HONOLULU (KHON2) — Wednesday’s mayoral debate took place virtually, the first in a long line as candidates get closer to election. The forum was hosted by the Waikiki Improvement Association, and one of the panelists was Always Investigating’s Gina Mangieri. A lot of conversation was specific to the Waikiki area and tourism.
Some of the major hot button topics were the COVID-19 pandemic and how to get Oahu’s economy back on track. While some candidates talked about the need to turn to other industries, other candidates said the city needs to look at federal funding to help the existing businesses that are struggling.
“We need to provide more course development programs to pivot people from tourism to other industries because it may take a while before tourism bounces back, and they can’t wait until the tourism industry bounces back,” said Keith Amemiya.
“We have to do this this right, or we will ruin our reputation forever… I would work with the military who did not shut down, and they have a lot of openings,” said Kymberly Pine.
“If we work with the statewide federal parties to implement strong testing… and hopefully a new vaccine… we certainly can bring back tourism while recalibrating our visitor count to a more palatable level,” said Rick Blangiardi.
“With the CARES Act and other federal legislation coming through, we have to use that opportunity. CARES Act can definitely be used in situations, for example if COVID has caused the problem,” said Colleen Hanabusa.
“The diversification should pivot around tourism. What about more sports tourism? What about more movies on the beach? They’re able to bring in more television… Hawaii 5.0 and Magnum PI… What about a different kind of Hawaii Food and Wine Festival,” said Mufi Hannemann.
Other topics dealt with potential sea-level rise in Waikiki, vacation rentals in Hawaii and business recovery amid COVID-19.
But many reiterated the need for change and a new leader, espeicially when it comes to getting some longstanding problems like traffic and the lack of street parking solved.
“The mayor has not yet assigned [additional Department of Planning and Permitting enforcement officers] to these positions, which is why I want to be the mayor to implement a lot of the hard work that we have put forth,” said Kymberly Pine.
“[The workers] know what needs to be done. We need government to give the proper instruments in order to make it work, so I think it just needs time,” said Colleen Hanabusa.
“The fact that the authority was convened three years ago, and there’s still no solutions where we have been able to come to conclusions… it’s just simply inexcusable,” said Keith Amemiya.
“Regardless of the ultimate reason behind these issues, it’s incumbent on a mayor, and a true leader to identify these problems and fix them,” said Rick Blangiardi.
“It’s about community-based engagement, and that’s how we’ll move forward, not just talking about it, but having a real solution to making it happen,” said Mufi Hannemann.
You can watch the full mayoral forum on the KHON2 Facebook page here.
The mayoral candidates will have another chance to square off on Thursday. That forum will be held by the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii and moderated by KHON2 Political analyst John Hart.
KHON2 News will be live streaming that forum starting at 10 a.m.