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Carlisle cites city finances as top priority

Honolulu's mayor-elect says money cannot be spent "as if it grew on trees"

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 10:35 p.m. HST, Sep 20, 2010


» Some vote tallies and the district-by-district maps are incorrect. The information was based on Office of Elections results released Monday morning, but the data were updated later in the day. The tallies have been corrected online at staradvertiser.com. The updated changes do not affect the outcome of any race or the district-by-district breakdowns.


With just two years in office before facing the voters for re-election, Mayor-elect Peter Carlisle is focusing on short-term goals for his new administration.


Acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell won his old state House district in Manoa as well as districts in Central Oahu and Nanakuli, while former Prosecutor Peter Carlisle dominated the rest of the island. UH engineering professor Panos Prevedouros and former Councilman Rod Tam won no districts.
A day after winning the special election for mayor, Carlisle took some time to savor the victory but also began to look ahead at what he hopes will be a longer period in office at Honolulu Hale.

"Taking a quantum of solace today, going surfing and spending some much needed time with (wife) Judy and the cats at home," Carlisle wrote on his Facebook page.

Carlisle emerged the winner Saturday with 38.8 percent of the vote, edging acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who put on a late charge to finish second with 34.6 percent. University of Hawaii engineering professor Panos Prevedouros, hoping for an upset in his second run for mayor, was third with 18.5 percent.

In a telephone interview, Carlisle discussed the immediate future and his plans for when he takes office.

"Absolutely and unequivocally, the first thing that needs to be done is to figure out just exactly what the flow of money is and what our obligations are," he said. "If you've been spending money perpetually -- as if it grew on trees -- then that whole mindset has to change dramatically."

Carlisle was elected to serve the final two years in the term vacated by Mufi Hannemann.

Campaigning on a platform of "putting the city's fiscal house in order," Carlisle is realistic about what can be accomplished in just two years.

"I think you've got a pretty great chance of being able to make strides in the area of transparency," he said. "I think there's also a chance to make great strides in terms of reducing the cost of government.

"I think those are two things that can be accomplished if you have the right mindset."

Carlisle's victory seemed like a sure thing just last month, when a Star-Advertiser/Hawaii News Now poll showed him with a 2-to-1 lead over Caldwell. But the acting mayor, aided by nearly $1 million in campaign funds, was able to close the margin over the final weeks.

Carlisle acknowledged, "It's not some overwhelming mandate," but noted he won the race without the financial backing or the endorsement of either of the state's political parties.

An analysis of precincts showed Carlisle won in 26 of the 35 House districts on Oahu.

With the exception of Manoa, Caldwell's home district, Carlisle was an overwhelming align="center">winner from the airport and Salt Lake to Hawaii Kai and Kalama Valley.

Caldwell won the other nine districts, carrying some of the more heavily Democratic districts in Central Oahu, including Pearlridge, Pearl City and Pacific Palisades. He also won in pockets stretching from Central into West Oahu, including Wahiawa, Waipahu, Waikele, Honouliuli and Kalaeloa.

Prevedouros won in a handful of precincts inside districts but was unable to muster the support to overcome either Carlisle or Caldwell in any district.

The civil engineer, who is backed by the state Republican Party, already has vowed to run again in 2012.

"We're here for the long run," Prevedouros told supporters on election night. "If we don't win today, we will win two years from now."

Carlisle looks ahead now to working with a City Council that will see five new members come January.

Among those Council members staying is Budget Chairman Nestor Garcia.

"Obviously, his first priority is putting together a good team of people," Garcia said. "Then he will immediately start looking at the budget. ... He's been saying that all along -- he's going to try to get the city back into a good financial situation -- so we're looking forward to seeing what he offers."

Councilman Romy Cachola said he hopes Carlisle will consider signing any legislation passed by the Council to provide financial help to a "gap group" of residents who saw their property tax rates quadruple when their properties were reclassified from residential to commercial/industrial.

Carlisle said he is willing to listen to the arguments on the issue.

The Council has advanced a measure that would allow those residents to pay the residential rate and get a tax credit or refund of any overpayment. Garcia also has floated the idea of establishing a "blue ribbon" panel to study the city's property tax structure and propose alternatives.

Councilman Ikaika Anderson said he hopes Carlisle will keep an open mind to such discussions.

"I'm hoping that his first priority will be a revamping of the city's budget process -- our real property tax code -- and trying not only to keep rates lower for owner-occupants, but also, at the same time, trying to simplify the real property tax code," Anderson said.

Carlisle agreed that the property tax structure should be examined.

"There are a number of ideas about how it should be handled," he said. "I want to look at all of them, but in general my hope is to be able to not raise property taxes, to the greatest extent humanly possible."

Correction: Peter Carlisle had 38.8 percent of the vote. Kirk Caldwell had 34.6 percent and Panos Prevedouros finished with 18.5 percent, according to the latest tally by the state Office of Elections. An earlier version of this story was based on results released Sunday morning, but the data was updated later in the day.



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