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Mayoral candidates clash on abilities, accomplishments

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 10:16 a.m. HST, Jul 18, 2012

With their positions on major issues already established in previous debates, the three main candidates for Hono­lulu mayor took turns Tuesday swiping at each other's leadership style, abilities and accomplishments in office during a debate broadcast live.

Tuesday night's forum on KHON2 marked the fourth and final live, televised debate for Mayor Peter Carlisle, former city Managing Director Kirk Caldwell and former two-term Gov. Ben Cayetano.

On the key issue of rail, Carlisle again questioned Cayetano's ability to stop the project if elected.

"You can't veto the City Charter," Carlisle said. "That's not legal."

Cayetano scoffed at the notion that executive veto power could not be used to kill the project, adding that he would put the issue back on the ballot if necessary. "The fact that I am elected will be considered a mandate by the City Council that the people want this project stopped," Cayetano said.

Caldwell again staked out the middle ground on rail, saying he would work within the guidelines of the approved environmental impact statement to lessen the visual impact of the train.

Caldwell and Cayetano jumped on Carlisle over the poor condition of the city's roads, with Cayetano saying that a friend visiting from Sri Lanka recently remarked that Hono­lulu's roads were comparatively worse. Both accused Carlisle of reducing the budget for road projects, which Carlisle has said was needed to bring down city debt.

"Our roads are in really bad shape," Caldwell said, saying that current interest rates make it advisable to borrow money for badly needed road repairs. "I would not be concerned about bending the debt curve on road maintenance."

Carlisle and Cayetano questioned Caldwell's ability to negotiate reasonable contracts for the city with public worker unions. Caldwell has received virtually all of the endorsements from public worker unions.

"He has made so many promises, so many commitments to special-interest groups that he just doesn't know how to say no," Carlisle said.

They also questioned his accomplishments while working in the mayor's office. Caldwell was managing director for 22 months, the last three as acting mayor following Mufi Hannemann.

While Caldwell defended his record of expediting road repairs, heading up a task force on parks cleanup and pushing for a mayor's Office of Housing, Cayetano attacked him for an increase in real property tax rates and for letting the sewer system fall into disrepair.

"You're blaming Peter. You had the best opportunity to deal with it," Cayetano said.

Carlisle said that in virtually all of his prior dealings with the city, he rarely had any contact with Caldwell, charging that the main business of the city was done by Hannemann and another assistant.

Caldwell shot back at Carlisle, making note of reversals on various decisions made under the mayor's watch, including the change in site selection of the next solid-waste landfill to Kahuku after it originally was announced for Kailua, the reversal of a temporary moratorium on new sewer hookups in Central Oahu and a change this week in some bus cutbacks.

"This is an example of a hands-off management style," Caldwell said. "You don't know what's going on in the city."

The testiest exchange was between Carlisle and Cayetano, when the mayor raised the issue of the "pay-to-play" culture that existed in the 1990s, in which political donations were seen as a way to win government contracts. A pro-rail group has targeted Cayetano for his last gubernatorial campaign, which received more than $500,000 donated illegally.

The Campaign Spending Commission has said the donors were punished and that Cayetano did nothing illegal.

"Give me a break, Peter," Cayetano snapped. "I had nothing to do with this."

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