Born and raised in Kalihi, the proverbial local boy made good, Ben Cayetano has strived since a very young age to live up to his potential for his family and community. At age 19, a newly wedded Cayetano moved with his wife and two children to Los Angeles. Weaving his way through college, Cayetano graduated from UCLA in 1968 and from Loyola University School of Law in 1971. He has been a part of Hawaii’s political arena since 1972, serving in the Hawaii State Legislature, the state Senate, two terms at lieutenant governor and two more as governor.
Although retired now, Cayetano has plenty of insightful opinions regarding Hawaii politics and the decisions being made for our communities, including his opposition to the rail system.
“Other than my family, it’s the only thing I’m really involved in these days,” he says.
“As chairman of the (state Senate) transportation committee, I was opposed to it even then, and that carried over to my lieutenant governorship and finally my governorship and now. As I look further, I believe it would be financial disaster as the construction costs are being estimated low and the ridership is unrealistically high, and that seems to be a pattern with most rail projects,” says Cayetano, who was featured on MidWeek‘s cover Oct. 30, 1996.
“There are many alternatives that the city hasn’t looked at,” he adds. “One of the big issues is the city failed to include other alternatives in the Alternative Analysis Report, which is required, which is supposed to be provided by these policy makers.”
Cayetano favors the idea of a bus rapid transit system that, to him, would “do substantially everything that light rail would do, but at substantially less cost.”
Other concerns on the top of Cayetano’s list is reforming Hawaii’s public educational system, a necessity in his eyes.
“I volunteered at Farrington High School after I retired, so I got a taste of what the students are like. Too many of our students are not ready or prepared for college. Right now the curriculum should emphasize reading and the basics of writing. The ultimate objective for our educational system is to prepare our kids and give them the tools to be successful anywhere whether here, New York City, London, Tokyo so they can be productive citizens.”
Retirement also has given Cayetano a chance to catch up on reading, which he hardly had time for in the past, as well as writing. In 2009 he published his memoirs, Ben: A Memoir, from Street Kid to Governor. Not surprisingly, it’s an entertaining, no-holds-barred read.
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