Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is in his second term as Honolulu’s mayor.
In 2016 he defeated Charles Djou in a close race to return to his favorite and most troublesome project, the light rail project known as the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit, HART. After fits and starts the rail project got within spitting distance of downtown and ran short of money.
Funds from the federal government were approved, but the legislature was at odds over funding the remainder of $1.5 billion. House legislators wanted to let the tourists fund it through an increase in the tourist hotel tax but senators favored letting tourists and residents pay by raising the General Excise Tax. Caldwell proposes increases in Oahu’s fuel tax, vehicle weight tax and parking fees to show the city has “skin in the game.”
Gov. David Ige said he doubted the legislators would be called back into session to reconsider what they had done or undone if they could not pick one. The lack of an agreement leaves the 20-mile-long rail project, which is over budget and far behind schedule, with a shortfall of about $3 billion. Then the Council Budget Committee advanced a bill on May 4 that would allow the city to use any revenue to pay for rail, including property taxes. A second measure that moved forward would allow the city to use more funding from the general excise tax to pay for rail, provided the Legislature approves it.
Caldwell first became the elected mayor when he defeated Ben Cayetano in a run-off election on Nov. 6, 2012.
Caldwell served as city managing director from 2009 to 2010.
Following Mufi Hannemann‘s resignation from his position as Honolulu mayor, Caldwell became acting mayor on July 20, 2010. Caldwell hoped to make this position permanent: He ran for Honolulu mayor but lost the Sept. 18, 2010 special election contest to former Honolulu City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle.
After taking some time off after his loss in the 2010 mayoral election, Caldwell returned to work as an attorney for the Honolulu firm Ashford & Wriston.
Caldwell formerly represented the 24th District in the Hawaii State House of Representatives in 2002. He eventually worked his way up to become the House majority leader from 2006 to 2008.
Caldwell was born Sep. 4, 1952, in Waipahu. He was raised on the Big Island of Hawaii where he attended Hilo Union School and Hawaii Preparatory Academy. In 1971, he earned a B.A in Economics at Tufts University. Later, he graduated from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and William S. Richardson School of Law.
When Caldwell finished his education, he began working in the private Hawaii law firm of Ashford and Wriston, LLP. In 1978, he left the private sector to work with Sen. Daniel K. Inouye in Washington D.C. After six years, he served as a clerk for Williams Richardson, former chief justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court.
Caldwell was elected as the representative of the 24th District in the Hawaii State House of Representatives and served as vice president of the Transportation Committee in 2003. In 2005, he became the chairman of the Labor and Employment Committee and later served as the House majority leader for two years from 2006 to 2008.
Caldwell lives with his wife Donna Tanoue and daughter Maya in Manoa.
As Honolulu’s managing director, Caldwell was a strong advocate for the city’s planned rail line. His support for rail became a key position in his run for mayor.
While holding the position as House majority leader, Caldwell focused on decreasing taxes and providing healthcare for children. In his current position as managing director, he has played a role in helping address transit and homelessness in Honolulu. Caldwell also “expedited $150 million in road repaving, creating hundreds of new jobs,” according to his campaign website.