You can think of a Greek-American running for office in New York, Illinois, and even the South. But how about a Greek running for mayor in Hawaii? Apparently Greeks are everywhere and participate in politics being eager to help at a moment that the world needs our actions, and Panos Prevedouros is no exception. The Greek-American who has been named a Hawaiian super hero by the local press has announced his campaign for the mayoral election of 2010 that will take place on September 18 2010 to replace current mayor Mufi Hannemann who wants to run for governor.
Panos Prevedouros loves Hawaii but he was born in Patras, Greece and currently is a Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Prevedouros had run again in the past for mayor of Honolulu in 2008 receiving 18% of the vote and placing 3rd. He talked to us exclusively about his campaign and what distinguished him from the rest of the candidates.
What part of Greece are you from?
Born and raised in Patras. Finished engineering at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki.
When did you move to Hawaii?
In 1990 after completing Masters and PhD in Transportation Engineering at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
How is life in Hawaii? (most people think it’s like being on vacation all year long)
Busy with the option of some ocean fun most of the time. Honolulu is the only place in the US with so many people holding second and third jobs. Making ends meet is hard for a large share of our population. High prices and high taxes form a huge “paradise tax” that affects us all, and the poor ever worse. But the benefit of 78 degrees Fahrenheit give or take five degrees makes paradise tax worthwhile. It’s amazing how easily the human body adapts to balmy climate. The mind too. Nobody complains about the lack of snow in Christmas. Quite the opposite… over a quarter million snow birds flock to our shores for some … thawing..
Is life in Honolulu slow?
Anything but slow and traffic studies on the behavior of drivers clearly show that, but there is some “aloha spirit” in driving and once one moves away from the center and out of freeways, the pace does slow down. One can find him- or herself in a rural area or tropical rain forest within 30 minutes form any spot in Honolulu. Visitors to Maui, Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii will notice a much more relaxed pace.
Does Hawaii have a Greek community? How many Greeks?
Very few first generation Greeks (and Cypriots) but a few hundred part-Greeks are on Oahu if one counts multiple generations. The Greek community, but not only, supports a large orthodox church, Saints Constantine and Helen. Once I attended the resurrection mass there with Michael Dukakis, now at UCLA, who taught at University of Hawaii after the conclusion of his presidential run.
Do they support you?
Yes, they are proud that I run in 2008 and will support my run in 2010.
What are your hobbies?
I was into cars since my early teenage years and managed to obtain the car racing license issued by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). I still have my roll-caged and supercharged Miata but she is mostly a garage queen now. Other than that, raising two young kids, Lesna 8 yo and Endie almost 2 yo allows me to enjoy swimming and kayaking that both of them like.
Why did you decide to run for mayor?
Because so many good ideas go to waste and because there is so much waste. Run of the mill politicians of all colors know nothing other than tax and spend and they deliver projects and services without proper evaluation and prioritization. They are simply to easy to sell a bill of goods because projects and operations are complex and unfamiliar to them. Many cities can do so much better and Honolulu is definitely behind the curve. It has the 3rd worst roads in the nation and among the worst traffic congestion. As a traffic and civil engineer, these issues are right up my alley and I have specific (and affordable) plans to address them, some published among my over 200 articles at my blog http://fixoahu.blogspot.com/.
Is politics something Greeks have in their blood?
Well the old saying in Greece is that if you turn a rock, under it you will find either a snake or a president. For most of my life I was into cost-effective engineering and not into a “leadership trip”. For years I have been looking into how our city and state is run; and it is laughable. It can be better, it must be better.
You were a candidate again in 2008. How was the outcome? What was the message from your supporters?
Most labeled us the 3% candidate early on and we garnered 18% of the vote while we raised and spend under $50,000 for the campaign. We came third in the race. The incumbent spent over $2 million and could not get more than 49%!
The message was and still is that we need to try again and boot corruption and special interests out of Honolulu’s city hall. By the way, Honolulu is the 14th largest city in the nation. (But is it only 53rd or so largest metro area. Mayors administrate over cities, not over metro areas.)
Who are your major opponents?
Term limited politicians and politicians out of a job. It will be a highly contested race with participants of medium-to high-name recognition (a top factor in politics). City’s current managing director is well financed by rail interests and has amassed over $300,000 for a race that has not even started! The current mayor plans to quit to run for governor. Only after this occurs, there will be a race for mayor. City prosecutor Peter Carlisle wants in and he is active in shaking hands, and past City Council chair Donovan Delacruz is courting the rural and Filipino vote.
What distinguishes your campaign from the rest of the candidates?
I am the only one out of five declared candidates who is an engineer, who is a conservative and who is against building elevated heavy rail on beautiful Oahu. Rail has its use and usefulness but not on an island paradise. I am about solutions. They are about feel-good rhetoric.
Are your political views closer to Democrats or Republicans?
Deep down in my thought process I am closer to being a Libertarian and in the current political reality this puts me closer to Republicans. Actually I joined the GOP-Hawaii on tax day 2010.
What is the first thing that you want to change in Honolulu?
Potholes. We are third worst in the nation and we have a mild climate and hardly any huge trucks in traffic, but still have among the worst quality roads. Terrible for locals and tourists alike, but 12 years of neglect did that. Past mayors chose to put traffic and road improvements in the back burner to make conditions as miserable as possible so that fed up motorists support their transit megaprojects. My full agenda is on my blog and at FixOahuNow.com.