Getting up close with Mayor Caldwell


Itzel Contreras Mendez (right) interviews Mayor Kirk Caldwell (left) about his personal life and millennials’ involvement in politics – Ka ‘Ohana News Staff
Itzel Contreras Mendez (right) interviews Mayor Kirk Caldwell (left) about his personal life and millennials’ involvement in politics – Ka ‘Ohana News Staff

Windward Community College journalism student Itzel Contreras Mendez interviewed Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Facebook Live earlier this month and took a peek into his personal life and where he stands as mayor.


Q: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

A: I ate intestines once. I didn’t like it, but I thought I was eating some kind of noodle. They asked me how I liked it, and I said I loved it. Then they told me it was intestines. They tricked me into it. They thought it was kind of funny. After they told me, for a minute I didn’t want to eat it but tasted pretty good, so I finished the plate.


Q: Which do you prefer a scary or comedy movie?

A: Comedy every time. Sometimes I’ll watch a scary movie, but I like to laugh more than have fear. (My favorite comedy movie is) There’s Something about Mary, many of you probably don’t know what that movie is, (but) I think it’s pretty funny. And I like to say the Three Stooges, but my wife thinks it’s totally dumb. I told her that maybe it’s a guy’s thing or something. And South Park I love. I come home late at night and sometimes it’s on cable, and I’ll go watch it and crack up and watch at least 15 minutes of it before I go to sleep.


Q: What is your favorite musician or band?

A: I like Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole. He’s not alive anymore but whenever I hear his voice my heartbeat slows, my blood pressure drops, and I think about the more relaxing days at the beach. I wish he was still alive but his voice keeps his spirit alive. In terms of modern music, I like Coldplay a lot. It’s lyrical to me and it gets me in a good mood and I feel good when I listen to it. Other than that, I listen to all kinds of music like Beyoncé. I’ll listen to anything. My daughter is 22, and we’ll listen to that rave music and turn up the volume up and bob our heads up and down. But I don’t like opera. Maybe I don’t appreciate it enough. I have not been to a concert in a long time. When I was a kid I went to a whole bunch. I saw the Doors, the Hendrix but that was back in the ‘60s.


Q: What is your favorite place in the world?

A: That’s a hard one. I love where we are right now in Mānoa at our house. I just love living here. And I love going to any rainforest in Hawai‘i. When you walk into the rainforest everything is very quiet and hushed. The wind you can hear at the top of the trees, but everything is quieter down at the ground. You can hear water dripping onto the moss, the streams running, and of course the ‘apapane that still live in the forest and the bird sounds that you wouldn’t normally hear here. I love that a lot. I told my wife that when I die I want some of my ashes to be spread in Pana‘ewa rainforest, which is outside of Hilo, where I used to pick maile a lot as a kid. In terms of traveling, I love Paris, the old part of Paris. I like history, and I think it’s an incredibly beautiful central place. But first always here, Hawai‘i. After the election, I’m planning on going fishing down by Miloli‘i, which is on the southern side of the Big Island. There is a beautiful property there that one of my friends owns, and we’re going to (drive) way down there. And it’s just an old Hawaiian place and huge fishponds, and we’re going to fish and sit there and talk story. It’s very peaceful, and I just love going there.


Q: Speaking of fish and the water, do you surf?

A: Yes, I do surf, I have a longboard, a couple short boards and two stand-up paddle boards. I’ve done a little bit of everything, and right now I’m going back to the longboarding. For that I like to go to Pops or Popular’s as it’s called. We park at Fort DeRussy and paddle out from there. It’s a little bit in front of the Sheraton Halekulani, it’s the furthest break out. It’s the more mellow place, not too many tourists will paddle out there. The waves feather from the top down so they’re not as powerful and you don’t have the young guys out there. It’s more for the old guys like me. It’s more mellow, and it’s a lot of fun to be out there sitting between sets and talking story and looking at the backdrop of Waikīkī and the Ko‘olau Mountains and Mānoa valley.


Q: What’s your favorite sports team?

A: UH Rainbows for football and the UH Women’s Wahine team for volleyball, I think are fantastic and I try to go to those games. In terms of football teams on the national level I like the Patriots and I like the Red Sox [baseball team]. I went to college and graduate school in Boston, so that’s a little bit of my preference.


Q: Why should young people be interested in their local government?

A: When I think of all things you should be most interested in, it’s the local government because we affect your life every day. The level of the city it’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s sewer, water, garbage pick-up, road repair. It’s taking care of our parks, the things that affect your life every single day. And depending on who is in city government, those things are either addressed or not addressed very well. So I think that you should care because it’s about all of this, where we are sitting right now, the beauty that we have here and how do we protect and how do we preserve it from development climbing up our ridges and more of our valleys. I am concerned that a lot of young folks believe that their vote does not count, so they don’t vote and leave the decision up to a smaller group of people who may have a different vision than you. So I think you should care. Even on a national level think about the Al Gore versus Bush election. Al Gore lost by 500 votes in a nation of 300 million people, and it determined the direction of our country for at least 8 years. It may have taken us down a direction that some of us may not have wanted to go, and that was because 500 people didn’t want to vote. So I think voting on all levels are important, and I wish that more millennials would step up. They’re connected, they’re engaged, they’re reading, they’re aware, and they need to step up and vote. And I think it could make a tremendous difference.


Q: How could someone like me make a difference in local government?

A: For one thing you could do is to step up and work on a campaign. It’s a way to get involved and a way to get to know the candidate. In Hawai‘i, things are close and personal, and you can actually meet the people who are making the decisions, the people who are running for office. I served in the State House for six years, and you could walk into my office and sit down and meet with me. And meet


ings face-to-face can influence how someone makes decisions, how they vote, how they act. People think it doesn’t matter but it does. And it makes a difference, particularly here because we’re the smallest big town that I know. Everyone knows everyone. Everyone knows each other’s business, and everyone is really accessible. So however you want to do it, either get involved in a campaign, show up at the legislature and city council or testify for or against a bill. There are so many critical issues that we face. In my time in the House, it was marriage equality.

We fought hard for that. I wish more people would have stepped up on that issue. Death with dignity, something that I was really was passionate about, allowing people to make decisions for themselves on how to end their lives when they’re terminally ill and that (bill) has never moved. You know, young people can get up and testify and help influence how people vote, so I would encourage you to do that.


Q: How is my generation specifically impacted by your role as a mayor?

A: We can either grow the old way of urban sprawl going further and further out into our ag lands and upper valleys and up the ridges of our mountain and destroy what’s most beautiful about this place or you could vote for someone like me who is really trying to grow differently by growing inward, inside the urban growth boundary and that’s why I’m so passionate about infrastructure.

Our administration is about building rail and repaving roads and adding more bus routes and fixing up our parks and rebuilding our sewer system so we can build more in the denser urban core and make better use of our land that are zoned urban. So we don’t destroy the other parts of our island. We have a million people here now living on 600 square miles of land squeezed between the mountain and the sea. When I was born, there were about 450,000 (people). So it’s how we grow that determines how we thrive as a people, something I’ve struggled with since I was a young man.

I initially was a person who said no growth, but we can’t keep people from moving here and much of that growth has come from outside of the state. So if we can’t prohibit it legally and it’s going to happen, then how do we control how it happens and how do we preserve ourselves as a people. This aloha spirit can disappear if we’re not careful in how we grow and how we take care of each other. And for me, it’s creating these urban villages around our transit stations.

It’s about making sure that we interact as a people in a friendlier environment around our parks, which are our crown jewels but we don’t treat as our crown jewels. So I want to come back and make sure that this infrastructure is put in place and whoever is the mayor after me we grow in a different way that we’ve never grown before. Including things like our bike paths and King Street, highly controversial issues. Most people hate it, but for me it’s about how do we build an integrated, protected bike system in our city.

Here is a link to the video:

by Ka ‘Ohana, News Staff