The five candidates for Honolulu mayor met yesterday in Waipahu, courting West Oahu voters with varying solutions for islandwide problems such as homelessness and illegal fireworks, and specific promises to lessen traffic congestion.
For four of the five, pushing forward with the city’s $5.6 billion rail transit project would be a hallmark of their administration, while a familiar anti-rail voice spoke in favor of alternative traffic solutions such as increased high-occupancy toll roads.
City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, city Managing Director Kirk Caldwell, City Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz, University of Hawaii engineering professor Panos Prevedouros and City Councilman Rod Tam are vying to fill the two years that will remain in Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s term once he resigns July 20 to run for governor.
All but Prevedouros supported completing the rail transit system.
Carlisle told audience members it was their time for traffic relief after paying taxes that went toward road projects for East Oahu and the Windward side.
"Those of us who live on other parts of the island owe a debt to people who are on this side of the island," Carlisle said. "It is your turn now."
Caldwell said he was 100 percent committed to the project and urged Gov. Linda Lingle to sign off on the final environmental impact statement.
"We owe it to the people who live on this end of the island to turn the streets from parking lots into better-flowing traffic and to give people the alternative to get out of their cars and ride a train that comes no matter what’s happening on the ground," he said.
Dela Cruz has promoted rail as a way to redevelop the urban core through transit-oriented development that also would help keep rural areas rural, while Tam said he had voted in favor of the rail in the past and that he would work toward finding innovative ways to fund it.
Prevedouros repeated many of his ideas from his failed 2008 mayoral bid.
"I will stop rail dead in its tracks; it’s the worst project we will probably ever do," he said. "What you need is traffic relief. You don’t need a choo-choo. A choo-choo never brings any traffic relief. It’s a planner’s pipe dream and a developer’s gravy train."
On a proposed total fireworks ban that is pending before the City Council, Dela Cruz said he voted in favor of the measure and would sign it as mayor, but he also would push for a permitting process to allow for specific cultural events.
Tam said he did not support a total ban because of the cultural implications, while Prevedouros said he would ban fireworks on July 4, 2011, and "see how that plays out," to determine how to proceed.
Carlisle and Caldwell called for tougher enforcement of existing fireworks laws.
None professed to have any easy answers toward solving homelessness, although most candidates stressed the need to identify the various problems faced by homeless individuals and address the needs through increased outreach.
The debate was sponsored by the Kapolei Chamber of Commerce and the West Oahu Economic Development Association.