A Look at Honolulu City Councilmember – Heidi Tsuneyoshi

Heidi Tsuneyoshi

By: J. S.

Heidi Tsuneyoshi is the Honolulu City Councilmember for District 2. In the August 2018 elections, Tsuneyoshi won her seat as a nonpartisan representative. She won the vote against three other non-partisan candidates for District 2, officially joining the Council in 2019. She will be up for re-election after her four-year term ends in 2023.

Before her own election onto the Council, Tsuneyoshi worked with District 2 Councilmember Ernie Martin in Honolulu Hale. Martin was former Mayor Caldwell’s political rival. During Tsuneyoshi’s campaign for District 2, she was backed by former Republican Congressman Charles Djou who ran against Caldwell in 2016.

During her time at Honolulu Hale, Tsuneyoshi worked with different city departments on the rehabilitation of major thoroughfares and neighborhoods. She has also worked on community improvement projects for parks and swimming pools. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and a master’s in counseling psychology from Chaminade University. She is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the State of Hawaii and has worked among Hawaii’s homeless populations.

The Honolulu City Council has nine members, elected from each of the city’s nine districts. The City Council is the lawmaking body of the City and County of Honolulu. The Council is responsible for serving and advancing the general welfare, health, happiness, and safety of the people through exercising its legislative power. The council meets at least once a month, though it is possible for special meetings to be called by the Council Chair, a majority of the members, or the mayor.

District 2 covers the areas of Mililani Mauka, Wahiawa, Mokuleia, Waialua, Haleiwa, Pupukea, Sunset Beach, Kahuku, Laie, Hauula, Punaluu, Kahana, Kaaawa, Kualoa, Waiahole, and Kahaluu.

Tsuneyoshi has stated that her work within Honolulu and District 2, as well as her family’s long history of military service, have contributed to her passion for being a civil servant. Her father, father-in-law, brothers, brother-in-law, and husband have served in the military and Department of Defense.

During her campaign for District 2 Councilmember, Tsuneyoshi identified four main platforms for improvement within Honolulu. These included fiscal responsibility and accountability, improving resource management and quality of life for residents, smart development of affordable housing solutions, and food sustainability through innovation and responsible land use within her district.

For North Shore communities, Tsuneyoshi offered solutions to address community needs in her 2018 campaign. When asked how she would address the large homeless populations around North Shore, the Councilmember said she would support a comprehensive approach. Her recommendation at that time was a combination of support from social services, law enforcement, affordable housing, and job opportunities to provide for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless. Regarding commercial development, Tsuneyoshi campaigned on the support for limited development restricted to the Haleiwa area. She also supported enforcing penalties for illegal short-term housing driving up housing costs for residents. She has supported capping the amount of property taxes that can be charged to North Shore residents.

The Councilmember has stated many times that she does not support burdening Honolulu with higher taxes. She is saddened to see youth leaving the islands due to the high cost of living. On her campaign website she stated that “as a mother, it saddens me to see so many of our youth leaving the islands. If elected, I will work to make Honolulu a place where our keiki can live and thrive.” She believes taxpayers are already paying more than their fair share of taxes.

Tsuneyoshi was one of the Councilmembers who recently urged for the partially completed Honolulu rail system to halt at Middle Street for now. Tsuneyoshi argued that this would allow the city to begin using the rail and gage the costs as well as income generated. Other Councilmembers including Radiant Cordero and Brandon Elefante urged that the rail must continue to Ala Moana. Ultimately Mayor Blangiardi said the rail must continue past Middle Street. No resolution has yet been reached.