What’s most important to you, and where do the candidates stand on those issues?

Those are two basic questions Civil Beat is going to try to delve into during our coverage of the crucial elections scheduled for later this year.

To that end, today we unveil our candidate questionnaire for Honolulu mayor and the responses from the three leading candidates — Kirk Caldwell, Peter Carlisle and Ben Cayetano. We’ll have similar packages for other races in coming weeks.

The mayoral survey asked the candidates to explain their positions on 10 of the biggest challenges facing the city: traffic, rubbish, homelessness and more. We deliberately left rail off the list — Cayetano’s strong opposition, Carlisle’s strong support and Caldwell’s evolving “build rail better” platform are all well-known to voters.

Here we highlight the areas where the three mayoral hopefuls had the greatest differences. You can find links to the candidates’ full responses at the bottom of this article.

Short-Term Traffic Fixes

Civil Beat asked the candidates what they’d do to mitigate congestion in the near-term — before rail or Bus Rapid Transit can be completed.

Cayetano disputed the timeline, saying he could get BRT off the ground in his first term as mayor. Both he and Caldwell criticized the decision by the Carlisle administration to reduce some bus service this month to save money.

“Peter is cutting back bus service on Routes 55 and 65 that serve some of our most rural districts, dooming bus riders to wait in the dark in the early morning or evening hours to get to work or home,” Caldwell wrote in his answer to our first question. “The only choice is to travel by car which impacts congestion. We should be encouraging greater bus ridership, not less.”

Carlisle said the new Joint Traffic Management Center will enable the city to begin “active traffic management,” a process he describes as “real-time interventions in the traffic signal system to manage the efficiency of traffic flow.”

Picking a Landfill

All three candidates recognized the need to divert waste from the landfill to extend its life, but Cayetano went the furthest. He said he’ll explore a Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) to separate metals and glass from the waste stream and into H-Power.

Carlisle said abandoning Waimanalo Gulch before it raches capacity “frankly might not make the best fiscal sense,” while Caldwell said point-blank that he’ll “stop all efforts to site a new landfill somewhere else on Oahu.”

The Sidewalk Ban

Caldwell took some credit for the ban, saying he worked with Tulsi Gabbard on the legislation and helped get it passed. But he, like Cayetano, said enforcement’s been lacking.

Carlisle said the law has been a “moderate success.”

“The city is learning from what has worked and not worked up to now,” Carlisle wrote. “Fortunately, most people comply with the letter and spirit of the current ordinance. For specific groups that purposely try to circumvent it, the next step after this evaluation period is to consider additional legislation or the applicability of existing laws.”

That’s a step neither Gabbard nor senior members of Carlisle’s administration were willing to take. They expressed frustration with Occupy Honolulu but said nothing new was coming — yet.

Water Board Control

Earlier this year, the Honolulu City Council proposed a Charter amendment that would end the Board of Water Supply’s semi-autonomy and put it back under the mayor’s control.

Caldwell said he does not support that move. Carlisle said he had been open to the possibility because he’d heard stories of “political cronies being offered jobs and lobbyists being overpaid.” But those stories ended with the installation of a new manager, so Carlisle changed his mind.

Cayetano still seems interested.

“One good reason to subsume the BWS into the City administration is the issue of accountability. The BWS is virtually accountable to no one,” he wrote. “In 2010, for example, the BWS upgraded only one (1) mile of water lines whereas it should have been doing 30 miles a year of upgrades just to keep the system up to a reasonable level of efficiency.”

Road Maintenance Funding

How much is enough to maintain the city’s roads?

Carlisle said the city’s annual spending on road repaving should scale down in coming years from $77 million now because the current pace “might not be sustainable.”

“I stated early in this administration that I was troubled by the city’s prior use of its ‘credit card’ and incurring long-term debt,” he wrote. “Every $10 million the city funds to repair roads through bonds represents approximately $700,000 in annual payments for the next 25 years. $100 million today is $7 million in annual payments for 25 years. Most road repairs do not last that long. This administration is determined to fix roads at a high level but also to employ a smart and fiscally responsible approach.”

Caldwell said $73 million per year through 2016 is a “base starting point” and that he’d look to increase from there. He said Carlisle’s efforts to “bend the debt curve” during a recession is reminiscent of Herb Hoover’s contributions to the Great Depression.

Cayetano said Carlisle’s proposed decreases are “foolish” because Oahu’s roads are among the worst in the nation. He said $100 million annually “seems appropriate.”

Read the full candidate responses here:

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