increased the problems.
More needs to be spent on mental health services, she says.
“The homeless need mental health care services,” says Moriwaki. “They are mentally incapacitated.”
“There is untapped money from the Tobacco Tax Settlement just sitting that could be used,” she said.
Richard Borreca is a Honolulu journalist. He has worked for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, KHVH News Radio, KHON-TV, Honolulu Magazine and The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, for whom he now writes a Sunday column.