One candidate for governor is willing to tell — and perhaps show — Civil Beat’s members his personal sustainability practices.

Former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie provided a written statement responding to some of our questions, but declined to invite us to his home. Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann also said, no, but wouldn’t even answer any of our questions.

Only Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona, the presumptive Republican nominee for the state’s top job, has agreed to sit down with Civil Beat. The meeting, not yet scheduled for a particular date or time, will occur at Aiona’s campaign headquarters on Nimitz Highway next week, his campaign confirmed Wednesday.

Spokesman Travis Taylor said he received approval from Aiona to set up an in-person meeting at which Aiona will talk about his personal efforts to reduce his footprint. Taylor said he’s going to try to get us some answers before we sit down. Aiona may provide photos and has not “closed off” the possibility of showing clean energy improvements and other such sustainability-boosting measures at his home, Taylor said.

Civil Beat approached the three candidates last week in an effort to compare their personal sustainability practices to their policy platforms. Aiona’s stated positions on some sustainability questions can be found at his campaign website, where he has also posted a petition to support clean energy.

He begins his clean energy platform by promising that he “is committed to realizing the promise of a clean energy future, and he will ensure we do so in an environmentally-friendly way that makes economic sense and moves our state toward greater self-sufficiency.”

So does he do that himself, we asked. We called Taylor on July 12 and left him a message that we would soon be sending him a request regarding the candidate’s sustainability efforts. Here’s the body of the e-mail we sent to all three candidates that day:

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:

  1. What car(s) does [candidate] drive? Year, Make, Model.
  2. 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.
  3. Does [candidate] grow any of his own food? If so, what does he grow? How big is his garden?
  4. 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?
  5. Does [candidate] recycle? Does he compost? Does he own reusable grocery bags? Does he buy bottled water or does he use a water filter?
  6. 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.


Taylor, Aiona’s spokesman, first wrote back on July 13 that he did not understand how the lieutenant governor’s personal electric bill or water bill would be “important to the people of Hawaii in making their decision to elect our next governor.” He wrote — possibly jokingly, as it’s hard to ascertain tone in e-mails — that Aiona’s Volkswagen Vanagon is “quite a sight.”

I wrote him right back and explained our thinking. “The electric and water bills, like the other information I’m seeking, will help the people of Hawaii understand how the candidates apply the principles of conservation and sustainability they talk about on the campaign trail in their daily lives. Of course we would redact any personal information like phone number, address or social security number.”

We touched base a number of times over the next few days until he called Wednesday to offer the meeting at campaign headquarters. He characterized Civil Beat’s proposal as “a really special request.”

“We haven’t done that before, and we haven’t been asked that before,” he said. When pressed if Aiona still might consider opening his home to Civil Beat, Taylor said he did not want to make any promises. “It’s something that is still a possibility and is going to be between you two.”

DISCUSSION Do James “Duke” Aiona‘s personal sustainability practices shed light on how he would perform as governor? Join the conversation below.

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