2012-10-06 14.51.05 900
Kirk Caldwell

Highlights from public mayoral debate

Climate change, energy, PLDC -- and yes, rail -- were the topics of discussion at Saturday's Honolulu Mayoral Debate.

Mayoral candidates Cayetano and Caldwell squared off in front of a live audience at the law school on Saturday in a debate sponsored by the Independent, in partnership with KTUH and the Honolulu League of Women Voters. About a hundred people turned out, taking advantage of the stadium seating to observe a man who could be the next mayor.

The Independent used a community-based approach for this debate: questions were received via the web, social media, and community events, on a broad range of topics beyond rail. A few days before the debate, a committee met to distill a final roster of questions. (Note: Questions are still being accepted. New questions will be posed to the candidates in separate interviews later this month.)

Professor Avi Soifer, dean of the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law, moderated the debate.

The tit for tat between the candidates was entertaining, and it spilled into the Twittersphere, where the discussion on the hashtag #hnlmayor became an outright argument between the two camps. You can find our live-tweets of the debate on the Independent’s Twitter account.

The conclusion: if rail is your one issue, than your mind was already made up. But if you’re interested in anything else – land development, climate change, language access – there was plenty in Saturday’s debate to think about.

Here are some highlights.

Public health

(in terms of the NYC ban on large soft drink sizes).
Cayetano: the city and county should be responsible for educating the public on foods.
Caldwell: Honolulu should follow San Francisco’s model by issuing for labelling and disclosure of nutritional values.


Cayetano: supports keeping Kaimana Beach a space for locals.
Caldwell: we should tear down the pool and leave the memorial to honor war veterans.


Both spoke in favor, in broad terms, of the current ‘big wind’ and undersea cable proposals, with some sort of reciprocity to the host. Surprisingly, neither argued for more self-reliance for O‘ahu.


Cayetano: should build more affordable rentals for those in need.
Caldwell: supports projects like Hoopili and Koa Ridge in order to create more housing supply, and innovative approaches like safe zones.

Climate change

Cayetano: “We should study the matter. This requires long term planning. I will do something about it.” Thankfully, he agreed that it’s a real issue.
Caldwell: Need to remove seawalls to accomodate the moving beach lines.
My take: it was refreshing to hear both candidates talking about climate change as a serious issue.


Caldwell: There needs to be more county input in the process. The PLDC is in the fixing stage, not the throwing out stage. I think we can work with it.
Cayetano: I understand the Gov is trying to fast track development. But I would be hard pressed to support any circumvention of the laws that meant to protect our way of life.

Emergency services

Caldwell: Strong supporter of merging EMS with Fire Dept, arguing it not only saves costs, but more lives due to quicker response.
Cayetano: Combining EMS & Fire should be debated and discussed, but we must consider the costs. Adding 21 ambulances and increasing payroll costs are an issue.

Public parks

Cayetano: City is understaffed. Transit will drain money from parks. #hnlmayor
Caldwell: Worked to improve Hanauma Bay experience during his tenure in the Mayor’s office, and fixed problems that stemmed from lack of hands-on maintenance.

Spectre of quid pro quo for campaign contributions

Cayetano: “My admin was free of scandals. Look at my record.” 
Caldwell: Publicly-supported elections are the only way to fix this.

A full video of the debate via Olelo will be posted shortly