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by Alan Chang, student writer

Kalamalama: Tell us about yourself, including your educational and professional background.

Rhoads: Professionally, I am an attorney. I graduated with honors from George Washington University Law School and practiced at a local firm, Perkin & Hosoda, before going out on my own. I also have an M.A. in International Relations from the University of London. I have worked six sessions for State Rep. Marilyn Lee, clerked for Intermediate Court of Appeals Judge Corinne K.A. Watanabe, and worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. for six years, including an internship for Senator John Kerry.

Wong: I grew up in Hawai‘i, and went to Iolani School and Boston University, where I majored in computer science. After college, I worked as a computer consultant before getting more involved in politics. I ran for the State House in 2004. My legislative experience includes working as an aid for State Senator Gordon Trimble and as a policy analyst in the Office of the Governor.

Kalamalama: Many HPU students and faculty are concerned about crime in the downtown area. If you are elected, what will you do to make this area safer?

Rhoads: I have been working on reducing crime in the area for more than 10 years, as a regular member of the Chinatown Citizens Patrol and as a nine-year member of the Downtown Neighborhood Board. The police and prosecutors obtain many convictions, but due to lack of prison space many criminals end up back on the streets in a matter of days or weeks. We need more prison space here in the islands to ensure that criminals actually do time for the crimes they commit.

Wong: I walk on the Downtown/Chinatown Citizens’ Patrol every week, so I see the drug dealing and prostitution that goes on in this area. Police officers have told me that the majority of crimes are committed by a small number of criminals who get arrested over and over again. I support tougher sentencing laws for repeat, habitual offenders. I support community programs such as Weed and Seed and neighborhood watch groups, and I will work with city government to ensure that police departments have adequate funding.

Kalamalama: What specific measures will you use to deal with prostitution downtown?

Rhoads: I think we need to increase penalties for johns and prostitutes if they are convicted of multiple offenses. Right now it is my understanding that prostitution is only a petty misdemeanor. I believe a second offense should be a misdemeanor and, after four or five convictions, we should consider making a conviction a Class C felony.

Wong: Right now, being a prostitute or soliciting a prostitute is a petty misdemeanor. The maximum punishment is a $500 fine or 30 days in jail, which I don’t think is an effective deterrent. I also believe that the state should work with private, nonprofit groups such as Sisters Offering Support to help rehabilitate those prostitutes, who are victims.

Kalamalama: What about the homeless population?

Rhoads: Every homeless person has a story, and they are not all the same. Many fall into homelessness due to mental illness or drug abuse, but some become homeless due to the loss of a job or a job that just does not pay enough. We need to increase outreach to the homeless to determine what each person’s needs are and find an appropriate solution.

Wong: Affordable housing is a crisis for the entire state. I support increasing the supply of housing through public/private partnerships. The state should also offer tax incentives to increase the supply of affordable rentals. I believe the homeless shelter in Kakaako is a good pilot project, and I will support building more of them if it proves to be successful. The state also needs to create more supportive housing. Supportive housing is semi-permanent housing for the homeless, where services such as job training, or substance abuse treatment, can be brought to them.

Kalamalama: Are there any other issues you would like to discuss here?

Rhoads: Public education is also important to me. Many residents in my district cannot afford to send their kids to Punahou, and they rely on the public school system to get ahead in life and to give them a good education. We need to pay our teachers more, reduce class sizes, and improve the physical plant at schools.

Wong: I believe the most important issue here is restoring people’s faith in their legislators and the political process. Too many good, common sense ideas die because of partisan politics or special interests. As your representative, I will be open-minded, objective, and will always put the people of Hawai‘i first.


 

 

 

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