Mayoral candidate Kirk Caldwell’s claim to keeping the country country isn’t playing well in the country, nor with the environmentalist who made the phrase into a community force.
Creighton Ualani Mattoon, long-time president of Keep the Country Country, Inc., issued a statement saying, “Mr. Caldwell has consistently supported, or been closely associated with, developers along Ko’olauloa and the North Shore. His use of the ‘Keep the Country Country’ signature is a poor attempt to greenwash his dismal environmental record.” When Mufi Hannemannʻs campaign was formerly challenged for using the slogan, “They apologized,” Mattoon told the Weekly. “Nothing from Caldwell,” he added.
At stake in the mayoral race, obscured by the rail debate, are three related development plans that will turn the Windward and North Shores of Oahu into a major hotel/resort destination. These are proposals to construct:
• Twenty-five hundred additional hotel rooms at Turtle Bay
• Twelve hundred new hotel rooms at Laie, in conjunction with a plan for extensive subdividing and commercial/industrial development
• A hotel overlooking the beach park at Haleiwa
The surfers, farmers and environmentalists of the Defend Oahu Coalition are criticising Caldwell for his support of the first two projects via his service to the Mufi Hannemann administration, which pushed the developers’ interests. As for the third, in response to Defend Oahu, Caldwell’s spokesperson has said Caldwell looks favorably on developer D.G. Anderson’s Haleiwa hotel.
In contrast, Caldwell’s opponent, Ben Cayetano, has said he is opposed to the construction of any new hotels, with the exception that an old hotel might be torn down and a new one built in its footprint.
If the Turtle Bay-Laie-Haleiwa plans proceed, not only Waikiki and Ko Olina but the Windward and North Shores would be effectively dominated by hotels and tourism. There would be no “country” left to “keep country.”
Caldwell’s views on development are comparably unpopular in and around Kailua. At a recent debate with Cayetano at Aikahi Elementary School, Caldwell again advocated against the City Council ban on commercial activity at Kailua and Kalama Beach Parks, arguing that the recent ordinance would lead to banning commercial activity on all beaches, Waikiki included.
Asked about the pace of growth in Kailua, he said he liked the changes. The crowd applauded a critic who asked Caldwell if his views were colored by the fact that his wife, a bank executive, sits on the board of directors of the landowner and developer, Kaneohe Ranch.
Both Caldwell and the departing mayor, Peter Carlisle, have argued that the Honolulu rail project will direct growth to Leeward Oahu and therefore keep the country country.
By employing this reasoning, Caldwell supported the Land Use Commission redesignating the prime agricultural lands of ‘Ewa, Ho’opili, which flank the path of the rail.
The reality of Caldwell’s positions on issues of the city, suburb, country and resorts lie in the fact that he is basically a development lawyer. The web site of his firm, Ashford & Wriston, boasts of having represented most of the major landowners and developers in the state. The firm’s advertised services include land rezoning, dealing with environmental regulations and “Native Hawaiian issues.” Most recently, the firm’s Ben Kudo represented the developers of Ho’opili before the Land Use Commission.
As a State legislator, Caldwell’s most significant environmental involvement was his pivotal support for exempting Superferry from an EIS or other legal restrictions, such as a speed limit through whale grounds.
At the Aikahi gathering he said, candidly enough, that in addition to development his background in the private sector primarily was in finance. His financial disclosure form lists a directorship with Territorial Savings and Loan of $150,000 to $200,000 yearly, a large sum for a modest-sized S & L. His spouse’s bank income is listed as $700,000 to $800,000 a year.
At a street level, Caldwell’s sign-waving for the Ho’opili rezoning is the picture worth a thousand words. After chatting with the construction workers turned out by Pacific Resource Partnership, he took up his post beside Maeda Timpson of the noisy Go Rail Go.