HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii News Now (KFVE, KGMB and KHNL) aired a KITV's debate between the three leading candidates for Honolulu mayor Wednesday night after the ABC affiliate went dark on thousands of televisions in a dispute between KITV's owner and Time Warner Cable.
KITV hasn't been on Time Warner since Monday night because of the dispute. Hawaii News Now's management and owners decided that the debate was crucial in helping voters decide in the heated race between former acting mayor Kirk Caldwell, current mayor Peter Carlisle and former Gov. Ben Cayetano.
The 90-minute debate began with a mahalo from KITV anchor and debate moderate Paula Akana. "We want to acknowledge and thank Hawaii News Now, PBS Hawaii and KHVH Radio for joining us with an unprecedented effort to bring this debate to you," she said.
The candidates then wasted no time tackling the issues, with rail once again dominating the discussion. The question was raised on what Cayetano would do with the money for rail if he kills the project, as he intends.
"I'd go to the legislature and ask them to revise the surcharge law to allow the mayor to use part of the proceeds to use more money for the sewers and for the water system and for our basic infrastructure," said Cayetano.
"I don't believe the legislature will cut any deal allowing a new mayor to take the money to do something else. They will take the money and do something else," Caldwell countered.
"It's a real serious question whether he (Cayetano) can stop it, and if he could, then the first thing he can do for all of us is rip up the check for $1.55 billion, and I hope that's not going to be allowed at all," said Carlisle.
Caldwell and Carlisle remain confident that the full funding for the rail project will come through from the federal government.
"The facts are that no rail project anywhere in the country has gotten as far as this one with the FTA (Federal Transit Administration) support where the full funding does not come," said Caldwell.
Cayetano remains skeptical of the other two candidates' claims that the project will be "debt-free" when construction is finished.
"When you say there will be no debt, you're living in a dream world," said Cayetano. "The studies indicate that these rail projects average a 40 percent cost overrun for construction."
On other issues, the candidates were split on whether the city's fire and emergency medical services departments should merge. Cayetano and Carlisle were against the recent proposal.
"Did you know that we tried to put fire and EMS together four times in the past and it's always failed?" asked Carlisle. "Because nobody went through the trouble of going step by step."
The three also discussed the bill passed by the Honolulu City Council Wednesday that would ban commercial activities at Kailua Beach Park. Carlisle said he is still reviewing the bill before he decides to sign or veto it, while Cayetano and Caldwell are split.
"Some beaches in this island and this state should be left to local people," said Cayetano.
"I am troubled by this legislation," said Caldwell. "I think definitely there are beaches that are being overrun by commercial activities, and Kailua's a good example of that."