BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – A feisty Ben Cayetano attacked Honolulu’s former Mayor, Mufi Hannemann, for a letter Hannemann wrote last week to his supporters asking them to back his previous managing director, Kirk Caldwell, in the November mayor’s election. Cayetano, Hawaii’s governor from 1994 to 2002, is Caldwell’s opponent in the mayor’s race.
Hannemann wrote: “As one who was elected twice to the position and who put together a team that led, shaped, and enhanced the county’s finances, public safety, wastewater, refuse, environment, tourism, intergovernmental, and transportation responsibilities, it’s important to note that Kirk Caldwell was a key member of that team. He not only proved to be an effective leader but he brought people together to focus on solutions. Kirk’s experience as managing director and acting mayor, coupled with his plans and goals to take Honolulu, the nation’s 13th largest municipality, to the next level are both credible and achievable.”
Hannemann served as Honolulu’s mayor from 2004 until 2010 when he resigned to run for Governor. He lost the Democratic primary to then Congressman Neil Abercrombie, who ultimately became governor, and Hannemann subsequently lost his race for Congress in 2012 to City Council Member Tulsi Gabbard.
Cayetano wrote: “I noticed that Kirk Caldwell was publicly endorsed by his mentor, Mufi Hannemann. Not surprisingly, Mufi’s written endorsement turned out to be a self-laudatory statement and attempt to rehabilitate his political career.”
“Hannemann’s overwhelming defeat by Neil Abercrombie in 2010 and ass kicking by Tulsi Gabbard in the 2012 primary shows he has a long way to go before the public forgets and forgives his disgraceful past actions. When it comes to dirty campaigns, Hannemann has no peer.”
The relationship between Cayetano and Hannemann has been contentious for decades, but is even more so now.
Cayetano is leading in the polls, and if he is elected, he will kill Hannemann’s “legacy” – a $5.2 billion elevated steel on steel rail planned along a 20-mile route from Kapolei to Honolulu.
Cayetano has pledged to kill the controversial project initiated by the Hannemann/Caldwell administration, because he believes it will destroy Honolulu’s environment, native Hawaiian burial sites and view plane and bankrupt the city.
Construction on the projected started over the summer, but the Hawaii Supreme Court issued an order halting the project. In a 5-0 decision, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled the city violated state law when it began construction on the rail without first completing the archeological surveys on the entire route. The lawsuit was filed by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation on behalf of Paulette Kalekini, a native Hawaiian, who alleged her ancestors’ bones may be impacted. While Cayetano has no connection to the state lawsuit, he is one of eight plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging the legality of the rail project.
Cayetano also unveiled a counter proposal to the rail project, which he calls FAST – or Flexible, Alternative, Smart Transportation. On his web site, Cayetano said FAST will combine a host of modern technologies and reduce commute time on Oahu through “Express Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) for Leeward and Central Oahu as well as a College Express BRT connecting the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Hawaii Pacific University, Honolulu Community College; Added Traffic Lanes on King Street* and Nimitz Highway; Contraflow lanes on King St. and Dillingham Blvd.* to accommodate rush-hour traffic anddedicated BRT Lanes; Short underpasses to reduce in-town congestion; A 2-mile elevated reversible Nimitz Flyover for express travel from the airport viaduct to Iwilei and downtown Honolulu; and Island-wide traffic signal optimization and 21st century traffic management systems.
Hannemann took a shot at Cayetano in his email, saying voters “should be wary of candidates’ who spew pie-in-the-sky, feel-good rhetoric that has little hope for success” and who “twist or disregard the facts to make their case believable.”
Hannemann said “…when it comes to our rail system, if expanding Honolulu’s highly successful bus system or implementing a bus rapid transit program would have been cheaper, more efficient, and accompanied by federal funding, I would have pushed that proposal instead of rail. The fact of the matter is that all the studies and expert advice, including from those who operate Honolulu’s bus system, have all affirmed that buses cannot replace rail as an effective transportation solution. Rather, rail is a complement to the bus, with both working in tandem to alleviate our mounting traffic congestion problems and reduce our dependence on our personal vehicles.”
Cayetano said heavy rail will take at least 10 years to complete, while Honolulu commuters will see traffic congestion reduced by the FAST program within six months, saving drivers “millions of gallons of fuel and thousands of hours needlessly sitting at traffic lights.” Taxpayers will also save billions of dollars, Cayetano said, as his plan will cost $1.5 billion while the Hannemann/Caldwell plan could cost as much as $9 billion for the entire rail route they hope to build.