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February 21, 2008
[Opening song: “My
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Aloha and mahalo for joining me today for the annual state-of-the-City address.
I realize this is a departure from the traditional address. I’m talking about the maile and ilima lei, the huge podium, the ceremonial flourishes. Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for tradition and decorum. But from our first day in office a little more than three years ago, I’ve prided myself as a mayor who does things differently, and today we’re doing something different, and I’m grateful to you for allowing me to share this with you.
That song is called, “My Hawaii.” It’s a composition by my brother, Nephi, with an arrangement by my cousin, Matt Catingub, and it captures how I feel about my work, about you, about our home.
Let me acknowledge the musicians who performed earlier. Leading the quartet was Michael-Thomas Foumai, a very gifted musician, composer, and arranger who’s a graduate of
We’re at the Hawaii Theatre for several reasons. This theater sits at the epicenter of old and new
I’m grateful to General Manager Burton White and his staff for their hospitality and kindness in accommodating us for this event.
Every person who stepped off a ship at
Like our parents and their parents, we, too, have an obligation not only to better our lives and those of our children, but to leave this place better than we found it. This theme has resonated in my work as your mayor.
In my first of these addresses in 2005, you’ll recall I set forth the six priorities that we needed to right the course of City government.
1. We would be honest, truthful, and accountable for the public’s money.
2. We would ensure that our first-responders were staffed and equipped.
3. We would repair our roads.
4. We would fix our sewers and tackle our solid waste problems.
5. We would better maintain our parks and public facilities.
6. And we would find solutions to our transportation needs.
I hope you’ll agree that we’re doing precisely what we said we’d do. We’re facing up to our challenges and making tough decisions. And when all is said and done, we’ll be able to look back and say we left this place—our
In my brief time with you, I can’t adequately describe everything the City does for the people of
I also want to acknowledge the leadership and support of the City Council. As a former Councilman, I know all too well that without these qualities, many good ideas would not come to fruition.
But, given the impossibility of my task, let me share things that I believe are representative of the work of the City ohana.
Let’s begin with how we’re paying close attention to our financial bottom-line.
Bond rating upgraded from AA– to AA
Saves $300,000 per $100 million
OPEB: Set aside $40 million, $52 million more this coming year
Rainy day fund: $7.5 million last year; $10 million this year
Canceled $3.1 million in old purchase orders
Closed $6 million in old construction contracts
Saved $600,000 on escrow costs
Our fiscal policies have earned us an upgrade in our bond rating, saving us money on the bonds we sell to finance our capital investments. We’ve set aside money to help us weather a rainy day. Like our sister counties, we’ve put away money for “other post-employment benefits,” primarily health insurance benefits for retired employees. And we’ve saved money in other little-known but significant ways.
Increased homeowner exemptions
Established homeowner tax credit
Established tax credit for those earning $50,000 or less
Cut property tax rates for agricultural land
During this time, we’ve managed to provide tax relief to homeowners, and cut rates for farmers to help keep our lands green, open, and productive.
Let’s move on to public safety.
214 police cars into service or budgeted since 2006
58 more cars in 2009 budget
42 motorcycles, including 30 awaiting purchase
Crime lab expansion
New indoor firing range
Waianae station replacement
We’ve supported the officers of the Honolulu Police Department by putting new patrol vehicles and motorcycles into service, with more to come. We’re budgeting this coming year for a new helicopter. We’re expanding the crime lab so HPD can continue to serve not only our crime-fighters, but those of our sister counties, the state, military, FBI, and other federal agencies. We’re building a new indoor firing range and planning to replace the Waianae station.
Our emergency medical services personnel now respond to 70,000 calls a year. To meet that demand, we’re expanding coverage across the island, particularly in fast-growing or rural areas. Here’s a peek at where we stand:
Emergency medical services
Nanakuli: opened 2005
Kaaawa: opened 2005
Makakilo: expanded from 16 to 24 hours in 2005
Kapolei-Makakilo: new quarters in 2007
Waipio: began 2008; 16 hours daily
New communications center: 2007
New quarters on
During my campaign for office, I made an issue of the condition of our fire houses. These are places where fire fighters live and work round-the-clock, but the roofs leaked, the paint was peeling, and basic maintenance needs went ignored. We’ve since committed millions of dollars for repairs both large and small, ranging from a fresh coat of paint to a new roof, and it’s making a difference.
I hope you’ll agree this is an impressive list of fire house projects:
Fire house improvements
Scheduled for 2008
We’re aggressively upgrading our fire engine fleet by replacing our old vehicles with advanced new ones.
4 fire engines, 2 rescue trucks into service in 2006
1 fire engine arriving in April; another in early 2009
Issued bids for 6 more
Preparing specifications for ladder truck, tanker, and tender
New budget calls for 3 fire engines, ladder truck
We made homeland security and civil crises a priority by establishing the Department of Emergency Management as a cabinet-level agency, with the director serving as a member of the mayor’s cabinet.
We updated our emergency operations plan for the first time in 16 years. We just completed the first phase of a continuity of operations plan for City government. My cabinet has been trained in emergency response management, and we are blessed to have at the ready an unheralded corps of dedicated citizen-volunteers who step forward in every crisis. We’re now reaching out to the military, more than ever before, to coordinate our emergency preparation and responses.
Our lifeguards watch over an astounding 15 million beach-goers a year, and perform more than 1,500 rescues annually.
Lifeguard towers: 18 replaced in three years; count up to 40
Beach right-of-way markers for first-responders
Created beach hazard website with UH
We’re continuing our replacement of old lifeguard towers with better-designed towers and have adopted ideas to bolster public safety, particularly for those unfamiliar with our island waters.
Among the secrets I shared with you three years ago was the appalling condition of the rusting microwave towers that serve as the backbone of our emergency communications system. We’re moving promptly to replace or repair these key facilities. Here are projects we’ve completed or are beginning this year:
Koko Head: done
Puu Manawahua: underway
Aikahi: begins 2008
Aliamanu: begins 2008
And these are repairs we’ve scheduled:
We’ve done a lot of catching up, but we’ll still have to spend $40 million over the next five years or so to replace these aging towers and buildings.
One final note: Our Enhanced 911 system just celebrated its first anniversary. E911 means we can pinpoint an emergency call from a mobile phone and get help to the caller. That’s critical considering that half the 90,000 calls a month to our 911 center are made from mobile phones.
With the exception of mass transit, I’ve devoted more time and more words to our City sewers than anything else during my term. But sewers are emblematic of the situation we’re in, and we’re more determined than ever to lay the groundwork so no future mayor or City Council will ever deviate from this need-to-have part of City government.
Here’s what we’ve finished or are nearing completion:
Beachwalk emergency bypass: done
Construction is or soon will be underway at these sites:
Underway in 2008
Expansion and improvements at our waste water treatment plants seems to be never-ending. We have projects at
Expansion: first phase begun
Synagro plant: operating
Ultraviolet disinfection plant: operating
Honouliuli Waste Water Treatment Plant
Solids handling: underway
Odor control improvements: continuing
Recycled water reuse
These projects are in the planning phase:
Beachwalk force main
Lualualei force main
Aliamanu pumping station
By the way, these are just the big projects. There are countless other projects in the works as we play catch-up.
We’ve raised fees to pay for this work. We’ve held to our pledge to use that money for sewers, and sewers only. When we count our budget proposal for fiscal year 2009, this administration will have invested more than a billion dollars in our sewers. That’s more than the previous administration spent in 10. We anticipate spending as much as $1.5 billion more over six years, beginning with this one. It’s pretty clear that you’ll be living with sewer construction for the foreseeable future. But as I’ve declared many times with other need-to-have City projects, the longer we delay, the more we’re going to pay.
We’ve been directing our resources at improving the collection system, meaning all the pipes and force mains and pumping stations that collect our sewage and move it to our waste water treatment plants.
The Environmental Protection Agency agrees with us that our collection system is a priority, but at the same time, is demanding that we complete secondary treatment of our waste water, and is threatening to deny the waivers from such treatment that we hold for our two largest plants. The EPA will be here March 12, at
Secondary treatment is unnecessary, and we’re backed by the weight of scientific evidence; the expert testimony of our engineering and water quality professionals, both at the City and State levels; and the support of our Congressional delegation. Should the EPA force us to pay for secondary treatment, while also making repairs to our sewage collection system, I shudder to think of the financial burden we’ll have to shoulder for decades to come.
In three short years, I believe we’ve made significant progress on another huge problem I inherited when I came into office: the disposal of solid waste. We’ve beefed up our recycling efforts and taken other big steps to divert solid waste from the landfill—not to mention toughening our oversight of the landfill.
Curbside, bulky-item pickup goes islandwide
Curbside greenwaste pickup in Windward Oahu, Mililani,
Recycling bins: 72 now, 26 coming
Recycling Fair yearly at NBC
5,000 students a year
No-call bulky-item pickup has gone island-wide. We introduced curbside green waste pickup in several communities, with plans to go island-wide. We’ve got those big white recycling bins at 72 locations, and the annual Recycling Fair has been a huge hit.
Launched pilot recycling project
Third neighborhood: Fall 2008
Fourth neighborhood: Early 2009
Expanding to City parks and golf courses
We’ve introduced curbside recycling projects in two neighborhoods, with plans to bring them to two more later this year and early next.
Processes 600,000 tons of waste annually
Now saves 300,000 barrels of imported oil
Generates 45 MW; powers 45,000 homes
Add third boiler to H-Power
Process 300,000 more tons
Generate 22 MW; reduce oil by 300,000 barrels
The waste-to-energy capability recycles tons of waste material into electricity for 45,000 homes. While we await expansion of H-Power’s capacity with a third boiler, we’re moving on proposals to ship 100,000 tons of waste annually on an interim basis, with the capability to ship more incrementally. We’re also seeking out bidders to introduce a new technology to recycle food and green waste into nutrient-rich compost.
All of these diversion measures should greatly reduce the opala being disposed at the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill.
Like our sewers, our roads went through years of neglect. We’ve attacked this problem with an intensity equal to our work on the sewers. Since taking office, we’ve appropriated $124 million for road rehabilitation, and are expecting to commit another $77 million during fiscal year 2009 to fix our roads.
Here’s a report from the frontlines of the war on potholes.
Patched 176,000 potholes
Resurfaced 111 lane miles
Laid 51,000 tons of asphalt
We have telephone and online pothole hotlines for you to report these pukas. By month’s end, we’ll have activated a new pothole reporting feature, called the Pothole Patrol, on our Drive Akamai traffic website. It will tell you where our Pothole Patrol will be working and allow you to tell us where they can find the potholes in that location. And please use the Drive Akamai website regularly so you know where we’re working and can plan a better route. By the way, these examples tell why the Center for Digital Governments’ 2007 Digital Cities survey rated
We’ve spent millions of dollars to rehabilitate many of our major thoroughfares. Rehabilitation means we do an extensive reconstruction of the roadway, rather than just applying a layer of asphalt. Here are some of the roads we’ve completed recently:
Construction is progressing on these roads, or will begin soon:
Soon to begin
The City will be seeking bids on even more road work this year. Here are the projects:
Planned for 2008
Streets in Waipio, Manana,
Streets in Moanalua,
We also have several projects that are in the planning stage:
Makakilo second access: EA underway
Kamokila extension: begins 2008
Waipio Point access: begins 2008
Kapaa Quarry safety measures: summer 2008
Our parks and public facilities are very popular. Several key achievements are worthy of mention.
At the Honolulu Zoo, we’ve made tremendous progress in making it an appealing attraction for residents and visitors alike.
Keiki Zoo: completed
Rusti’s home: completed
Veterinary clinic: completed
Tiger exhibit: completed
Commissary/employee lounge: completed
Elephant habitat: design; bid in early 2009
New entrance: planning
The Keiki Zoo, Rusti’s home, and other projects are public-private partnerships of the City and Honolulu Zoo Society. We should all be very grateful to the society for its involvement. These partnerships, whether with the private sector or even between governments, have become a hallmark of my administration. We’ve used these collaborations for everything from the Sunset on the Beach and Rediscover Oahu events, to preserving
Another City facility is the
Arena air-conditioning: 2008 completion
Modular risers and floor seating: completed
20-year-old basketball court: 2008 completion
Concert Hall: waterproofing, repainting
We’re replacing the 40-year-old arena air-conditioning system and have replaced the ancient floor seats. We have a new stage and will soon get a new basketball court to take the place of the 20-year-old hardwood we’ve been using.
This is the kind of demonstrable commitment on the part of the City to improve our facilities that will lead to more productions like “The Lion King” wanting to come to
Let me talk about parks. Our parks should be safe for our children, our kupuna, our ohana, and our many visitors—but sometimes they’re not. Therefore, one of our proposed initiatives this year will be the formation of a parks patrol. Officers of the Honolulu Police Department would be devoted to patrolling beach areas, beefing up security, and taking other measures to ensure laws are enforced and public places are safe for all of us.
We are also planning to use the Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund, which voters approved in 2006, to give us more recreational areas and beach access, as well as preservation land. For starters, two candidates are
Whenever the subject turns to beaches and parks, talk about homelessness is sure to follow. We’re approaching the situation with what I believe is a balance between the need for public access and compassion. Yes, we’d like to clear our beaches of illegal campers, but if they have nowhere else to go, they’ll only move on to other public places.
We took a lot of criticism when we closed Ala Moana and Maili beach parks for major cleaning and repairs, then instituted night closures thereafter. However, as everyone has come to realize, while it may not have been the politically popular thing to do, it was the right thing to do. Make no doubt about it, we are going to continue to take back our parks because that’s exactly what the people of Oahu have come to expect of our departments of Parks and Recreation and Community Services and the Honolulu Police Department.
What a difference this policy has made at Ala Moana and along the
We recognize there’s no single solution for homelessness.
During the past three years, we’ve used all available resources at our disposal to help the unfortunate. WorkHawaii offers job-seeking counseling for the hard-core unemployed, while Oahu WorkLinks matches companies with prospective employees. WorkLinks has helped 24,000 residents find jobs and worked with 1,200 companies to post openings.
During that same span, we’ve provided $16 million in grants to local service providers who help individuals and families experiencing homelessness.
Although voters ended the City’s foray into housing development, we continue to support affordable housing initiatives, particularly because of its relationship to homelessness. For those who struggle to keep a roof over their heads in a tight housing market, we administer a number of federal and state housing programs that help home-buyers and renters in untold ways.
Here are just a few examples:
Section 8 vouchers: $97 million in rental assistance to 4,000 families
Down payment loans: 133 low-income families became first-time homebuyers
Section 8 rental vouchers: 35 families have become homeowners
Home rehab: 125 loans ($5.7 million) for lower-income homeowners who want to rehabilitate their aging homes
Hawaiian Electric partnership: 31 loans for solar water heating for low-income homeowners
We’re also using federal money to help private developers build affordable housing. Take a look at these figures:
Partnerships with developers using CDBG and HOME grants
252 units completed
344 under construction
324 in planning stage
920 units in total
Plus units constructed by private developers through unilateral agreements
That’s not all. One of the recommendations of the Chinatown Summit was doing something about homelessness. We’re following through on this need-to-have recommendation of merchants and residents by proposing an innovative new project that will provide safe, affordable housing to persons transitioning from homelessness. Our proposed River Street Residences will provide a minimum of 60 affordable rental units for individuals, couples, and small families. It will include rental units specifically for persons who have a disability or special needs. We expect to partner with a non-profit agency by offering the site and, with the Council’s approval, $2 million from the Affordable Housing Fund to own, develop, and operate the project. The concept of the River Street Residences arose from the recognition that one of the root causes of homelessness is the lack of permanent affordable housing. This will be the first new permanent supportive housing project designed and constructed from the ground up by the City.
At Kulana Nani, one of the City’s 12 affordable housing projects, we’ve struck a deal with Kamehameha Schools to purchase the land under that development in
Our newly hired housing coordinator is directing the efforts of the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, consisting of non-profit and for-profit housing developers, Realtors, landowners, and City, state, and federal government representatives. The group is developing, for the first time, a comprehensive, City-wide, affordable housing strategy and will submit its recommendations this summer.
Traffic and Transportation
I’ve said time and time again that traffic congestion is the most significant challenge to our quality of life. The federally mandated alternatives analysis process identified four possibilities for
That’s why the City Council, in its judgment, voted 7-2 in favor of a fixed guideway. That’s why the Legislature and governor, to their credit, supported a local funding mechanism for this project. And that’s why our hard-working Congressional delegation—Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka and Congressman Neil Abercrombie and Congresswoman Mazie Hirono—have made federal funding for rail one of their top priorities. The bottom line is the people of
In three short years, we’ve made amazing progress. Here are the milestones, which show a remarkable journey:
January 2005: Governor raises transit issue
May 2005: Legislature approves tax surcharge
July 2005: Bill becomes law
2005-2006: Alternatives Analysis underway
December 2006: Council approves fixed-guideway
February 2007: Council selects first segment
April 2007: EIS process begins
January 2008: Congress approves $15.1 million in New Starts funding
January 2008: Council approves technology selection panel
February 2008: Technology panel meets, makes recommendation
By next year, we’ll be submitting the EIS, awaiting federal approval, and breaking ground.
Spring 2009: EIS submittal
Fall 2009: Record of decision
Late 2009: Groundbreaking for first phase of MOS
As we’ve seen in other municipalities with fixed guideways, the transit system has stimulated what’s called “transit-oriented development,” TOD for short. In conjunction with the development of our fixed guideway, we’ve been laying the groundwork for the transformation of communities surrounding the stations, beginning with
TOD has got to be one of the most exciting concepts we’ve ever seen because it offers the potential to transform our island. We could soon see the development of neighborhoods with affordable housing, commercial and retail space, parks, bike paths, and pedestrian walkways, with easy access to multimodal public transportation. We could live, work, and play in the same community. And think about this: In addition to saving time on our commutes for everything from work to buying groceries, having those conveniences at your doorstep could enable you to forego that second car. A family that can get by with a single car could save $7,000 a year or more. That’s a big chunk of change.
In our TOD planning, we’re looking for ways to beautify
You can’t be for transit-oriented development unless you’re for the fixed guideway. They won’t happen independently; they go hand-in-hand. If you like the potential of TOD to revitalize communities, you’ve got to support the fixed guideway.
The fixed guideway is just one part of a multi-modal transportation system, and we continue to push forward on several other fronts in the meantime.
TheBoat, for one, reached the 20,000-passenger mark in its five months of operation.
Began September 2007
20,000 passengers by January 2008
TheBus carried 67.5 million passengers in 2007 and we opened two transit centers, with two more in the works.
67.5 million passengers in 2007
Middle Street Handi-Van HQ: May 2008
We’ve begun an update of our bike master plan.
Master plan update underway
Final report completed: early 2009
$150,000 grant to Hawaii Bicycling League
And we’re making walking safer by adopting new crosswalk lighting systems in town.
Mid-block crosswalks with flashing lights:
N. King at Kapalama Post Office
S. King at McCully Times
We’re also deep into planning for the
The City has a direct impact on our economy through public safety, infrastructure, parks, and transit. As reported, our fixed guideway will create an estimated 9,100 direct and indirect jobs, in addition to the opportunities of TOD.
The incredible revitalization that has transformed
|Monday, March 03, 2008|