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State-of-the-City Address

February 21, 2008

Hawaii Theatre

 

 

[Opening song: “My Hawaii”]

 

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 Roosevelt High School and a student at the University of Hawaii.  Please join me in a round of applause for Michael and the members of this quartet:  Chara, Asia, and James.

 

[Introduction of Honolulu City Council]

 

We’re at the Hawaii Theatre for several reasons.  This theater sits at the epicenter of old and new Honolulu.  We’re surrounded by the symbols of the city’s history: the Honolulu waterfront … ChinatownBishop Street.  This place brings back wonderful memories for me, as it must for you, of Saturday movie matinees with Elvis and the Beatles.  Since its magnificent restoration, we’ve enjoyed outstanding entertainment originating in places our ancestors once called home, and by local artists who’ve showcased their talents on these boards.

 

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 Honolulu Harbor was seeking a better life.  Every generation has struggled and sacrificed to give their children opportunities they had been denied.  I know my parents, Gustav and Faiaso, encountered many challenges in raising seven kids, and I know you have similar stories to tell.

 

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.

 

Priorities

 

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 Honolulu, our home—better than we found it.

 

In my brief time with you, I can’t adequately describe everything the City does for the people of Oahu every hour, every day of the year.  I can’t convey the outstanding work my cabinet and City employees do, in the most difficult of circumstances, without fanfare or acknowledgment.  Words can’t express the confidence I feel in standing shoulder-to-shoulder with them as members of the City team, or the pride I feel as the mayor of the place of my birth.

 

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.

 

Finances

 

Let’s begin with how we’re paying close attention to our financial bottom-line.

 

Finances

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.

 

Property taxes

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.

 

Public Safety

 

Let’s move on to public safety.

 

Police

214 police cars into service or budgeted since 2006

58 more cars in 2009 budget

42 motorcycles, including 30 awaiting purchase

New helicopter

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

Wahiawa: construction underway

Waipio: began 2008; 16 hours daily

New communications center: 2007

New quarters on Young Street

 

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

Aiea

Hawaii Kai

Kakaako

Kalihi Kai

Kaneohe

Makakilo

Makiki

Manoa

Mililani

Moanalua

Nanakuli

Nuuanu

Palolo

Pearl City

Sunset Beach

Waialua

Waianae

Waiau

Wailupe

Waimanalo

Waterfront

 

Ongoing

Kapolei renovation

McCully reconstruction

 

Scheduled for 2008

Aikahi

Kahaluu

Kahuku

Kailua

Kaimuki

Kalihi

Kalihi Kai

Kalihi Uka

Kaneohe

Kapolei

Kuakini

Makakilo

Mililani

Mokulele

Nanakuli

Olomana

Palolo

Pearl City

Sunset Beach

Waialua

Waianae

Waikiki

Wailupe

Waimanalo

 

We’re aggressively upgrading our fire engine fleet by replacing our old vehicles with advanced new ones.

 

Fire engines

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

 

Emergency Management

 

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.

 

Ocean Safety

 

Our lifeguards watch over an astounding 15 million beach-goers a year, and perform more than 1,500 rescues annually.

 

Ocean safety

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.

 

Communications

 

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:

 

Towers

Koko Head: done

Kahuku: done

Puu Manawahua: underway

Aikahi: begins 2008

Aliamanu: begins 2008

 

And these are repairs we’ve scheduled:

 

Scheduled repairs

Fasi Municipal Building

Waimanalo

Sand Island

Kaaawa

Mokuleia

Round Top

Puu Papaa

 

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.

 

Sewers

 

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:

 

Sewers

Kalaheo Avenue: done

Niu Valley force main: done

Beachwalk emergency bypass: done

Saint Louis Heights: 2008 completion

Kapiolani Boulevard: 2008 completion

 

Construction is or soon will be underway at these sites:

 

Underway in 2008

Kalaheo/Mokapu

Wanaao Road/Keolu Drive

Renton Road

Halona Street

Kaneohe Bay Drive

Houghtailing Street

Waimalu

Kalihi Valley, Kalihi, Nuuanu

Wilhelmina Rise

Kuliouou

Waimanalo

Fort DeRussy

 

Expansion and improvements at our waste water treatment plants seems to be never-ending.  We have projects at Sand Island, Honouliuli, Kailua, and Wahiawa.

 

Sand Island Waste Water Treatment Plant

Improvements: continuing

Expansion: first phase begun

Synagro plant: operating

Ultraviolet disinfection plant: operating

 

Honouliuli Waste Water Treatment Plant

Solids handling: underway

 

Kailua Regional Waste Water Treatment Plant

Odor control improvements: continuing

 

Wahiawa Wastewater Treatment Plant

Recycled water reuse

 

These projects are in the planning phase:

 

Planned

Ala Moana

Kapiolani

Waikiki

Foster Village

Beachwalk force main

Lualualei force main

Aliamanu pumping station

Wahiawa treatment plant

 

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 Washington Middle School, for a public hearing on our waiver, this time for Sand Island.

 

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.

 

Solid Waste

 

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.

 

Recycling

Curbside, bulky-item pickup goes islandwide

Curbside greenwaste pickup in Windward Oahu, Mililani, Wahiawa, Hawaii Kai

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.

 

Curbside recycling

Launched pilot recycling project

   Hawaii Kai: 8,000 homes

   Mililani: 12,000

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.

 

Waste-to-energy

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.

 

Roads

 

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.

 

First Aid

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 Honolulu eighth in the nation in the category of “American cities that excel in the digital arena.”

 

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:

 

Rehabilitation  completed

South King Street (McCully-Moiliili)

Hind Drive

Ala Wai Boulevard (Kapahulu to Kanekapolei)

Hamakua Drive (Kailua to Keolu)

Kalaheo Avenue (Kailua to Mokapu)

 

Construction is progressing on these roads, or will begin soon:

 

Underway

Beretania Street (Alapai to N. King)

Keeaumoku Street

University Avenue

South Street

Alewa Drive

Manoa, Waipio, Pearl City streets

 

Soon to begin

North King Street: following sewer project

Wanaao Road/Keolu Drive: following sewer project

Kailua and Kuulei roads: following sewer project

Kilauea Avenue

Kaamilo Street (Neki to Aiea Heights) and surrounding streets

Lusitana Street (School to Pauoa)

 

The City will be seeking bids on even more road work this year.  Here are the projects:

 

Planned for 2008

California Avenue

University streets

Streets in Waipio, Manana, Pearl City

Streets in Moanalua, Upper Kalihi Valley, Nuuanu

 

We also have several projects that are in the planning stage:

 

Planned

Waianae Coast emergency access: two segments to be completed in 2008

Makakilo second access:  EA underway

Kamokila extension: begins 2008

Waipio Point access: begins 2008

Kapaa Quarry safety measures: summer 2008

 

Public Facilities

 

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.

 

Honolulu Zoo

Keiki Zoo: completed

Rusti’s home: completed

Veterinary clinic: completed

Tiger exhibit: completed

Commissary/employee lounge: completed

Classroom: begun

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 Waimea Valley and Pupukea-Paumalu where we led the charge that sealed those deals, to our economic revitalization efforts for Chinatown and Kalihi.

 

Another City facility is the Blaisdell Center, which had been allowed to go to pot.

 

NBC and Waikiki Shell

Arena air-conditioning: 2008 completion

Modular risers and floor seating: completed

Stage: completed

20-year-old basketball court: 2008 completion

Concert Hall: waterproofing, repainting

Waikiki Shell: replacing chairs

 

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 Honolulu because of the quality of our facilities.

 

Parks

 

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 Puuiki Beach in Waialua and Honouliuli Preserve.  For the latter, we hope to repeat the success we enjoyed with Waimea Valley and Pupukea in joining as a partner with the Trust for Public Lands.

 

Homelessness

 

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 Leeward Coast.

 

Housing

 

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:

 

Housing

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:

 

Affordable housing

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 Kaneohe, and will be presenting this deal to the Council for review.  This will make Kulana Nani attractive to private or non-profit housing firms to invest in much-needed repairs while keeping housing affordable, which has been our vow throughout this process.

 

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 Oahu’s transportation needs.  Of the four, the fixed guideway presented the most effective means of relieving traffic congestion and accommodating the anticipated growth in West and Central Oahu.

 

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 Oahu are tired of studies and being stuck in traffic.  They want action and they want it now.

 

In three short years, we’ve made amazing progress.  Here are the milestones, which show a remarkable journey:

 

Milestones

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.

 

Future

Spring 2009:  EIS submittal

Fall 2009:  Record of decision

Late 2009:  Groundbreaking for first phase of MOS

 

Transit-Oriented Development

 

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 Waipahu.  We’ve submitted a bill to the Council to ensure that this community-based process is followed in all TODs.

 

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 Oahu.  TOD can help curb urban sprawl on the North Shore or Windward Oahu.  Inasmuch as the transit construction will require the relocation of utility lines, we’ll look for opportunities to have them buried.  Through our planning and zoning regulations, we’ll promote green buildings that make more use of renewable energy, that waste less and recycle more, that conserve our resources.

 

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.

 

TheBoat

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.

 

TheBus

67.5 million passengers in 2007

Mililani Transit Center opened

Waianae Transit Center opened

Wahiawa Transit Center: begins summer 2009

Alapai Transit Center: begins early 2009

Middle Street Handi-Van HQ: May 2008

 

We’ve begun an update of our bike master plan.

 

Bicycling

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.

 

Pedestrians

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 Joint Traffic Management Center, which will be located on Alapai Street and will be the headquarters for all traffic operations, dispatchers, first-responder and emergency management, and other City functions.  We expect to break ground in spring 2010.

 

Economic Development

 

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.  Honolulu enjoys a reputation as one of the safest big cities in America—and that’s great for tourism.  The sewage spill in Waikiki could have devastated our economy, but we were able to fix it and are now working to ensure that something of that magnitude does not happen again.  This is why I’ve maintained that in addition to ensuring public safety and maintaining our infrastructure, an important part of a mayor’s job is to promote economic growth.

 

The incredible revitalization that has transformed Waikiki would not have been possible without the City’s efforts.  One catalyst was when the City—back in 1996 when I was the Council’s Planning Committee chairman—shepherded the planning and land use changes and supported the tax incentives needed to encourage landowners and hoteliers to invest in Waikiki.  What was once a dark, congested place to be avoided is now Outrigger’s Beachwalk, a $469-million development that is the centerpiece of Waikiki’s transformation into a gathering place of shopping and dining for both visitors and residents.  A great wave of development projects has come to the fore, including the first renovation in 24 years of the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, and Trump Tower Waikiki, the first high-rise tower to be built in Waikiki in 25 years, which I was personally involved in helping to secure.

 

U.S. Conference of Mayors

 

On the national level, I’m active with the U.S. Conference of Mayors through my responsibilities as a member of the advisory board and as chairman of the Tourism, Arts, Parks, Entertainment and Sports Committee.  I have worked successfully with my counterparts from across the nation, in partnership with the travel industry, to advance travel and tourism policies to a national priority.

 

We have succeeded in making tourism and arts one of the top priorities of mayors across the nation.  It’s the ninth of the Mayors’ 10-Point Plan, “Strong Cities … Strong Families … for a Strong America.”  This plan calls for tourism to be made a national policy priority, instituting visa reforms and easing entry requirements, and establishing an aggressive marketing campaign to promote America overseas as a travel destination. This can only benefit Hawaii because of our dependence on foreign travel.

 

Sustainability and 21st Century Ahupua‘a

 

No state-of-the-City address would be complete without touching on our efforts to protect and preserve our environment.  We just completed our second year of developing and implementing the 21st Century Ahupua‘a … our vision for a sustainable and more self-sufficient Honolulu.

 

We’ve remained steadfast in our commitment to the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement that I signed in 2005, and that’s to continue to do our share to reduce the harm to the planet that, if unchecked, could do disproportionate harm to our island home.

 

Last year, my Energy and Sustainability Task Force developed the City’s first-ever comprehensive Sustainability Plan.  It engages every City department and sets specific near- and long-term goals for conserving energy and water, and moving our island away from dependency on imported fossil fuels and for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Our plan spells out achievable goals, many of which we are well on our way to reaching, to wit:

 

21st Century Ahupua‘a

Explore new technologies for solid waste recycling and alleviate need for landfills

Continue to expand curbside recycling

Recycle food and green waste for compost

Boost H-Power waste-to-energy capacity

 

21st Century Ahupua‘a

Use recycled water for irrigation, where available

Support biodiesel production

Promote locally produced agricultural products for fuel

Honolulu ranked number two in U.S. for use of alternative fuel

 

Fixed guideway and TOD

Focus on moving people efficiently

Transit and urban planning powerful tools for energy conservation,

   preservation of open space and agricultural lands

 

These are the keys to our ability to provide the quality of life we want for our children.

 

Because a bright future for Honolulu is dependent on finding solutions to these critical issues of sustainability and climate protection I have engaged young people whose future it will be.  I formed the 21st Century Ahupua‘a Youth Ambassadors for high school students, so that they can become educated in these issues and reach out to other youth and adults to share their perspectives.  It is only fair and pono that we start asking them what kind of city, what kind of world, they want us to leave them.

 

This year we are initiating a wider community outreach phase of our 21st Century Ahupua‘a with planning for a proposed Honolulu Sustainability Center in the heart of our city in Makiki.  We are working toward a partnership with the University of Hawaii to help create this valuable community educational resource.  Our concept is to have it serve as a location to demonstrate the benefits of new technologies such as rooftop photovoltaic, green roofs, recycling, and other sustainable systems that will help to reshape our urban core structures for the future.  This retooling of our urban environment, through deployment of new technology, is an unprecedented opportunity for the creation of new “green collar” job training and career paths for our people.  These new jobs involving the design, construction, and installation of new generation photovoltaic and other energy and conservation systems will multiply exponentially as our city’s momentum toward green solutions for its buildings and homes continues to accelerate.

 

We’ve come a long way in our first three years and have just been rated as fourteenth among Popular Science’s top 50 Greenest Cities in the U.S.  Nothing we do is more important than leaving our island home better than we found it and granting our future generations the opportunity to experience Hawaii the way it should be.  But, we still have a long way to go to reach the goals envisioned for our 21st Century Ahupua‘a.

 

Friends, that was a whirlwind tour of City government during the past three years and a look at what we’re proposing for the coming year. I wish I could tell you more about our successes, but I’ll have to leave that to another time.  Instead, I wanted to use this opportunity to convey a few thoughts on where I believe the City needs to go, on what I think we need to do to continue our progress.

 

Our Progress … Our Future

 

I crisscross this island to give speeches to civic groups, welcome conventioneers, present awards, or maybe just throw out the first pitch.  Many of these engagements are at schools around the island:  town or country … public or private … elementary, middle, high school, or college … classrooms, gyms, or auditoriums.  What I absolutely love about these engagements is the reaction I get from young people.  They have so much hope, so much joy, so much energy and zeal, it makes me happy to be known to them not as mayor, but as just plain Mufi.

 

I’ve invited young people to join us today because, as a teacher, coach, and as mayor, I love being with them.  But more than that, the City government has a direct connection to our young people.  Yes, we sponsor summer fun.  But we do so much more than that.

 

Besides summer fun, which is an island institution, we offer all sorts of activities year-round.  High school athletes use our gyms and ball fields.

 

Parks

Sports, fitness arts and crafts year-round

Summer fun: jobs for 360 college students

 

High school sports

ILH: basketball at NBC Arena

ILH and OIA: baseball and softball at City parks

 

We sponsor academic and art contests.

 

Board of Water Supply

Sponsors Hawaii Science and Engineering Fair water awards

Water conservation poster contest for elementary school children

Tours of water facilities for all grades

 

The Royal Hawaiian Band performs for and with students.

 

Royal Hawaiian Band

Performances for young people

Performances with young people

 

We promote bicycle and pedestrian safety.

 

Transportation Services

$150,000 for Hawaii Bicycling League’s BikeEd (6,000 fourth-graders)

“Walk Wise Hawaii” pedestrian safety (K-5)

“Be Safe, Be Seen” Halloween safety program

 

Our fire fighters work tirelessly to teach prevention and safety.

 

Honolulu Fire Department

150,000 Fire Fighter Safety Guides last year, mostly to students so they know about basic fire safety and survival skills

Keiki House tours to 30 schools a year to give children a real-world demonstration of fire safety skills

CPR classes for 800 students a year

 

We encourage a life-long interest in life-saving skills through our Junior Paramedics and Junior Lifeguards.

 

Junior Paramedics

Junior Paramedics: 35-40 teens taught life support skills, like First Aid and CPR

Classroom studies, outside activities, volunteer service

Juniors earn American Heart Association and First Aid certifications

 

Junior Lifeguards

450 teens a year

Rigorous program of swimming, ocean safety, first aid, CPR

 

We have many programs and services that help at-risk youth, under the umbrellas of the Department of Community Services, Honolulu Police Department, or Medical Examiner.

 

Department of Community Services

Youth Services Center: five prevention, intervention, treatment, and rehabilitation programs under one roof

Juvenile Justice Center named national “best practice” by the U.S. Conference of Mayors; helps first-time law violators prevent any further involvement with the juvenile justice system

Honolulu Academy Project, funded by Department of Justice, assists Hawaii National Guard Youth Challenge Academy

 

Workforce Investment Board

Employment training for young people

 

YouthBuild Honolulu

Educational and job training program for young people 16-24, has for many been the last chance to avoid jail, drug abuse, and unemployment

Refurbished parks facilities, like at Ala Moana

Refurbished 25 state public housing units

Last fiscal year, served 2,500 youth and young adults

Success prompted City to expand, at request of state and Family Court

 

Financial support

Hale Kipa and Central Oahu Youth Services Association for shelters for the homeless or emergency shelters for teens

Oahu Head Start/Honolulu Community Action Program for early education and care and child care for low- and moderate-income families at seven parks, in partnership with the Parks Department

 

Medical Examiner

Over past five years, reached 4,000 high school students and at-risk young people an eye-opening look at the consequences of their behavior

Presentation and morgue tour

 

Honolulu Police Department

Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) takes the drug and violence message to grades 5-8 at 170 schools, reaching 16,000 a year

DARE Day: exciting demonstration for 10,000 children

Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) teaches anti-gang and life skills to 8,000 seventh graders at 24 middle schools; graduation dance in May for 2,300

Partner with Department of Education on truancy and attendance

 

Honolulu Police Department

Counseling for 2,000 young people

Police Activities League sponsors sports for 12,000 young people

Law Enforcement Explorers in partnership with the Boy Scouts

Youth Citizens Police Academy for high schoolers

JPOs, police train and supervise 5,000 young people on traffic and pedestrian safety.

 

We also provide ample opportunities for volunteerism and community involvement through environmental cleanups and other public service.

 

Environmental Services

Adopt-a-stream, adopt-a-block, and other mountain-to-the-sea projects

7,000 young people volunteer their time for two years

 

Solid Waste Advisory Committee and

21st Century Ahupua‘a Youth Ambassadors

High school student membership

 

These are some of the many reasons Honolulu was recently once again honored as one of the 100 best communities for young people by the America’s Promise Alliance, an award Gail and I accepted on behalf of the City from Alma Powell, chair of the alliance and wife of General Colin Powell.

 

The City and County of Honolulu is committed to working hard to ensure that young people enjoy a quality of life second to none.  It would pain me to think that our young people could inherit what we did:  aging sewers … deteriorating roads … worsening traffic congestion … an infrastructure suffering from years of neglect … misplaced spending priorities.  That’s why we’re doing what we said we’d do, and will continue this course on your behalf.

 

But we need more of you to be a part of the solution.  We need our young people to step forward to accept the mantle of leadership, whether in your schools, your communities, or in the public arena.  Many of you have already done so through your participation in the activities I just described.  But there’s more to be done.

 

In his inaugural address nearly 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy called upon all citizens to join in a cause of national rejuvenation and revitalization, saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  His message inspired young people to work for the betterment of our nation and the world.  The 21st Century Ahupua‘a Youth Ambassadors are examples of young people who’ve embraced this opportunity.  As high schoolers, they have the unique opportunity to define the City’s sustainability priorities for decades to come.

 

The words of JFK, the first president I ever saw in person, have stayed with me all of these years.  Government can be the vehicle by which we accomplish good things, but true leadership and meaningful change can only begin within each of us, and radiate to our families, our communities, our state, our nation, the world.

 

We see this in the members of the City Council, who deserve kudos for their ideas, collaboration, and oversight.  We see this in the members of my cabinet and an absolutely outstanding City team, who work tirelessly to ensure that we fulfill our responsibilities and serve the people with ample measures of professionalism and dedication.  We see this in our community volunteers, who work selflessly with no reward other than the satisfaction of helping others.  It’s all about bringing people together. It’s not about who gets the credit, it’s about striving for results.  It’s not about being a Republican or a Democrat, it’s about having a good idea that leads to positive change.

 

It is my hope that the young people here today will take this message to heart and find ways you can make this a better place to live and work.

 

For the adults, if you truly love this city like I do, then you need to nurture your children, be responsible, encourage them to take an active part in the betterment of our community, and use your example of volunteerism as their inspiration.

 

Through my Pacific Century Fellows, I’ve sought to identify and encourage the next generation of island leaders.  We’ve drawn fellows from throughout the state, from all backgrounds and professions.  Now in our tenth year, we’ve seen them not only succeed and advance in their careers, but work together to contribute to our community and reach out to our youth to instill in them their values of community leadership and service.

 

Bob Oshiro, who passed recently, was dubbed the “Wizard of Wahiawa” because of his uncanny skill as a philosopher-general in galvanizing people and directing the victorious campaigns of a succession of island governors.  He was passionate in his belief that public service was a noble calling, and that those who chose this calling could contribute to the greater good.

 

I have often said that we need to dispel the notions that public service is not a noble profession and that it’s an occupation of last resort.  This year, we created another fellows program, called the Pookela Fellows, to give local college students an opportunity to be mentored in City government.  The 14 members of the class of 2008 are spending four months working in City agencies to gain experience and learn about City government, in the hopes that they’ll consider careers in public service.  We hope these fellows will be the leaders of tomorrow, bringing their ambition, their ideas, and their experience to the cause of public service.

 

Governor John A. Burns, just years after President Kennedy, offered a more sobering message, lamenting that Hawaii’s people suffered from a subtle inferiority of spirit, his inference being that we were not confident of our place in this world.

 

From Jack Burns, I learned to take pride in being from Hawaii and being confident in what I say and do.  People from Hawaii should never take a back seat to anyone else.  We have the ability within ourselves to compete and excel in everything we do, on any stage, in any place.  We can be somebody.  Nothing can stop us.

 

My young friends, from amongst us today could come not just another future senator, congressman, governor, or mayor, but a future President of the United States or a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

I know we can achieve.  I know we can succeed.  I know we can reach for the stars.  We owe ourselves nothing less.  There’s no stopping us now!

 

Mahalo.

 

Monday, March 03, 2008

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