HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The first forum featuring all four candidates for Governor overlooked the first section of Oahu's rail line from the UH West Oahu Campus Center.
It was a fitting focal point to discuss the economy and future of Hawaii.
The Former Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair David Ige said he's been a strong supporter of UH West Oahu. Ige said, "I think you will see this campus will become a catalyst for job development and further expansion of our economy."
Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann pushed to get the divisive rail project off the ground, but says he took it to a vote like he would have done with same sex marriage.
The Independent Party candidate said, "I was okay when people said take it to ballot and it went and I said if it's voted down, I will end the project and return every dollar back to the state and we will move on."
Duke Aiona has seen Kapolei evolve as a resident of 22 years. The former Lieutenant Governor said, "it was all basically cane field and barren land and we've seen this area develop and it's like raising a child. You see the child develop and become very proud."
Libertarian Jeff Davis countered with dubious distinctions, pulling out his list and saying, "Number one in cost of living, housing, traffic, highest taxes, highest homeless per capita."
Davis pounded the problems while his opponents talked about opportunities.
Hannemann said, "Hawaii is not only a great place to vacation, but to do business, invest and learn. I'm talking about expanding opportunities for eco tourism, cultural tourism."
They also touted technology and Waianae's Searider digital media program as a success story.
Ige said, "It's investing in those kind of programs and teachers that really inspire our children to do their best."
Aiona sees huge potential in digital media, saying "It's more of a mobile, cultural, lifestyle industry and that's exactly what we have. But there are first and foremost two things to address. One is education. The other is the cost of living."
Affordable housing was a hot topic.
Aiona said, "The median price of a home on Oahu was 700 thousand. I don't know about you all in this room, but I would have a very difficult time purchasing a home right now for 700 thousand dollars."
Ige said, "I think it's on focusing development on meeting needs of our residents first. My criticism of what's happening in Kakaako is the fact is so many units being approved are really focused on non-residents."
"This Kakaako is just completely upside down" added Davis. "It was supposed to be workplace housing to a large degree. Not that at all."
The candidates say the Hawaii Community Development Authority has fast tracked luxury high rises.
For the first time, Hannemann revealed a new idea. He proposed giving Kakaako back to the City. He expanded on the proposal after the forum, saying "I think with the concerns and perception and reality of luxurious high rises being built at the expense of affordable housing, give it back to the City for planning purposes because there's a big puka now in all the planning decisions of the City and that's Kakaako because they're exempted from that."
One of the City's requirements is that 30 percent of developments be "affordable housing.'