His election rivals Ige and Aiona have other views about the HCDA’s future
Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann said Tuesday that the city, not the Hawaii Community Development Authority, should have planning oversight in Kakaako.
The HCDA could proceed with the infrastructure needed to support high-rise condominium projects in Kakaako, Hannemann said, but the city should handle zoning, affordable housing and other regulatory matters. He said the HCDA should still oversee redevelopment in Kalaeloa, where he suggested a new racetrack could be built.
“I believe it’s time to have a discussion with state officials to revert Kakaako back to the city for proper planning purposes,” Hannemann, the Hawaii Independent Party candidate for governor, said at a governor’s forum sponsored by the West Oahu Economic Development Association at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu.
Afterward, state Sen. David Ige, the Democratic candidate for governor, and former Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona, the Republican candidate, did not embrace Hannemann’s idea. The HCDA was created in 1976 as a redevelopment agency, but it took more than three decades for market and regulatory forces to align and spur growth in Kakaako.
Ige said he would implement a state law passed this year that weakens the governor’s power over the HCDA board, essentially freezes building height limits, and expands public notice requirements for projects. “I am committed to — if elected governor — really implementing that, really providing more balance on the board there and (I) really hope that we can get back to the original vision of Kakaako, which really was about live, work, play,” he said.
Aiona said he would have to think more about Hannemann’s proposal, but cautioned, “I think we finally got some traction with HCDA, regardless of the issues that people have brought up.”
The 90-minute forum, moderated by KHON’s Gina Mangieri, was the first to include all of the candidates for governor on one stage. Like a forum on Friday sponsored by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, in which Ige did not appear, the candidates mostly stressed their leadership styles over new public policy agendas for the state.
The fact that so many voters cited their personal dislike for Gov. Neil Abercrombie in his historic primary loss to Ige may be influencing how the candidates are approaching the November general election.
Ige has offered a more collaborative approach. Aiona has promised to restore trust, respect and balance. Hannemann is taking a softer, less partisan tone, hoping to appeal to Democrats, Republicans and independents.
Jeff Davis, a solar contractor and radio show host who is the Libertarian Party candidate, has challenged voters to break from the major political parties if they want change.
Few distinct policy differences between the candidates were unearthed at the forum Tuesday.
Ige said he would respond to the rise in homelessness by first directing services to the homeless who have jobs and are likely the most motivated to seek and accept help.
Hannemann said his proposed Hawaii Council of Leaders — made up of the governor and the four county mayors — could help address issues such as homelessness statewide.
Aiona has called for a homeless court and an outreach program by the Hawaii Army National Guard to homeless veterans.
Aiona said he would order a comprehensive management and financial audit of the state Department of Education and annual reports on tax credits to determine which incentives are effective. He also said he would explore reducing the unemployment insurance tax rate, which is supposed to be set by an automatic formula to ensure a healthy unemployment insurance reserve but has often been adjusted by the state to provide tax breaks for businesses.
Aiona, a Catholic who opposes gay marriage, said there will likely not be finality to the issue until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on marriage equality nationwide. He said, however, that he would not seek to overturn the state’s marriage equality law if elected.
Hannemann, a Mormon who opposes gay marriage, said he, too, would uphold the state law. But he said he would have put the question to the people in a vote, as the city did with rail, instead of deciding marriage equality during a special session of the Legislature.
Ige, a Buddhist who voted for the marriage equality law but has questioned the special session, said the law struck an adequate balance between equal treatment for couples and religious protection for churches. He said there is “always a possibility” that residents may ask the Legislature to revisit the law.