Facing her rival in a debate format for the first time since he captured first and she took second in the Sept. 20 primary election, JoAnn Yukimura sharpened her criticism of Bernard Carvalho, who generally stuck to his theme of cooperation, last night at the Kaua‘i Veterans Center on Kapule Highway in Lihu‘e.
The event, which featured a 50-minute debate portion and a question-and-answer session, was presented by KQNG Radio and The Garden Island newspaper. Station host Ron Wiley served as emcee and TGI editor Adam Harju moderated.
The winner of the Nov. 4 special election will serve for the two years left on the term of the late Mayor Bryan Baptiste, for whom there was a moment of silence.
Yukimura, who currently sits on the Kaua‘i County Council and served as mayor from 1988-1994, hammered Carvalho for his inexperience and his role in Baptiste’s administration, under which “not enough happened,” she said.
The most heated exchange occurred after a question on how the slowing economy would impact the county’s $156 million operating budget.
Yukimura, who declined to name specific programs that would be cut in the belt-tightening, said the economic downturn would require hard decision-making, something Carvalho would be unable to do because of his “100 promises” to unions and other groups.
Carvalho’s thunderous reply — “No programs will be cut!” — drew applause from the crowd of some 300 residents. He then outlined some “creative” ways to achieve fiscal responsibility, including cutting energy budgets for various county departments and ditching the $6,000 funding for a car for the mayor.
Yukimura pounced on the idea, saying “Bernard’s answer is the answer from someone who doesn’t understand the budgeting process or the realities of the budget,” before mentioning Gov. Linda Lingle’s recent statements about the $900 million drop in revenue projections over the next three fiscal years.
Carvalho earned much more vociferous crowd appreciation during introductions, but the loudest cheers were reserved for a pair of responses from Yukimura on questions covering small businesses and tourism.
She said “super” stores are not part of the island’s character and called for a focus on keeping local money circulating locally instead of being sent back to corporations on the Mainland.
She later decried overdeveloping in the resort area as a misuse of resources that could be better used on infrastructure growth benefiting the island.
“She was very eloquent,” said Walt Barnes, a long-time supporter on Yukimura’s campaign staff. “Her knowledge of the details of what really needs to be done, linking vision to implementation, really came through for me.”
Carvalho, on the other hand, said at one point that he would continue to talk about cooperation and openness — “a link from the mayor’s office to the community” — and said relationships he has built will help him “get the job done.”
When asked about balancing the fiscal responsibility of the state versus that of the county, Carvalho touted a meeting with the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs that he set up as county Parks and Recreation director.
He said a “relationship between the county and state built on trust … will bring monies home to get things done.”
Later, he showed his passion on the issue of drug abuse when asked whether he considered it to be a social problem that needs treatment or a crime that needs punishment, replying forcefully, “We need a drug treatment center on this island. … Drugs make me sick, what it’s done to our people.”
Campaign co-chair Beth Tokioka said she was pleased with Carvalho’s performance.
“Bernard articulated his positions clearly and passionately,” she said. “Bernard had a chance to speak about a lot of issues important to him, issues that need to be addressed by whoever wins.”
The debate will be available in its entirety by 5 p.m. tomorrow at The Garden Island’s newly redesigned Web site at www.kauaiworld.com.
The political forum featuring the 14 Kaua‘i County Council candidates will start at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, at the Kaua‘i Veterans Center, with doors opening at 6 p.m.
Light pupu and refreshments will be served, and Wiley and Harju will reprise their roles.
Like last night’s mayoral debate, the political forum will be open to the public and will be carried live on KQNG Radio AM 570.
• Michael Levine, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org