Abercrombie & Aiona discuss economic recovery, ice use, and more

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the first time since winning their primary races gubernatorial candidates Neil Abercrombie and James "Duke" Aiona met face to face in a televised forum Wednesday night. It was held at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center and sponsored by the Maui Economic Development Board and Hawaii Public Radio and shown around the state by community television.

While Aiona recently called Abercrombie arrogant and disrespectful and Abercrombie has talked about what he calls the "wreckage" of the Lingle / Aiona administration, Monday on Maui they laid off the personal attacks and stuck to the questions asked.

"What are Hawaii's competitive advantages and what steps would you take to maximize their potential in the current economy?" asked moderator Kayla Rosenfeld, News Director at HPR.

"First and foremost renewable energy," Aiona responded. "I think we have the resources here to not only help us here in Hawaii, to not only become more energy secure and more food secure, but also to be a model to the rest of the country as well as the world. We have the wind. We have the sun. We have the waves, geothermal on the Big Island. We have it all."

"We have the greatest cultural resource in the whole world. Everybody loves the idea of Hawaii. We should have a major cultural renaissance here in Hawaii and open it to the whole world," Abercrombie said. "I think an investment in the culture and arts base in Hawaii is what's in order right now and the first place to do that is in the Department of Education."

Both candidates touted the 30 meter telescope to be built atop Mauna Kea.

Abercrombie said he would like to form an energy authority to speed development of renewable energy. Aiona said an energy authority would only add another layer of bureaucracy and actually slow things down.

And here is what they said when asked how to deal with crystal meth use.

"What's needed is being pro active and preventive. I know for a fact that it's easier to build strong children than fix broken adults," Aiona said.

"Adjust the idea that because someone has been involved with criminal activity with drugs they need to be sent away to prison for a long long time," Abercrombie responded. "They need to get into programs that address the conditions and circumstances from which they've come."

Abercrombie used the opportunity to spotlight his connections in Washington D.C. Aiona cautioned against relying too much on the federal government.

"We do have access to the administration, to the Obama administration. I have some access in a personal way. It doesn't mean that the president is more favorably inclined towards me or anybody else or Hawaii for that matter," Abercrombie said.

"I intend to leverage and utilize my relationships in Washington and my relationships in the state legislature and the county councils to the advantage of all," Abercrombie added.

"I think first and foremost we need to understand that we can't put all our eggs in one basket and rely on federal funds and connections and relationships that we have. There's going to be changes this November in congress. We've got a presidential election coming up in two years. We don't know what the make-up is going to be so to say 'my relationships' and 'my connections' are going to be there two years from now, I think is a little hasty," Aiona told the audience.

Both candidates say the state needs to do more to help with water distribution on Maui and both say the counties should continue to get a share of the transient accommodation tax.

The candidates did not discuss civil unions.

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