Fast forward the video to 16:00 to see the start of the debate.

At the KITV and Civil Beat mayoral debate Thursday night, candidates were asked about Honolulu Police Department mismanagement, homelessness, neighborhood boards — and, of course, rail.

Not surprisingly, rail was the most discussed item.

The candidates even brought up rail when asked unrelated questions, such as when Carlisle was asked his motivation for running or Djou was asked how he would address homelessness.

KITV Civil Beat Mayor forum Caldwell Carlisle Djou fun gesture while station is still live. 28 july 2016
Caldwell, left, said neighborhood boards should be kept, while Carlisle, center wanted to get rid of them and Djou said they needed reform. 

All three candidates’ closing statements mentioned rail too.

Caldwell, per usual, defended rail in spite of harsh criticism from his opponents.

“You have all the permits, we’ve survived the lawsuits, and we’re well on our way,” Caldwell said, noting the bid for the last three-quarters of the system had just been awarded.

Still, he said an extra $1 billion to $1.5 billion could be needed to complete the route to Ala Moana.

Djou has taken to television ads that accuse Caldwell, without mentioning him by name, of allowing the rail project to fall “years behind schedule and billions over budget.” He’s said no money beyond the $6.9 billion allocated should be spent on rail. Stopping the project at Middle School may be one solution, but Djou has said he’s open to alternatives.

“What’s happening now is (rail) could bring our city to its financial knees,” Djou said during the debate.

As Honolulu mayor from 2010-2012, Carlisle helped get the rail project going. He’s said that if elected, he would ensure rail goes to Ala Moana instead of halting at Middle Street. Waiting to extend the project would dramatically increase costs, he said.

At the debate, Carlisle said Caldwell originally opposed rail and thought it would never get federal funding.

“You can’t flip flop back and forth,” Carlisle said.

Caldwell denied that and said he’d long been a supporter of rail.

Dan Grabauskas, head of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, has been criticized for lack of transparency. He called a city audit critical of his leadership “a joke.”

The largest project Grabauskas led – in Boston – came in a year late and more than 30 percent over budget.

Asked if Grabauskas was the best person for the project, Caldwell dodged the question, saying it was up to HART to decide whether or not he stayed.

Carlisle said he was a good leader and Djou said the project needed new leadership.


Asked how he would address homelessness, Djou again brought the issue back to rail, saying homelessness was largely an economic problem and rail spending needed to be reigned in.

“We need a mayor who’s going to pay attention to this, and instead of expanding the size of the city bureaucracy, works with the nonprofit community and directs resources to the nonprofit community,” Djou said. “And that’s something you have my commitment to do.”

Carlisle said homeless individuals needed to be helped based on their specific needs. Criminals should be treated differently than the mentally ill, he said. Caldwell boasted his administration had housed almost 1,000 homeless individuals and families “one individual, one family at a time.”

A recent “point in time count” showed Oahu homelessness had increased by less than 1 percent (37 individuals) in the last year, but 11.5 percent less veterans were on the streets.

Honolulu Police Department

Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha has been under federal investigation stemming from the theft of his mailbox and allegations that he and his high-ranking city prosecutor wife, Katherine, framed her uncle for the crime.

Kealoha has been criticized for defending his pick for assistant chief, Maj. Ryan Borges, who had a history of domestic violence. In response to public outcry, Borges ultimately withdrew himself from the nomination.

KITV Civil Beat Chad Blair in action mayor debate. 28 july 2016
Civil Beat’s Chad Blair asked questions of the candidates alongside KITV’s Yunji de Nies. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Honolulu’s Police Commission has also come under fire for failing to provide responsible oversight of the department.

In too many American cities, Djou said, the public doesn’t trust its police force — which in turn increases crime.

“I do believe that the time has come that our police chief, temporarily at least, step aside while he’s under investigation,” Djou said.

Carlisle said there was an “absolute absence of leadership” in the city prosecutor’s office.

Caldwell said HPD’s management was being handled well “at all levels.” If Kealoha were charged with a crime, the mayor said he was confident the police commission would take action.

“No one is above the law. But to try someone based on the court of public opinion is not what we do in this country,” Caldwell said. “We have a process, let it work.”

Caldwell was the lone candidate to say Kealoha should stay in his position — until charges are brought, at least.

Kauai’s Police Department has been using body cams since December, but Hawaii’s police union has contested their use, arguing that the cams should be part of the collective bargaining agreement.

All three candidates agreed police should use body cameras.


Caldwell has long touted infrastructure – parks, roads, sewers, waste – as a cornerstone of his campaign. He’s continued that message in his campaign ads this year.

Asked if parks, roads or sewers should be a priority, Djou and Carlisle said sewers.

Caldwell said “all three.”

Bike lanes have also been a Caldwell priority, but an audit last year found the city had failed to manage project funding well.

Djou said bike lanes were a good idea, but the King Street cycletrack was poorly planned and implemented.

Carlisle was less kind.

“King Street’s a disaster. Rip it out,” he said.

Caldwell defended the lanes, saying they were a pilot and the city needs to find places for additional cycletracks.

Here is the social conversation on Twitter and Facebook that took place during the debate:

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