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Mayor's State of the City Address 2-24-11

Mayor's State of the City Address 2-24-11

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Prepared remarks of Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle's 2011 State of the City speech.
Prepared remarks of Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle's 2011 State of the City speech.

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Published by: Star-Advertiser Politics on Feb 24, 2011
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State of the City Address
Mayor Peter B. CarlisleHonolulu, Hawai`iFebruary 24, 2011Good morning and aloha.  I am grateful to many of Hawai`i’s most distinguished leadersfor being here this morning, including Senator Daniel Inouye, president pro tempore of theUnited States Senate, Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz, Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald,distinguished members of our state legislature, City Council chair Nestor Garcia and the CityCouncil, and Mau‘i Mayor Alan Arakawa.  I am also grateful for the attendance of fellowemployees of the city and county of Honolulu, members of the Royal Order of Kamehameha,many friends and honored guests.Since the election for mayor concluded in September of last year a vast number of peoplehave spoken to me.  Some formally and some informally.  Some who were friends and some whowere strangers.  Some spoke to me at Honolulu Hale and some out on the streets.  From theresults of the election and from what people were telling me a number of conclusions wereapparent.  Many were not satisfied with – and did not trust – the leadership of government ingeneral - and in Honolulu Hale specifically.  They were tired of the gridlock caused by endlessantics of partisan politics.  They were tired of politicians who were more concerned with gettingre-elected – or moving to higher office – rather than doing the job they had been elected to do.They were tired of being given empty promises prior to the election, and after the election havingelected officials laying the blame elsewhere and making excuses.But most of all, people wanted to be told the truth and the whole truth even if it was hardto hear.  It was their feeling that government should change, and their fervent hope thatgovernment could change, and would change.  The word change can simply mean, “somethingbecomes different.”  Like a car tire that runs over a large pothole, and becomes flat.  But changecan also mean “something is transformed.”  Transformation is an evolutionary process.  Like acaterpillar becomes a butterfly.  “Transformation” is a concept that will be discussed severaltimes today as we review the challenges facing our city.There are many challenges facing city government - and a relatively short 2-year windowin which to overcome them.  As I settle into this job, and come to understand the issues andexpectations of the city and county – several jump right out and demand attention.  First, therehas been a dramatic increase in borrowing by the city and county of Honolulu.  This is like our credit card debt.  The higher the amount – and the higher the interest rate – the more we pay out,and the less money we have left over to meet ongoing city responsibilities.  Second, there hasbeen an increasing demand on our infrastructure, and an abysmal record of repairing andmaintaining them.  These are things such as roads, sidewalks and our sewer and water systems.Our increasing population has made more demands on these systems, we have failed to take careof them, and now we are paying the price.  Third, there has been increasing pressure for citygovernment to stimulate and revitalize the economy, including job creation, but because of thefirst two problems, there is less money to do this with.  A return to economic health on O`ahu1
has been slow to occur.  Flat became the new growth.  Not going backwards was judged asuccessIn discussing the state of the city and how to approach the future, there are four strategicareas where we will focus our efforts:
More Professional Management, Less Politics
The style of leadership at Honolulu Hale today has shifted from one that was shaped bypolitical expediency to one that emphasizes professional management.  We believe that lesspolitics and more professional management includes utilizing and not tossing out theknowledgeable and experienced human resources who share our vision, openness andtransparency in government, and cooperating with, and not competing against, other branches of government to improve the lives of our citizensThis administration did not come into Honolulu Hale and sweep out the talented andexperienced directors running the city departments.  There was pressure to do so and we havebeen criticized for not doing so.  The term “cleaning house” might be acceptable politically or even expected, but it is not necessarily the best way to run a government or a business in theprivate sector.  We wanted experienced and professional city leadership, so we prevailed uponthose talented and knowledgeable individuals who shared our philosophy of change to remain onthe city team.  Among them – and I’m not going to name everyone – were InformationTechnology Director Gordon Bruce, Human Resources Director Noel Ono, EnvironmentalServices Director Tim Steinberger, Planning and Permitting Director David Tanoue, andTransportation Services Director Wayne Yoshioka.  In addition, several new directors havejoined us from outside city government, including Sam Moku, director of Community Services,Westley Chun, director of Facility Maintenance, and Clarke Bright, director of the RoyalHawaiian Band.We also promoted several experienced public servants to become department directors or deputies, including Budget and Fiscal Services Director Mike Hansen with 20 years of experience in his department, Parks and Recreation Director Gary Cabato with 20 years in hisdepartment, Design and Construction Director Collins Lam, 15 years experience, 2 of those inhis department, Design and Construction Deputy Lori Kahikina-Moniz with 17 years of experience, 6 of those with the city, and Emergency Services Deputy Mark Rigg with 27 years inhis department.  Retaining good people and promoting the best from within the ranks ensurescontinuity of operations within the city, increases employee morale, improves city services, andin my view, is the right thing to do.We also want to promote transparency and public trust in this administration.  Opennessin government operations and decision-making goes hand in hand with more professionalism andless politics.  For the first time the financial disclosures of all city cabinet members that arerequired by the ethics commission will be placed online.  We have also redesigned the citywebsite to be more user-friendly and to provide you with more information.  We welcome allsuggestions to improve the site even more.2
Just as when we were at the prosecutor’s office, we have an open-door policy with themedia and we are streamlining and expediting requests for city documents and records.  Wesubscribe to the principle that that information should be shared as much as possible and weintend to share it.  If we are asking you to help shoulder the recovery of city government, thenyou should understand and appreciate what the city is facing, why it is in the shape it is in, andhow we intend to fix it.Along with professionalism and transparency, we are striving for cooperation with allother branches of government.  Working together is the need of the hour.  In the past fewmonths, Honolulu Hale has been transformed by new faces, not just in the executive branch, butby five newly elected council members.  Joining with the experience and strong institutionalknowledge of council chair Nestor Garcia and council members Ikaika Anderson, Romy Cacholaand Ann Kobayashi, it has been a pleasure to welcome council members Tom Berg, StanleyChang, Breene Harimoto, Ernie Martin and Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo to the legislative team.  Whathas been most encouraging so far is the professional approach and tone to managing the city – the feeling of “let’s work together to get things done.”  The Mayor’s Office and the City Councilseats are all non-partisan positions.  And while the council members have been elected toadvocate for their district constituents, in the end both the council and the mayor answer to allcitizens of the City and County of Honolulu.  Therefore, we have no excuse not to set aside our own agendas and work together in the pursuit of savings, synergy and serving all of the public.The need for cooperation holds true as well for the relationship between the city and thestate governments.  The taxpayers on the island of O`ahu are the same people, and the city andstate need to work with each other and not against each other to collectively make their livesbetter.  I believe we are off to a great start in this direction.  All of us learned that importantlesson this past Tuesday when hundreds of leaders, both private and public, former administrations and current, stood together in East Kapolei to break ground on the Honolulurapid transit rail project.  Getting big tasks done clearly requires a united effort.The city will do its part to balance the interests of the City and County of Honolulu withthe need to work with the interests of U.S. Senators Inouye and Akaka, and CongresswomenHirono and Hanabusa, Governor Abercrombie, Lieutenant Governor Schatz, State SenatePresident Shan Tsutsui and House Speaker Calvin Say and their legislative colleagues during thedifficult challenges ahead.  If one part of the community suffers, we all suffer.  Similarly, if eachpart helps, the community benefits.A great example happening right now where agencies are putting aside political agendasto cooperate on a common problem comes in the area of addressing homelessness and affordablehousing.  This is a big problem that has faced O`ahu for a very long time.  Prior administrationshave struggled to come up with viable solutions to this complex, difficult, and long-standingproblem.  I acknowledge Governor Abercrombie for his leadership in this area and for hisappointment of Father Marc Alexander to specifically address the serious problem of homelessness in the state.  In addition, the hard work of the legislators across the street to comeup with public-private housing solutions has not gone unnoticed by us.  There will be 2.5 milliondollars in our executive budget from the city’s affordable housing fund to create an affordablehousing partnership with the state.  A new office of housing in the city, scheduled to start in July,3

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