Why Ben Cayetano should be Honolulu’s next mayor

The former governor of Hawaii is the epitome of solid leadership. Photo: Facebook

WAIKIKI, October 31, 2012 — In the Aloha State, Hawaiians have a saying: Lawe i ka ma’alea a ku’ono’ono. Those words tell us that to be successful one must acquire skill and make it deep. In selecting a mayor this November to serve and represent the island of Oahu’s nearly one million residents, Honolulu should know that there is no candidate who has experience and skills that run so deep or so great as former Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano.

A Governor Returns To Serve

Like so many other cities across America, Honolulu has fallen upon hard times with the cost of living skyrocketing, small businesses in decline and local infrastructure in dire need of repair. Rising utility costs have locals in desperation, many of them unable to juggle making monthly payments and making ends meet to feed their families. But tough times draw out tough leaders from the public reservoirs of courage and in January of this year, former Governor Ben Cayetano came out of retirement to run for the lower municipal office of Honolulu Mayor.

Former Governor Ben Cayetano is one of the most dynamic leaders in Hawaii. (Photo: Ben Cayetano official website)

“I believe that projects built by our city or state should be designed so they are consistent with our core values: our relationship to our environment, to each other and to the culture that binds us together as a people,” Cayetano had told reporters when he launched his mayoral campaign.

Faced with the prospect of Honolulu picking up the tab for a pricey $5.3 billion dollar rail infrastructure project in the middle of the worst depression Hawaii has ever seen, Cayetano assembled a luminous panel of public servants and engineering experts from multiple former administrations and brought a substantive, well-researched and thought provoking message to community forums all across Oahu.

Unlike traditional campaigns that rely on hyped up rallies and fluffy platitudes, people who came to Cayetano’s forums heard expert lectures and saw PowerPoint presentations loaded with statistical charts, engineering simulations, architectural visualizations and hard facts harvested from the work of respected, independent researchers from all around the world.

Cayetano approached Honolulu residents as more than just potential voters – he made them informed stakeholders and gave them the facts to decide their own future. And decide they did: Cayetano led opponents by double digits from his campaign launch all the way to the August primary, winning with 44 percent of the vote to his next opponent’s 29 percent.

Cayetano brought informative briefings to Oahu’s communities and treated voters as citizen stakeholders. (Photo: Facebook)

In one of his final debates before his primary, Cayetano told residents that “Big labor and big business have been running this town for a long time … they have taken political power which rightly belongs to the people. This can be a transformational issue in Hawaii politics. Let’s take the government back and the power back to who it belongs, the people.”

His words were a courageous call to action – and a promise of change – in an America stratified by a rampant culture of special interest manipulation. Today, the average person has almost no voice in politics and no way of overcoming the public-private propaganda matrix that controlling corporate interests have used to mute cries for justice. But Cayetano showed the public in debates and his year-long campaign that he was willing to brave the Establishment’s wrath and restore the public’s rightful democratic rule. America, in its pursuit of sincere reform and social justice should truly pay close attention to the leadership example of Ben Cayetano. 

Why I Voted For Ben Cayetano

As a man who grew up in severe poverty and rough neighborhoods where kids frequently got into fist fights over candy bars, Cayetano knows precisely what Honolulu residents are going through and just how much it hurts to be left behind and left in lack.

As a child, he stood his ground and bravely fought off bullies on the streets of Kalihi. As a state legislator and Hawaii governor, Cayetano fought powerful special interest groups and never lost a single election because of his reputation as a man of the people. That is the Cayetano record.

When I first met Governor Cayetano in 2009, I asked him what made him so successful. He simply smiled and said, “In life, there will always be unique circumstances that will bring people to your path that will help you succeed.”

Today, fate has brought us to a moment of great challenge and immense distress. But in Honolulu we are not alone in this time of maximum risk: these circumstances have brought Ben Cayetano to our path and he has the deep experience, the solid skills and the right heart to help us succeed and prosper again. This is a moment we cannot afford to miss. This is Hawaii’s finest hour.

I voted for Ben Cayetano – and I hope Honolulu will too.


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Danny de Gracia

Dr. Danny de Gracia is a political scientist and a former senior adviser to the Human Services and International Affairs committees at the Hawaii State Legislature. From 2011-2013 he served as an elected municipal board member in Waipahu. As an expert in international relations theory, military policy, political psychology and economics, Danny has advised numerous policymakers and elected officials and his opinions have been featured worldwide. Now working on his first novel, Danny resides on the island of Oahu.

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