Mayor’s absence criticized
Mayoral candidates discuss rail and more at a college forum
Two mayoral challengers appeared at the last scheduled public forum yesterday and criticized Mayor Mufi Hannemann for not showing up and missing most of the few appearances together.
"I wouldn't miss this for the world," City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said at yesterday's forum at Honolulu Community College, sponsored by its student government. "I was supposed to be at another event, but you are very important to me."
Hannemann's other opponent, Panos Prevedouros, a first-time candidate and University of Hawaii at Manoa engineering professor, also opened his remarks to a crowd of about 150 on Hannemann's noticeable absence.
"I really regret that the current mayor is not here to explain his positions to you," Prevedouros said.
For most of this election year, it had appeared that Hannemann would face no major opponents. But at the last minute in June and July, Prevedouros and Kobayashi entered the race, leaving little time for the three to appear in many debates.
Hannemann's campaign said he had tried to make yesterday's forum. The primary reason there weren't many debates is because of scheduling conflicts, campaign officials said last week.
"I love to debate," Hannemann said. "It's never a problem with me to debate or have an open discussion. But once again, you're talking about coordinating time with two candidates that jumped in very late. I could have done what most incumbents do and say I'm not going to debate. That's not my style."
At yesterday's forum, Prevedouros and Kobayashi had talked about the most critical issues - Hannemann's proposed $4 billion rail transit system, the city's aging sewer system and the island's only landfill.
Mary Militante, vice president of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii, who helped put on yesterday's event, said she doesn't feel there have been enough debates and public appearances for voters to get to know the candidates sufficiently.
"I think it's unfortunate that Mayor Hannemann couldn't attend, and I know that it did disappoint a lot of the students," Militante said. "We haven't seen much of the candidates in the public and that's why we wanted them to come to our forum."
The three have appeared together at least twice - once at a cordial forum at the Filipino Community Center two weeks ago and a televised live debate that became contentious at the Hawaii Theatre last week.
"Unlike the other candidates, he (Hannemann) has a city to run," said Hannemann's campaign coordinator A.J. Halagao. "He cannot accept every invitation to attend an event."