Dela Cruz Touts His Experience
Wednesday - July 21, 2010
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of profiles on candidates running for the city’s and the state’s top offices.
On Saturday, Sept. 18, Oahu voters will choose someone to fill the remaining two years of Mufi Hannemann’s second term as mayor. City Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz, 37, thinks he’s just the man for the job. “I have the most experience that counts of any of the candidates for mayor,” he says.
It includes eight years on the Council representing “the largest district on Oahu. It represents 40 percent of the Island.” Soon after his election, Dela Cruz garnered the five votes needed to become council chairman, a position he held for three years. He also chaired the Council’s Public Safety Committee.
Prior to running for office, Dela Cruz took his journalism degree from the University of Oregon into advertising and public relations, where his accounts included many in “the state’s biggest industry: tourism.” Selling Hawaii as a visitor destination took Dela Cruz across the Mainland and Canada, where he persuaded travel writers and convention planners to think of Hawaii first.
Dela Cruz counts among his qualifications for the city’s highest office his experience as a local boy, born and reared in Wahiawa, the son of a Filipino-American shipyard worker and a Puerto Rican mother who worked as clerical staff at Leeward Community College.
“I grew up with stories about Uncle Frank Fasi,” he says. “I learned how to swim in the city pool at Wahiawa District Park. I worked part-time jobs at Kentucky Fried Chicken, as a paper boy for Sun Press,and as a bus boy at Dot’s Restaurant.
“I graduated from Leileihua High School, just as my father had.”
Dela Cruz learned about public transportation from grandmother Carmen Bargas:
“She was a custodian at Dole Cannery, and she rode the bus every working day of her life. The bus stop was right in front of her house. When it was raining, she’d go outside and invite people waiting for the bus to come stand under her garage roof.”
Wahiawa’s small-town neighborliness explains Dela Cruz’s support for building a rail system through Honolulu’s urban core. “It will redevelop the community with small businesses near the stations rather than the big box stores and urban sprawl. We can build senior housing near the stations, and we can set new building standards that will result in a greener, more energy-efficient city. Just as important, by building up the urban core - rather than out - we’ll be able to keep the country, country.
“Sprawl is expensive. It requires more parks, schools, streets, sewage lines. That means higher taxes. We need to increase the tax base within the urban core, but not the expensive sprawl.”
Along with development of the urban core, Dela Cruz argues that the city must devote more effort to the maintenance of city facilities. “The city has to do more long-term maintenance. We have to get out of being reactionary. If you put off maintenance, bad things will just get worse.”
And Dela Cruz wants the public to know what the city’s doing and how much it costs. “I’m for all the transparency possible.”
Dela Cruz sees himself as assertive, passionate and proactive.
“I believe the mayor has to empathize with the people of Honolulu. He has to put himself in their shoes. We at the city are the supporting cast for their lives. We get the garbage and the recyclables picked up. We treat the sewage and provide the public transportation. We police the community. If we do our job well, the average citizen should have to think about us only when something goes wrong.”
Come the third Saturday in September, Dela Cruz wants the folks to give him the key role in that supporting cast.
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