Caldwell Is Already On The Job
Wednesday - August 11, 2010
On a drizzly summer evening last week, some 40 lawyers gathered at Davies Pacific Center in the name of acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell. They nibbled on egg salad and watercress sandwiches, sipped punchless punch and waited for the mayoral candidate in the Sept. 18 special election to work his way to them.
After all hands were shaken, retired Judge Riki Amano called the assembled to order. Amano and three others testified to Caldwell’s kindness, industry, intelligence, integrity and concern with policy issues. One speaker summed up the gist of all of the speakers’ remarks: “Kirk is somebody we can all depend on.”
Then it was Caldwell’s turn. Born in Waipahu, the son of a plantation doctor and his wife, and reared in Hilo, Caldwell spoke of the effect of small communities on his life. “In Hilo, when bad things happened, you knew about it,” he recalled. “People built coalitions and solved the problems.
“Working for Sen. Inouye after college and clerking with Chief Justice Bill Richardson, I saw how important it was to make a difference to the community. Practicing law for 24 years was about helping people solve their problems. During my six years in the state Legislature, as Transportation Committee chair and majority leader, I learned about procedure, about working together and about sharing credit.
“And for the past two years as managing director and now acting mayor, I’ve administered 21 departments employing 10,000 with a budget of $1.82 billion.”
Caldwell told his fellow attorneys that he’s focusing on four major areas in his campaign, beginning with jobs.
“We’ve all experienced the slow jog out of Hawaii’s 1990s down economy. We’ve launched a $150 million repaving effort of city streets, and we’ve seen a number of construction projects out and permitted, including the $800 million Kamehameha Middle School.”
Transportation, Caldwell said, also stands near the top his agenda, with the development of rail at its core.
“It’s estimated that building rail will produce $20 billion worth of jobs over the life of the project,” said Caldwell. “It will redevelop the urban core, with communities developing near stations. But we also want to build off-grade bike paths and more sidewalks to make that urban core more livable.”
Caldwell admitted that homelessness was a complicated issue: “That’s why we haven’t solved it in the last 50 years. But we have to address it. That’s why we’ve cleared city parks, cleaned them and closed them at night. We’ve made it illegal to store personal belongings on city property. We need to develop safe zones with showers and toilet facilities for the homeless, a housing-first program to get them off the streets and - working with the private sector - more affordable housing.”
Finally, Caldwell listed government transparency among goals as mayor: “For example, when the city settles a suit, people have a right to know what the settlements are and what they cost.”
Caldwell then took questions, among them why he’d make a better mayor than the others in the race: “Because I’m doing the job right now. One of the other guys has been running only a small part of government. And the other one is an engineer who’s opposed to rail. I call those who oppose rail ‘asphalt huggers.‘We need rail to develop neighborhoods in the urban core and to keep the country, country - neighborhoods like the ones we knew in Waipahu and Hilo where people help each other.”
Later, Caldwell addressed a reporter’s query about a possible too-close relationship between Honolulu Hale and the Capitol should his current boss, Mufi Hannemann, become governor.
“We’re not glued together at the hip,” said Caldwell. “I’ve always been my own man. I’ve always carved out my own path. At times, I’m sure we’d work together. At other times, we might disagree. But I believe in finding common ground. We’ve had 40 years of mayors and governors fighting, and that’s not productive.”
Wednesday of last week, someone hijacked my Yahoo account and e-mailed folks that I was penniless in Spain and in need of money to return home. That e-mail did not originate with me. Never been to Spain, not last week, not ever.
The password on the account has been changed. All’s good now - I think.
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