On Saturday, Oct. 6, mayoral candidates Kirk Caldwell and Ben Cayetano faced off in a two-hour debate hosted by the UH Richardson Law School.
The debate went from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and was sponsored by The Hawai‘i Independent, KTUH-FM, The League of Women Voters Honolulu Chapter and ‘Ōlelo. Richardson Law School Dean Avi Soifer moderated the 20 questions asked.
Former Acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell at the Richardson Law School-hosted debate.
What should be done about large campaign contributions such as those from corporations?
Cayetano said that leadership sets the culture and that he had no scandals on his record. Caldwell said he doesn’t support pay-to-play culture, noting that campaigns should be funded by a public fund so that candidates are distributed equal money and have to win with equal resources. This is not, however, how the current American system works.
Caldwell noted that both he and Cayetano receive money from private contractors.
How would you persuade Moloka‘i and Lana‘i to approve of the governor’s interisland energy cable and wind farm project?
Former Governor Ben Cayetano at the Richardson Law School-hosted debate.
Caldwell stated that he would work with county mayors and that there needs to be a balance. The City and County of Honolulu could provide benefits to those islands in exchange for energy. He said that some state tax money goes out to neighbor island projects.
Cayetano said that he would talk to the people who live on the possibly affected islands and seek community input.
Should EMS and Fire Department Services be merged?
Cayetano believes that they shouldn’t. The state controls EMS, so it would be the state legislature’s call. O‘ahu would need new ambulances to station at the fire departments and might have to pay those EMS employees more to match firefighters’ pay.
But Caldwell believes that they should – Hawai‘i and Kaua‘i counties use a blended fire and rescue system. He noted that 73 percent of American systems are blended. This also gives them combined call centers, potentially improving efficiency.
What is the future of rail in Hawai‘i?
“We have to be brave and embrace the future,” said Caldwell, explaining that he is passionate about building rail as an integrated transportation system. He pointed out that O‘ahu has the worst traffic in America and that we need to be able to serve population growth without encouraging more cars and buses. He also pointed out that elevated freeways or underground tunnels are eyesores.
“This election is about the exercise of power,” said Cayetano, who does not support the current rail project, explaining that it would change the character and beauty of the city. He said that the American Institute of Architects Hawai‘i Chapter came out against it, and that it will not reduce traffic enough.
Caldwell retorted that the renderings of the effect of rail on the skyline done by the AIAHC are inaccurate, as they are not the architects who are working on the project. He compared it to getting a house blueprint from someone not building the house.
How will the public pay for and how much will they pay for your improvement plans?
Caldwell said that the rail project is only legally allowed two funding sources from the federal government and the city’s temporary 0.5 percent general excise tax increase. The sewer fee brings in money from the federal government that matches what is collected, so the more collected means the more received – in theory.
“A bus system can exist without rail but a rail system cannot exist without the bus,” Cayetano responded. He said that 70 percent of TheBus is funded by the general excise tax, and that we should be doing 20 miles of sewer a year and that the city has not been keeping up.
Should the City and County of Honolulu follow Ney York City’s example of banning super-sized soft drinks? What role should the C&C play?
Cayetano stated that people should have a choice and that he would push for change through education.
Caldwell said that he prefers the San Francisco model of mandatory labeling and disclosure. The labeling would work as a way of allowing people to make their own educated decisions.
What plans do you have for the World War I Waikīkī Natatorium?
Caldwell stated that a task force had been set up to remove most of the natatorium and expand nearby Kaimana Beach. The archway and material fronting the monument would be preserved and moved inland.
Cayetano responded that he would support the Kaimana Beach option but that volleyball and concerts could still be held using temporary bleachers that would be moved in and out when needed.
What is your energy plan and environmental commitment?
Cayetano mentioned that under his administration, property condemnation with imminent domain was used to prevent a development from taking place. He was a member of the Save Sandy Beach movement and was pushing to eliminate commercial activity at Hanalei Bay on Kaua‘i.
Caldwell replied that energy is both a state and city issue, since O‘ahu consumes most of the state’s energy. Cooperation is needed with neighbor island mayors to support the governor’s interisland deep-sea cable project to bring energy to O‘ahu.
How would you increase access to municipal government?
Caldwell brought up Mayor Peter Carlisle’s setup of the 311-service system that allows people to submit photos and concerns about issues such as dead streetlights and potholes to the government more efficiently. There is a need to speed up processing and response time from government back to the people.
Cayetano spoke about a need for greater transparency, citing a lack of such during Caldwell’s time in office. Caldwell rebutted by pointing out Cayetano’s reaction to a Civil Beat article that upset him and his resulting refusal to speak with Civil Beat for future articles.
What about the homeless problem?
Cayetano said that it was a big problem and that the city needs to create more affordable housing rentals. He said that there are three types of homeless: drug addicts/mental issues, “down and out” and finally those who choose it.
Caldwell spoke about first showing compassion and that one-third of homeless are veterans of war. He said that during his time he helped push legislation banning “camping out” in public parks and that U.S. House candidate Tulsi Gabbard helped champion legislation by banning people from collecting on sidewalks because these spaces are for all of the public and not just a select group.
Should Hawai‘i use cameras at intersections to reduce crime?
Caldwell pointed out that Washington, D.C., has that system in place and that it works well. Pictures are taken of red light runners’ license plates and tickets are mailed to the offender’s home. This frees up police for more important work such as catching criminals.
Cayetano replied that he supports it and that people who are photographed in public lose their right to privacy anyway. He wants the cameras for reducing crime.
What about illegal vacation rentals?
Cayetano said there is a place for vacation rentals, but that people should not be breaking the law.
Caldwell said he supports vacation rentals and that a better job needs to be done about regulating them, perhaps through a licensing program. He said that people who stay in vacation rentals tend to spend more money and that more of that money stays in Hawai‘i.
The state’s land plan for urban development and communities is up for renewal. What are your feelings and changes?
Caldwell said that the executive and legislative branches are working together with community input to develop the plan, but that the plans changed. The plan said 60 percent of the population should live in Kailua as the “Second City.” Today, that is the Ewa Plain and the second city is Kapolei.
Cayetano asked why Ho‘opili and Koa Ridge were part of the plan for urban development when they are prime agricultural lands. The response was that they are inside of the developmental boundary in the urban sprawl plan, whereas Kapolei was once agricultural land and that development in Mililani and Wahiawā are outside of the boundary.
What would you do about the potholes and sewer problems?
Cayetano explained that the city has a pothole hotline and that Hawai‘i’s roads are ranked third worst in the nation. He said that pothole patching is not a solution and that the roads need to be completely repaved. He said that an estimated $1.6 billion is needed to fix O‘ahu’s roads.
Caldwell mentioned that $155 million in projects had been approved but the projects were not started on for repaving roads that he got “out the door.” It focused on smaller secondary roads such as those in Mānoa. He said the slurry seals could also extend the life of roads between pavings by 4-5 years.
What should be done about the growing amounts of solid waste?
Caldwell explained that he doesn’t want any more landfills and that Wai’anae has been handling the burden for too long already. He said that the approval process for a new landfill is seven to 10 years and that we should instead focus on reducing the footprint of our current landfill by reusing recyclable items left in the landfill. Burnable materials could also be taken out and added to H-Power.
Cayetano said he has similar views and that he hopes to improve the efficiency of removing recyclable items from H-Power before they get burned instead. More landfills is not the answer.
What about TheBus and Handi-Van problems dealing with rail in the near and distant future?
Neither candidate answered this question. Instead, both talked about the numbers for rail and traffic reduction. Cayetano used this time to ask Caldwell more about the numbers.
Caldwell said that the reduction in traffic time is similar to 39 percent fewer cars on the roads with an 18 percent reduction in urban corridors.
In a rebuttal Cayetano said it comes down to trips versus cars on the road. There could be 39 percent fewer cars on the road, but if the reduction in trips is only about one percent, what difference would it make?
How can you make public parks and restrooms more attractive and safe?
Caldwell said that the current problems stem from a lack of proper maintenance. He would set up a system of reporting the problems.
Cayetano said that the increase in general tax fund money for roads from 10-19 percent would leave less money to actually do anything about the problems.
What about the effects of rising sea level?
“I will do something about it,” said Cayetano. He suggested long-range planning.
Caldwell said he would appoint a task force to examine the issue and that permits for development would have to be changed to prevent further development in low-lying areas. He said that a global warming map puts Waikīkī, Honolulu and Kailua underwater in the future. He prefers vegetation projects to naturally buffer and preserve beaches and that we should be careful about seawalls and their effects on beaches.
How do you feel about the Public Land Development Corporation?
Caldwell responded that it is flawed and it leaves the counties out of the process, which shouldn’t be done. He said the law needs to be amended to include county and public opinion, but that it is still in the fixing stages.
Cayetano said that the government might have been trying to fast-track projects with good intention, but that it wasn’t done right.
How would you support languages other than English?
Cayetano said that you cannot put every language everywhere and there needs to be a balance. He would help people learn English instead.
Caldwell stated that it’s okay to not know English and to value our different cultures. But voting should have multiple languages available, which it does. He would pick and choose where to interface additional languages.