The top three candidates for mayor met for a second debate last night, hoping to show business leaders how they would improve the economic climate in Hawaii, especially in areas of mass transit, infrastructure and public-private partnerships.
Kirk Caldwell and Peter Carlisle hold similar views on issues such as rail transit but not on how to maintain the city’s infrastructure on a limited budget. Panos Prevedouros distinguished himself by opposing rail and supporting an offshore nuclear power facility to free Hawaii from oil dependence.
Acting Mayor Caldwell, former city Prosecutor Carlisle and University of Hawaii engineering professor Prevedouros are among eight people running to fill the remaining two years of the term of Mufi Hannemann, who resigned as mayor to run for governor. The winner-take-all election is on Sept. 18.
During last night’s debate, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, Caldwell touted his 30 years of experience in the private sector, his background as an economics major and his current job as acting mayor. He highlighted things the city is doing to improve how business interacts with government, such as an electronic filing system for building permits debuting later this month.
Carlisle said he supports the rail system as a way to improve the quality of life for Leeward Oahu residents. He also suggested technological improvements to speed up business with the city, and supports spending cuts to balance the budget, including eliminating some government jobs.
Prevedouros at times delivered scrappy responses to questions, such as his comment that public and private partnerships are often not successful. He said good contracts are more important than relationships and said his background as an engineer will help ensure that government projects are completed on time.
All three agreed that the city is facing a tall order of public-works improvements at a time of limited funds.
"The first thing we need to do in the City and County of Honolulu is to get our financial house in order," Carlisle said. He said roads, sewer lines and parks need improvements, especially Hanauma Bay, which has been "embarrassingly neglected."
"The problem is government keeps on building even though we don’t have the money to maintain what we’ve already built," he said. "If government is overweight and unhealthy, then the private sector has to suffer the burden."
Prevedouros said it would cost $22 billion to fix the sewers, build the rail system, replace outdated water mains and repair roads and parks.
"What does it mean for a typical family of four on Oahu: $100,000," he said. "Oahu needs an engineer to solve our problems, not more of the same politicians that left Oahu in a mess. … A tidy, well-run city is a great place to do business."
Prevedouros suggested shifting to privatization for permitting, parking, shipping trash, housing and creating energy.
When questioned about land use, Prevedouros suggested building floating nuclear plants about 15 miles offshore, which "doesn’t affect the aina at all."
Despite Prevedouros’ position that the city cannot afford rail, Caldwell said transportation improvements also would include bike paths and sidewalks. "It’s not all about highways and cars anymore," Caldwell said. "It’s about giving people choice to get out of their car to travel more fast, more efficient and more economically."
Others running for mayor are Khistina De Jean, Calvin Griffin, Philmund Lee, John McLeod and Rod Tam.