by Andrew Walden
David Ige may have been afraid of the video, but hundreds of other people weren’t as a standing-room only lunchtime crowd packed the downtown Honolulu Pacific Club for today's Grassroot Institute gubernatorial forum.
Video cameras from local TV stations lined the walls. Ige, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, cancelled out a day before the forum, claiming “we were not aware we would also be consenting to use of any recording.”
Libertarian candidate Jeff Davis had his own theory, telling the audience: "I want to address the elephant in the room, his name is David Ige. Perhaps Democratic Party minders have got a hold of him now that Neil Abercrombie is out.... His reason was 'you can't trust the media.' ... I'd like to applaud ThinkTech for running this out 90 minutes straight without any editing."
Republican Party Chair Pat Saiki told reporters, “When the public was finally afforded a chance to hear from all of the gubernatorial candidates, it’s a pity that Ige backed out because he wanted complete control over the interpretation of his messaging. Is this the quality of transparency and openness we can expect to see from the Democrat candidate?”
Grassroot Institute President Kelii Akina explained, "We made sure we met the requests and accommodations of each of the candidates. We were expecting to have all four parties represented today."
Ige’s absence didn’t stop Davis, Republican candidate Duke Aiona and Independent Party candidate Mufi Hannemann, from answering questions from the audience in a lively exchange of ideas.
Complete unedited video of the forum are available here and these are links to local media coverage:
Here are some highlights:
Mufi: "The voucher system provides (an) option... There are some questions that need to be addressed--whether it's going to be a state-wide system. Are we addressing special needs or qualifying at a certain income level...."
Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative:
Mufi: "I am against an inter-island cable if it is not benefiting the host island."
Duke: "Has (the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative) lowered costs? No.... How do you do that? You get the cheapest form of (energy). And right now, in the mix is liquefied natural gas."
Hawaii Health Connector:
Duke: "If the Hawaii Health Connector is either eliminated or exempted, it may jeopardize the Prepaid Health Care Act."
Mufi: "We need to press urgently to opt-out or ask for a waiver."
Mufi: "My principal reasons for supporting the Jones Act ... is because of my strong belief in creating the American jobs it sustains and secondly in the interest of national security.... I'm willing to have the discussion with those who feel the Jones act should be amended in specific areas...."
Duke: "Yes.... We've tried several times to basically abolish the Jones Act. I'm not sure that's possible. But the exemption is very possible. In addition to Hawaii you have Guam, Alaska and I think Puerto Rico would be on board. I'd like to serve as a facilitator in bringing the four noncontiguous together.... The Jones Act impacts cost of living. I would be supportive of an exemption that (allows) the building of foreign vessels...."
GE Tax Rail:
Duke: I was an opponent of the Rail project... but that project has left the station. I'm not going to get in the way of the Rail project, but ... they put together a plan that included financing. As part of that plan for financing...if they're going to present any proposals as far as extending that financing, they will meet opposition from the 5th floor when I'm governor."
Mufi: I have no plans to raise the GE Tax... That's why I want to do a management audit of the Department of Taxation. We already have on our books over 100 state taxes ...
"Regarding (the rail surcharge) there's a 10% grab by the State.... Right now they've taken over $140M...."
Mufi: "I'm not convinced, especially with what happened with the Department of Interior hearings, that there is consensus.... Secondly what I saw from that is that those who are non-Hawaiian need to understand the issue.... I don't see anything wrong with something so complex, so important to the future of the Hawaiian community that we need to take two steps back now...."
Duke: "Kanaiolowalu...was something that had a good intention to it. But if we're going to have a pathway to native Hawaiian governance, it's going to have to be through consensus. Its going to have to be through shared visions. Its going to have to be in the whole Hawaiian community. Kanaiolowalu had a register of about 120,000 people. That is only about 35% of Hawaiians that live here...."
Do you think the UH admin needs reform?
Duke: "Part of the problem is the political process. part of the problem are the politicians inserting themselves in every single decision that's made up at the University of Hawaii when it's not to someone's liking....
We've got to stop that culture first and foremost. If we really want the University of Hawaii to be independent, we have to give them the opportunity to do the job....
Board of Regents? Up until the Lingle administration, it was the Governor's discretion.... (After Dobelle) the legislature changed the system. So right now...they'll submit three names to the governor and the governor picks one.... That maybe needs to be restructured, again.
Mufi: "One of the maxims of leadership is 'put the right people in the right seats on the bus.' Human error creates situations where people get upset and there's a rush to remove people.... That speaks to what's been happening too long in our university system. Lets remove the politics. I think Duke Aiona's right, there's too much political interference...."
Cornerstone of a Libertarian campaign:
Jeff Davis: "This is the cornerstone of my campaign. I believe that if we have to fix our issues from the top down, we will forever attempt to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. It's not going to happen. How we elect our officials and what their position is in our government -- I would say today, 98% of our elected officials would be happy to be for the people by the people. But every two to four years, they're required to promise their first born to collect money.... State funded campaigns where folks go out, they come back with signatures from registered voters and a $5 check to the tune of 500 people to 1000 would take out all the riff-raff. Those qualified get the same amount of money to go promote themselves on TV, radio, mail, you name it.... If we do not take pay to play out of our elected officials lives, they will never be for the people, by the people: They will be for the corporations, by the corporations."
Background: Ige Cancels: Will be only Candidate Missing from First Gubernatorial Forum