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Ben Cayetano

Here comes the Kalihi Kid again. Former Gov. Ben Cayetano made it official last week, announcing his candidacy in this year’s mayoral campaign. With 28 years of public office experience, Cayetano, 72, is heading into this campaign with a nothing-to-lose attitude.

“Most politicians don’t run for mayor to be mayor, they run for mayor to become governor, but lucky I have already been there and done that,” Cayetano says with a smile. “I am going to run hard during this election and I’m going to have fun doing it.”

Cayetano has a sound understanding that the rail project which he strongly opposes is a pertinent issue surrounding the mayoral debate, but also wants to focus just as much attention on the issues of upgrading the city’s sewer and water systems.

“In the coming weeks I will unveil a plan to address huge upgrades to those systems, and also develop a strategy to repair our deteriorating storm drains and repaving our roads,” says Cayetano, who was featured on MidWeek‘s cover twice as lieutenant governor in Sept. 1988 and as governor in October 1996.

On the rail project issue, Cayetano is dedicated to re-establishing a new transit plan and project that, to him and his administration, makes more sense financially and aesthetically for the future of Hawaii’s transportation needs.

“We do not have to duplicate the services of other cities. We are not Los Angeles, we are not New York. This rail is not going to be a nice thing to look at: Imagine a 30-to 60-foot freeway running along our coast,” adds Cayetano, who also thinks that beyond the cost of the rail project, the construction planning is absurd.

“They want to start in Kapolei and go to Waipahu. Usually you would start from the city and go outward,” he says. “That way, if you run out of money, you can still run the transit from the city and continue from there.”

Cayetano has long been a strong supporter of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, which is a transportation route dedicated to bus use only.

“This rail is going to cost $5.3 billion, maybe more, and BRT would be $1 billion,” he notes. “It is being run very successfully in other cities, like San Diego.”

Cayetano’s emergence is a shakeup in the mayoral election, and he certainly seems up for giving Mayor Peter Carlisle and Kirk Caldwell a run for their rail.