This mayoral election race has been a big disappointment.
It could have been a real opportunity to get Honolulu focused on solving, or at least managing much better, the enormous homelessness crisis that is producing so much misery and wrecking the quality of life for so many.
Instead, the issue has been exploited for petty grandstanding, very misleading political advertising, and opportunistic attacks. There has been very little clear communication about realistic next steps.
So with a heavy heart, I’m voting for Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
Not because I think he’s been doing a great job and I trust him, but mainly because he’s at least focused some effort on homelessness while his opponent hasn’t said or done anything to convince me he would do any better.
Honolulu’s homelessness crisis exploded during Caldwell’s first term, and he allowed conditions in Kakaako especially to spiral totally out of control. It was only after lots of media attention, an ugly physical attack on a state lawmaker, and a public outcry that authorities even started to push back and regain control of public spaces.
Most of the affected Kakaako property belongs to the state, but city police and trash collectors had been handling most of the enforcement and debris removal until they just quietly stopped and the place quickly turned into a genuine third world shithole.
Caldwell opened a new shelter on Sand Island that seems to be moving things in the right direction, but he did so mostly as a way to support his efforts to boot homeless people out of Waikiki and into other neighborhoods, and it took much too long to get the project together.
He announced that the city will soon open a new “state-of-the-art” homeless center in Iwilei, but he won’t say when that will happen and hasn’t provided any public updates about this grand scheme.
He’s allowed conditions in Ala Moana Park to decline badly. Some other parks have gotten better, some have become much worse.
He’s totally failed to get inexcusable conditions at Blaisdell Park under control.
He’s moved forward with one initiative in Waianae while quietly flopping with another.
He’s vastly inflated his accomplishments at getting more homeless veterans into real housing, which are really the product of many agencies working together, but at least he’s paying attention to that issue.
All in all, his performance has been pretty mediocre. But opponent Charles Djou doesn’t seem to have much of a plan at all, even conceptually. Promising to shower more money on nonprofit organizations that work with the homeless really isn’t a plan.
And the state government hasn’t done nearly enough to address homelessness, leaving Caldwell to take most of the heat.
So think for yourself, evaluate their records, hold your nose, and vote for the candidate of your choice.
Honolulu’s future is at stake.