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Caldwell, Djou debate record, solutions

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    Mayor Kirk Caldwell and challenger Charles Djou squared off in a debate sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii at the Plaza Club in downtown Honolulu today.


    Mayor Kirk Caldwell and challenger Charles Djou debate at the Plaza Club in Downtown Honolulu today.

  • BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM & JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM Mayor Kirk Caldwell, left, and former congressman and City Councilman Charles Djou will head to a Nov. 8 runoff election in the race for Honolulu mayor.

In the first organized head-to-head debate among mayoral candidates since last month’s primary election, mayoral challenger Charles Djou again questioned the track record of Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell while the incumbent again called his opponent out for not offering specific solutions.

There’s a clear choice for Oahu voters, Djou said. “It is a choice between what the administration says, just to stay the course, do more of the same, and if there’s a problem, let’s raise taxes or a choice with our candidacy where we recognize there are a lot of problems here facing our community, there’s a lot of challenges facing the City and County of Honolulu – mismanagement and incompetence going throughout our city government.”

The vastly over-budget $8 billion rail project is “the single biggest illustration of that mismanagement and problem,” Djou said.

“There is a clear need to build a broad, bipartisan coalition to fix and address there problems facing our community,” he said.

Caldwell said there’s a stark difference Djou and himself. “You’ve heard me talk about solving problems, describing solutions, blaming no one and accepting responsibility,” Caldwell said. “And you’ve heard from Charles talk about problems, blaming me for everything, and with very few solutions. In fact, sometimes he didn’t even answer the question that was asked.”

The mayor’s job is always fraught with problems, Caldwell said. “Every day there are problems, it’s the nitty-gritty issues of city government that are always there. Placing blame is not doing the job. Describing the problem is not doing the job.”

Sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, the hour-long debate was held at the Plaza Club downtown and moderated by Hawaii Pacific University professor John Hart.

In the primary, Caldwell finished first with 74,062 votes and Djou second with 72,532 votes, a difference of 1,530. Nine other candidates, including third-place finisher former Mayor Peter Carlisle were eliminated from contention.

Caldwell and Djou appeared at a Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce forum this month. But the format had each contender speak and answer questions separately for about 30 minutes and they did not engage with each other directly.

Today’s forum was held in the midst of a controversy involving a previously scheduled debate on the Insights on PBS Hawaiiprogram on Oct. 27.

Liberty Peralta, PBS of Hawaii vice president of communications, issued a press release Wednesday stating both candidates had agreed several weeks ago to participate in the debate. But Sam Aiona, a Djou campaign representative, this week told her“we respectfully decline” without explaining the situation further.

Jonathan Kunimura, another Djou campaign representative, disagreed with Peralta’s statements. “Our campaign made no commitment and at no time confirmed our participation in this debate,” he said. “The matter was placed under careful consideration and, ultimately, we decided to respectfully decline.”

No specific reason was given for declining. Kunimura noted that Djou has participated in 18 other debates and forums and that Caldwell has also recently declined a forum on ‘Olelo, the community-access TV network. Djou had also appeared on the Insights program during the primary season and felt other organizations that have requested his presence should have an opportunity to hear his views,

The Caldwell campaign issued a statement calling Djou’s refusal “extremely disappointing,” and noted that the challenger had changed his mind on participating in a Hawaii Public Radio forum before the primary. The Djou campaign had cited a scheduling conflict. “Charles’ refusal to participate creates doubt as to his ability to address Honolulu’s issues, and to answer the hard questions,” the Caldwell statement said.

No televised debates or forums are scheduled at this time.

The nonpartisan mayor race will be decided by Oahu votes in the general election Nov. 8.

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  • I’m voting for Djou but I think his recent capitulation on how far the rail should go has dampened enthusiasm. He should have stuck to his original plan of going as far as the budget allows and possibly as far as Middle Street. Now, his position of going to downtown is not much different from Caldwell’s abrupt change from terminating at Ala Moana.

  • Somebody should ask Caldwell EXACTLY how much he gets from Territorial Savings. Is it $200,000 a year? Is it $300,000 a year. Is it stock options work $500,000? A million? Two million? It is clear he is asleep at the wheel as far as the City is concerned, but we need to know more about his “side job”. This is fair game because he promised us 24/7 as Mayor, which is clearly not true.

    • Djou tried but Capt. Kirk turned it around to the effect TS develops single family homes and that Djou’s insulting TS and all the good that it does. If you saw the movie “Animal House” it was like that and the Student Council scene. I believe only 300 or so people watched. I really don’t think Capt. Kirk’s worried.

      • Do you know anyone else making $200,000 or more for a couple of hours work a month?

        I haven’t seen anything that shady since Nestor Garcia’s “part time job.”

        • Yes, with little exception, all bank directors are paid. All outside directors are elected by the stockholders of the company and get paid the same amount as other members on the board unless they are the lead director. Several senior level government officials have served on paid boards while working in government. There is nothing illegal or improper serving as a paid director on a reputable company while serving as an government official so long as there is no conflict of interest. The mayor was a director at Territorial before he starting working at the City. There is no law that prohibits any government official from serving as a director on a private company.

  • Leave it to PBS to “stir the pot”. Dunno what the problem is. Seems as if they failed to properly confirm the schedule and now want to put it on Djou.

    Sure wish there was a candidate who had the 8@77$ to say “scrap rail now”. The way I see it, the issue is simple economics. Better to walk away from $2B now than to throw $10B (possibly a lot more) to build a system that will require millions to run and maintain. We cannot afford rail.

    Of the two, Djou is the better choice. He isn’t responsible for the current rail fiasco.

  • Wish one of the candidates would be realistic and scrap rail. Basic economics. Better to walk away from a $2B failure than to throw another $10B to “maybe” get it up and running, then the additional millions each year for maintenance. Losing proposition for Hawaii taxpayers and extremely irresponsible.

  • Is EVERYONE okay with the mayor getting a full time salary for full time work paid by the taxpayers of HNL AS WELL AS receiving a token $200K++ per year “gift” from Territorial Savings for…well…BEING MAYOR and having the power to steer A LOT of business towards TS???

    ENOUGH of the corruption!!!!

  • Concerning rail, nothing changed. To me, it is still a choice between Caldwell and Caldwell-lite (i.e., look for a “None of the above” box on the ballot).

  • As usual, Djou had nothing but pointless attacks and most of it about rail. Rail is a big issue, no question. But it is not the end all and be all of City government. Djou seems to completely lack anything more substantive than sound bites about rail and taxes “being too high”. If Djou would, at the very least, quantify what taxes are too high and by how much then he might be able to make an argument but for now it’s just empty sound bites. Personally, I see no problem with Cadlwell receiving compensation for sitting on a board of directors. After all: if someone is earning a decent income they[re less susceptible to being influenced by promises of future financial gain (i.e. corruption)

    We need a leader, not a whiner.

    • Kailuadad are you Kirk ! Charles Djou did Great !!! Kirk had his turn as mayor, Like Charles Djou said in his closing remarks ” How is this city after four years of Caldwell as Mayor” ?

    • What would you talk about? The rail is a disaster and now it is starting to fall apart from shoddy work before it is even running. I can imagine how bad it will be or how much it will cost in the next few years alone.

    • Rail is major this boondoggle alone will bankrupt the city also what about the federal mandates for sewer that have not been addressed. I think I going move Big island where the money just goes to hostess bars way cheaper.

      • Sewer is paid for by sewer fees and last I checked the city was in compliance – otherwise the yields on sewer bonds would be a heck of a lot better!

        Seriously: if you need a real barometer of a city’/s financial position just look at the yields: if yields are high then you know they’ve got issues and if yields are low then you know it’s ok. Honolulu’s yields keep dropping so…..

        • Good time to invest in new infrastructure. Rates have never been lower. We need a mirror like Caldwell who can get the job done.

  • Djou opened by saying UH went 0-12 last year. While you wouldn’t expect a weenie like Djou to know anything about sports, UH was 3-10 last season. This is symbolic of the fact that he never gets his facts right (and never offers no solutions to anything).

    Caldwell also pointed out that one year on Council, Djou proposed cutting millions from the Public Safety budget. Isn’t public safety the most important thing government does. Djou acted like it was a nice to have and not necessary.

    If you think cutting bus routes by Carlisle was dumb, wait until you realize which of your services a Djou administration would cut. Good bye parks, good bye elderly services, good bye golf course maintenace, good bye new HPD and HFD recruit classes, all for starters. Oh, he also proposed cuts to road maintenance but claims the city isn’t doing enough road repairs. What a hypocrite!

    • Convert the rail guide way to a 2-lane, HOV(2) Reversible Expressway (no toll) from Kapolei to Aloha Stadium for less than $4 Billion already collected via GET. reversible expressway will carry 17,000 commuters per hour versus 3000 Rail commuters per hour. The two-lane reversible can be used for single passenger vehicles during non-peak hours.

      Tampa has built a Reversible Express Lane for $42 million per mile in year 2006, see The Tampa elevated structure is built similar to the Oahu Rail guide way (see typical cross section for both structures).

      On/Off access ramps can be built at Kalaeloa; Farrington/Ft. Weaver Rd; H-1/H2 merge vicinity and Aloha Stadium. Eliminate rail structures: rail stations, new power plant, rail cars, utilities relocation, security personnel, etc. to keep cost less than $4 Billion.

      • Wrong. Now it’s downtown. But more importantly, why are we a slave to FTA? We can always return whatever we’ve used of FTA’s money. It’s only a fraction of the projected total cost of this insanity. Sure, penalties will be incurred but so what? Build as far as our budget allows without FTA money.

  • Caldwell, you blamed a lot of people. On Rail, you said you had nothing to do with its administration. You try to escape blame for everything you have failed on.

  • Djou has our vote !

    Kirk you have to GO ! Sad excuse of a Mayor bringing 9/11 up which has NOTHING to do with our island.
    Want to talk about judgement buddy you are a piece of work.

    Rail “on time and on budget” what a joke. You will be FIRED

  • Djou’s decision to not participate in that particular debate has cost him my vote as it shows me that he is not confident enough in himself to debate Caldwell. Maybe he feared that his appearance would show more of his glaring holes. It is apparent to me that he is about promises and not about solutions. I do applaud Caldwell for repairing and upgrading the neglected sewer lines that has plagued this state for many years. All the other past mayors passed on the responsibility because they knew it would be costly and not rewarding publicity-wise. They were right as Caldwell does not seem to get much gratitude or publicity for his efforts. My only qualm is that the cost was passed on completely to the homeowners who had to pay a huge price for the upgrades. Then came the raise in taxes to pay the city and state government union workers. Again, it seems homeowners were forced to pay the btprubt of it indirectly or directly. The rents went up as a result and of course we blame the homelessness completely on something else. At this point many voters have become disengaged due to the blaming that Djou does. But at some point we have to pay the bill. It’s just the way Caldwell has paid a ransom to union labor to gain campaign monies. Unfortunately, it seems Djou is not a doable option. We cannot afford to continue the incompetence but at the same time we cannot afford a mayor that promises the world but no real doable solutions.

    • nodaddynotthebelt… what a name, someone call child protective services and have you checked out!

      Many voters have become disengaged with the insane cost over runs, and they are complaining.

      Also, who said the solutions Caldwell proposed and pushed worked? How’s that choo-choo bill being shoved down your throat solution working out for you?

  • Charles, You asked who do we trust. While I am not fan of the current mayor, I do not trust you. As fa as I can tell you are a lifer want to be politician.Besides being a flag waving fella what do you really have going? Caldwell, you better right the rail ship. It is looking like a major CF.

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