By Alexander Mizan
On Monday, May 17, I had the pleasure of speaking to Dr. Panos Prevedouros, a current Professor of Engineering at University of Hawaii who recently announced his candidacy for Mayor of Honolulu.
Panos was born in Patras, Greece and got his degree from Aristoteleio University of Thessaloniki. He holds a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Northwestern University and is considered a national authority in Transportation Engineering and Highway operations. He is currently the Chairman of the Freeway Simulation Subcommittee of the National Research Council on Freeway Operations.
Panos, who is a father of a 19-month son and lives with his fiancé in the island of Oahu envisions a better, less congested Honolulu for his family. He is nevertheless a proponent of fiscal discipline. We talked to him about the race for Mayor, his platform as well as his thoughts on the recent events in Greece. Here are a few things that he told us:
|Alex: Hi Panos. Why did an engineer who is a University professor decide to run for Mayor of Honolulu?
Panos: Aloha. This is a special election for a 2-year term. The current Mayor, Mufi Hunneman is expected to announce his candidacy for Governor of Hawaii in early June and, as a result of his announcement, he will have to resign his current post. The race is already heating up with a total of five candidates. They all have a traditional political pedigree. I am the only one who is not part of the existing political environment, the same environment that has sunk Honolulu into debt by pushing for additional expenditures without a proper cost-benefit analysis. As an Engineer, I have an understanding of big capital projects and what they entail. I am in favor of managing city growth properly but we need to look at the expenditures and decide on a case-by-case basis before going out and recklessly spending our citizens’ hard-earned money. My decision was based on the popular call for someone with knowledge and ethics to become Mayor.
Alex: You ran for office in 2008 and received 17.4% of the vote against Mufi Hanneman. Why do you think that this time around you will be the winner?
Panos: My current opponents are Peter Carlyle, Kirk Caldwell, Donovan DelaCruz and Rod Tam. They are all attorneys and/or existing Councilmembers. They have been spending the taxpayers’ money without regard for proper fiscal management. During their tenure, they have approved capital investments irresponsibly and in particular Mr. Tam has recently been cited as part of a spending scandal. I am an outsider and a pragmatist who has respect for taxpayers’ dollars. People are tired of the old guard. They want someone who is keeping his word and protects their interests. The public polls put me at 36%-46% of the vote already and all one needs to be elected mayor in this special election is 28%. The election is scheduled for September 18 and I am the front-runner as of today.
|Alex: I understand that the main issue in the Mayoral Election is the Fully Elevated Rail that is scheduled to be built in Honolulu. Why you are opposed to it? So what would your solution be to the ongoing traffic congestion?Panos: We can implement other, less expensive solutions and ones that are better for our island, such as reversible highway lanes and signal upgrades. Reversible lanes have been implemented successfully in Orange County, CA. What you do is you basically dedicate the middle lane to the direction where traffic is the heaviest at a particular time of day. Traffic signal upgrades can better regulate traffic and improve the environmental and fiscal impact of driving by minimizing idling. When you say you want to build a rail system, it sounds environmentally friendly and a major change for the better. But we need to be methodical and examine the details of every project. Sometimes we don’t need to tear down everything and build from scratch. In our case, less earth-shaking solutions are more effective and less expensive.
Alex: The Rail issue is of course the main issue in this election. People acknowledge that a Traffic Engineer might be the best person for the Mayor’s spot at this time. Yet some people say that you are a one-issue candidate. What do you have to say to that?
Panos: I have solutions for Honolulu that go beyond my opposition to the Fully Elevated Rail. Wastelands and trash is a major issue in the city. We pay a lot for landfills and they are a deterrent to tourism, which is our island’s lifeline. I have ideas to address this issue in an environmentally and fiscally sound way. Also, we need to reconsider using Nuclear or Solar Energy for electricity generation. People are opposed to a nuclear plant because of the fallout potential but we have 6 nuclear submarines at Pearl Harbor. It’s irrational. Tourism is another major concern. It’s 40% of our economy. I have ideas to encourage tourism.
Alex: Speaking of a place living off tourism and a government that is reckless with its spending, what are your thoughts on the recent developments in Greece?
Panos: Greece, like Hawaii, is a beautiful place. My parents still livethere and I try to visit them at least twice a year. The current financial condition in Greece is where we are all heading unless we start living within our means. Although the Athens 2004 Olympic Games were a public relations success, they proved to be a fiscal disaster. The country overspent in security and construction. Continued lack of fiscal discipline brought about what we see today. But Greece is not alone in this predicament. That is why we need to examine and make sure we are cautious with how we spend our taxpayer’s dollars.
Alex: Finally, is there a big Greek-American community in Hawaii?
Panos: We have a small community. There are about 30 first-generation Greek-Americans and a few hundred second and third-generation. We have a landmark church of Saint Constantine & Helen.
Alex: Well, thank you for your time and good luck in your efforts.
Panos: Honolulu has major traffic problems. And in 2008, the people approved a “Fixed Guideway” a.k.a. a Rail System with just over 50% of the vote to alleviate those problems. However, through the political wrangling, the proposal came out to be a Fully Elevated Rail that will cost $5.4 billion, a huge expense for the local taxpayer. Honolulu has 900,000 residents. That puts the cost of construction to $6000/resident, which is a preposterous amount. In comparison, Washington DC built a top-of-the-line rail system that cost $3300/resident. Phoenix has one that cost only $108/person. To add insult to injury, the rail will cost in excess of $100 million per year to maintain. The rail is also environmentally unfriendly in Hawaii. The project has been on hold for months due to inability to procure the appropriate environmental permits. If you consider that Hawaii, unlike any other US State gets 95% of its electricity from burning diesel fuel, we need to burn diesel just to run the rail, a very polluting proposition.
Los Angeles, CA 5/19/2010. Copyright – AHC 2010
For more information please contact: American Hellenic Council Director: Alexander Mizan 323-651-3507