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Last week, Civil Beat reached out to the three leading candidates for governor and asked each of them to show us evidence of what they do to live sustainably, to see how what they actually do stacks up against their own policy platforms. We wanted to share with you whether they practice what they preach.
Former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie was the first to reply. His campaign provided a written statement responding to some of our questions, but told me he would not invite us into his home. Campaign spokeswoman Laurie Au later clarified the statement in a comment she posted in the discussion that ensued.
At least Abercrombie gave us some information. Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann waited to get back to us until the night before our Wednesday deadline. His answer: Thanks, but no thanks. Not only did he decline to show us evidence of how he lived sustainably, he also refused to answer any questions.
Hannemann’s personal practices are important partly because the entire policy platform on his website is so thin, consisting of one page with seven bullet points. The 26-word environmental policy:
(The 21st Century Ahupuaa initiative referenced above is Honolulu’s “sustainability and climate production strategy,” according to the official city website.)
We called Hannemann spokeswoman Brooke Wilson on July 12 to discuss the idea and tell her about the proposal and series of questions that would be coming via e-mail. Here’s the body of the e-mail we sent her — and the other campaigns — after that conversation:
We know sustainability is an important part of [candidate]’s platform. In addition to covering the policies, we’d like to share with our readers how he applies the principles in his daily life. We’re asking the same questions of all three governor candidates. We’re also asking each candidate to allow us to come to their principal residence to be shown how energy and water efficiency is built into their daily lives. In addition, given the emphasis on the importance of food sustainability, we are asking each candidate to keep a food diary for a week, showing exactly what they ate and where it came from. We believe this information will be valuable for the people of Hawaii in making their decision on who to vote for this fall.
Here are our initial questions:
- What car(s) does [candidate] drive? Year, Make, Model.
- Please give us copies of [candidate]’s electric bill from the past three months. When we visit his house, we’d like (to see) any special efforts he’s made to reduce energy consumption or to produce energy, such as solar hot water, solar power, energy efficient appliances or energy efficient lighting. Does he use a clothes dryer or a clothes line? If he has installed any solar panels or energy efficient appliances at his home, please explain what they are, when they were installed and how much energy they save.
- Does [candidate] grow any of his own food? If so, what does he grow? How big is his garden?
- Please give us copies of [candidate]’s water bill from the past three months. Does he use any water efficient toilets or shower heads? Does he have a sprinkler system? How much lawn does have? Does he use any drip irrigation?
- Does [candidate] recycle? Does he compost? Does he own reusable grocery bags? Does he buy bottled water or does he use a water filter?
- Where does [candidate] buy his groceries? Is he a member of any Community Supported Agriculture enterprise? Does he frequent farmer’s markets?
Thank you for your consideration of this request. I’d like to sit down with you to work out the particulars of how to proceed. Please let me know how to move forward.
We followed up via phone and e-mail on Thursday, July 15, then again Tuesday, July 20. In our last conversation, I told Wilson that we had established our deadline for responses from the campaign at noon Wednesday. I then followed up via e-mail:
It would obviously be my strong preference that the story let my readers know that I’ll be visiting Mufi’s home next week, and I hope we can make that happen. However, because I first reached out to you last Monday and have since run a story about one of the other candidates, I cannot wait until next week to let my readers know the status of my request. I hope that you understand. I certainly understand how busy everything is on your end; I know that Mufi is wrapping up his time as mayor, filing papers and running around with other candidate activities. So I certainly appreciate any information you can provide on his behalf as we write the story.
Wilson provided the following statement to Civil Beat via e-mail Tuesday night:
Thanks for your understanding with regard to Mufi’s tight schedule as he wraps things up at City Hall. Mufi Hannemann will be hitting the campaign trail immediately following his resignation as mayor of Honolulu and has numerous engagements planned across the State. We do understand your deadline and timeline and so in consideration of that, we will have decline this opportunity.
I responded that I would still like to include Hannemann’s written answers to my questions if she could provide them by our 12 p.m. deadline. We didn’t receive anything. If we do, I will append it here.
Obviously, it’s totally his prerogative whether to respond. No hard feelings. We feel that what we’re asking provides the candidates a way to be even more transparent about their practices and policies, and transparency is what Civil Beat is all about.
In the meantime, we’ll be trying to get the answers to the questions we asked Hannemann in other ways.