Caldwell Enters Honolulu Mayor’s Race

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - "I can promise you this, I'm going to be your hands on mayor," said Former Acting Mayor and City Managing Director, Kirk Caldwell while announcing his candidacy for Honolulu Mayor around 9:30 a.m. Thursday from the new Middle Street Transit Center.

Caldwell was flanked by several supporters along with his 17-year-old daughter, Maya, and wife, Donna Tanouye. He told voters he can do a better job for the people and City & County of Honolulu than current Mayor Peter Carlisle.

"It's about being hands on," said Caldwell. "It's about how we built this transit center behind us as we speak."

Caldwell supporter, Avery Yoo, lives in the Ala Moana area and works at the State Legislature. She came out to support Caldwell's campaign.

"The way he cares about people and he has a really good track record of getting things done," said Yoo.

While serving as City Managing Director, Caldwell was appointed interim Mayor of Honolulu after Mufi Hannemann stepped down to run for Governor. But he lost the seat to longtime Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney, Peter Carlisle, in the 2010 Special Election by 4 percentage points.

Caldwell wasted no time criticizing and contrasting himself with what he describes as Carlisle's showman-like style of governing.

"I believe in the bottom of my heart you need someone who approaches this job seriously," stated Cardwell. "The whole job, not just the ceremonies, not just the ground breaking, not just the world travel, not just to stand on one controversial issue.  It is about the whole...whole job."

And the details, said Caldwell. He accused Carlisle and his administration of dropping the ball with city services, when residents recently complained to the media that trash wasn't being picked up along the scenic and visitor hot spot at the Diamond Head lookout.

The City recently said a contract with the collector had lapsed at the end of the year, and the replacement contractor didn't qualify for the job, but that now a new contractor is in the works take over that route.

"I can't think of anything more important, more basic than a Mayor to do than to pick up the trash," stressed Caldwell. "And Mayor Carlisle cannot do this."

As with the last mayoral election, this year, transportation will be key, in particular, rail. And with the former Democratic governor, Ben Cayetano, considering jumping into this race, representing the anti-rail voice, things will surely heat up. And while Caldwell supports the rail project, he said he does have some problems with the Carlisle Administration.

"Quite frankly, I'm very worried about how rail has been handled," Caldwell said. "One of things I would not do, is what Peter Carlisle did, and say we're going to build this rail, even if we don't get any federal funds. How can you say that?

Caldwell says he's confident Honolulu officials will get the $1.55 billion under the federal Full Funding Grant Agreement to help fund the $5.5 billion rail transit project with the support of Hawaii's U.S. Senator, Daniel Inouye. But, if for some reason they don't, Caldwell replied he didn't want to speculate on it but, "I would definitely not say I'm going to do it anyway and go out and tax the people. I would sit down and look at it and see what else we could do."

"And I think the way it's been handled, is that it's in more trouble because of the lack of focus, a lack of paying attention to detail, a lack of transparency and a lack of speaking the people about the problems with rail and how you're going to overcome them," Caldwell stressed.

He admits it's a challenge to take on an incumbent but Caldwell is optimistic and believes announcing now, in January versus in July back in 2010. He has a better chance to get his message out. He says residents can expect to see him out and about.  Caldwell added that he will seek endorsements from groups like the State of Hawaii Police Officers Union and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union who backed him in 2010.

The former State House lawmaker from 2002 to 2008, Caldwell said that he believed the mayor's race could cost his campaign anywhere from $800,000 to $1,000,000. In the meantime, his campaign has carried over about $178, 000 in Caldwell's "personal debt" leftover from his own personal contribution to his 2010 campaign.

"I put in our money," he said looking to his wife. "A quarter of a million dollars that's our retirement because I wanted to put skin in the game," said Caldwell. "I wanted to show people that when I ask for your money, I'm putting my money there too. So, it's a debt that I owe to myself, but I'm ok with that."

You can hear more from Kirk Caldwell tomorrow, January 13th, during the 5 o'clock hour of Sunrise on Hawaii News Now.

Here is a statement from Carlisle Campaign: 

This is no surprise.  We have long anticipated a challenge as Kirk held a fundraiser last year, and Kirk also made it clear he wanted the job while working as former Mayor Mufi Hannemann's top deputy.  Mayor Carlisle has made it abundantly clear that he's running for re-election and the mayor's office is the only elected post Peter is interested in serving on behalf of the residents of the City and County of Honolulu.  Everyone recognizes that the work done by the Carlisle city team has been energetic, transparent and honest.  As Mayor Carlisle promised when elected, he has brought the city's fiscal house in order.  He will continue to stress fiscal discipline.

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