We have all heard political candidates and elected officials caution that “this election is the most important election ever.” We have heard them issue empty warnings that the outcome of a coming election could shape our city, state or even nation forever. And then we have watched as that election — particularly in a state like Hawaii — results in the inevitable return to nothing more than the predictable status quo.

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Sometime in the last few days, however, those of you living in City Council District 4 should have received a ballot in the mail which will determine the result of a special election between Trevor Ozawa and challenger Tommy Waters — this election could prove to be one of the most costly and consequential in the history of the City and County of Honolulu.

As citizens, constituents, taxpayers and voters, it is incumbent upon all of us to identify exactly what is at stake and I challenge you all to take an objective look at the state of affairs here in Honolulu.

In just the past few years, Honolulu has repeatedly gained the national spotlight and not for anything to brag about: blatant corruption in every corner of city government; city leaders under federal investigation and indictment; one of the largest homeless populations in the country; and a failed rail project so horrifically mismanaged that it has now attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Honolulu City Council member Trevor Ozawa during full council meeting.
Trevor Ozawa during a Honolulu City Council meeting in 2017. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

At the helm of this all is Mayor Kirk Caldwell, also gaining the national spotlight for things less than brag-worthy: repeated lies and broken campaign promises; his incompetent oversight of an exploding homeless crisis; his outright failure to address the blatant corruption in his own administration; his top attorney now the subject of a growing FBI investigation; and now, his proposal to raise property taxes, raise the cost of trash pickup, raise bus fares for senior citizens and raise the cost of living for every family and home on Oahu.

This is not acceptable, but we can still do something about it.

Balance Of Power

The balance of power in the City Council is now evenly divided, with four members siding with Mayor Caldwell and four members voting to hold him accountable. The winner of this upcoming special election will represent the key vote that will either strengthen or stall the mayor’s agenda. The two choices you have could not be more different, and it’s important to understand what your vote means.

Tommy Waters has been the staunchest Caldwell ally since their days together in the state Legislature. The mayor has campaigned tirelessly for Waters.

You may have seen the recent news that the Waters campaign has outspent the Ozawa campaign by over three times. That’s because Kirk Caldwell is personally directing massive funding from his friends, business associates and special interest groups into the Waters campaign account. A mayor who makes over $250,000 a year from a part-time gig at a local bank will have impressive financial resources.

Ozawa, on the other hand, has been anything but an ally to this mayor. He has repeatedly stood up to corruption throughout city government, has opposed this mayor’s attempts to raise your taxes and has demanded transparency, responsibility and full financial accountability from Caldwell’s shamefully mismanaged rail project. The Ozawa campaign is fueled and driven by supporters, volunteers and members of our community, rather than paid operatives funded by special interest players holding the mayor in their pockets. And thanks to the mayor, his special interests and dark-money funding, Trevor won this race last November by just a 22-vote margin.

That means your vote counts. That means we can no longer afford to remain indifferent because the future of Oahu hangs in the balance. That means Trevor Ozawa will stand for what’s right, while Tommy Waters will do what he’s told. That means Kirk Caldwell is one of the most incompetent, embarrassing and ethically bankrupt politicians our city has ever elected and a Waters victory will provide the key vote our mayor needs to continue doing absolutely whatever he wants for another two years.

I have said it many times: Elections matter. While we cannot go back in time to undo the costly mistake made in the last mayor’s race, we can make a stand for what is right, we can make our voices heard and we can use the power of our vote to rein in Kirk Caldwell’s destructive mismanagement of our city until his reign on the third floor of Honolulu Hale is finally over.

Please join me in supporting Trevor Ozawa.

Editor’s note: Charles Djou was a candidate for Honolulu mayor in 2016.

Every campaign season we get tons of emails and commentary from people supporting or opposing particular candidates. Campaign Corner is a forum for healthy — and civil — discussion of candidates and their issues. Endorsements and criticisms are part of a voter’s decision-making process. Here are the ground rules: The column must be written by an identifiable person and accompanied by a current head shot and brief bio. The commentary must be original and not published elsewhere. No campaign email blasts. No letter-writing campaigns. Send columns and questions to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Campaign Corner are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

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