Meet the Mayor: Peter Carlisle
We sit down for a Q&A with new Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle about his plans to trim government, build rail, fix the sewers and clean up the city's clutter.
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HM: You say you want voters to pay for rail, but you also want to cut costs in other areas of government, specifically with staffing. How can you sell that to people who don’t want the rail line?
PC: You have to take a bigger view on this and understand what transit-oriented development brings to the table. It’s going to give us the opportunity to give people first-time homes out in Kapolei. We’ve run out of that here, in the core; people are lucky if they can buy a condominium. And look at this as being a way of transporting students from campus to campus in the UH system, and people will have the opportunity now to move from as far out as Kapolei to get up to the university in a reasonable period of time. Every other place served by a large and effective transit system has a better-educated and a more mobile workforce.
HM: Will the city be doing anything o induce businesses to move out to the west side? Kapolei was the traffic solution for Honolulu. We’ve had Kapolei now for a couple of decades, trying to become a city, but, so far, people are still driving in from west and central O‘ahu to work in town or Waikīkī.
PC: You’ve got to figure out what will actually bring the people out to the west. In terms of urban planning, what happens is you first have to have the population base, then they’ve got to want to have services and goods they can purchase, then after that you can start moving government in, and then businesses follow. It’s already happening with the advent of the Kroc Center [The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Kapolei] and with the advent of the University of Hawai‘i at West O‘ahu. Once that starts building up, you’re going to need sewers, you’re going to need fire stations, you’re going to need ambulance services, all those things will follow. And the key infrastructure, in my opinion, is this rail project, because it will tie it all together.
HM: Mufi Hannemann took heat from former Gov. Linda Lingle for insisting homelessness was a state issue, and the two offices went back and forth on it. What’s your position?
PC: Homelessness is everyone’s issue. It’s certainly a city issue. Are we ever going to completely get rid of homelessness? No, as long as we’ve got people who are mentally ill, drug addicts or who want to live that particular lifestyle, with no rules that apply to them. The only thing you can do is control it. Part of that means isolating them from places where they shouldn’t be, which includes taking up sidewalk space that belongs to the public, taking up camping space and turning it into basically a waste zone. If that means putting safe communities or safe shelters—or whatever you want to call them—somewhere, so be it.
HM: Homelessness is just one of the issues the city and state will have to work closely on. How do you envision your working relationship with Governor Abercrombie?
PC: : I’m extremely hopeful, because he’s not going anywhere. This is his end job. I hope not to be going anywhere, except out the door if I’m not reelected. If that’s my attitude and that’s his attitude, you don’t have that friction that has always existed between the state and the mayor. All our last mayors had what I like to call “governor envy.” They wanted to be “gov” in the worst way; certainly that was true for Mayor Hannemann, I don’t know about Mayor [Eileen] Anderson and we know that Fearless Frank [Fasi] wanted it more than anything on the planet Earth.
I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to go to Washington, D.C., I don’t want to go to Washington Place. Period. So my hope is that’s going to give us a real advantage over the relationship that existed between the governor and the mayor before. I don’t think we’ll agree on everything, but I think it gives us a chance.
HM: Since you won an election to finish the last two years of Hannemann’s term, you’d be eligible to run up for two more full terms. [Jeremy] Harris did that, he was mayor for 10 years. Conceivably you could be mayor for a decade.
PC: There’s nothing I’d like more.
HM: What would the city look like after a decade of Peter Carlisle as mayor?
PC: I hope it looks cleaner; I hope it looks like the city of tomorrow it could be; I hope it looks far more friendly for those of us who live here; I hope it continues to be a place where we not only have tourists coming but we’re a good location for businesses, for recreational tourism, for athleticism. Genuinely become the Geneva of the Pacific, if we could. If APEC [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation] goes off well, maybe that’s a possibility. I would like to see that.
While that is a major concern, I don’t want to think what I would look like after 10 years. It’s frightening enough already. By that time it will be terrifying.