Caldwell talks property tax changes in 'Ask The Mayor'

Ask The Mayor (July 8, 2013)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In an appearance on Hawaii News Now Sunrise on Monday, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said that raising property taxes for certain homeowners may be considered as a possible alternative to help offset increases in operating costs for the City and County of Honolulu.

The proposal came after Caldwell was asked by a Hawaii News Now viewer whether the city would need to raise taxes to help fund the recent pay raises for the Honolulu Police Department

"I'm looking to maybe create a two-tiered tax system where we tax those who own second and third homes here in Honolulu, in places like Kahala, or other high end real estate, or own homes over a million or two million dollars, at a higher rate," said Mayor Caldwell.

Caldwell said that the increase in costs for certain services, like the up to $165 million dollars over four years needed for the H.P.D. pay raises, "never get less expensive," and that controlling expenses needs to continue to be a priority for city officials.

"We're going to have to look for ways to cut costs and look to enhance revenue, whether that's raising real property taxes or other types of fees," said Mayor Caldwell. "There's no other way. There is some give and take here, but as the price of government goes up, we have to meet the demands and expenses."

(Editors Note: After his appearance on Hawaii News Now Sunrise, Mayor Caldwell stuck around to answer more of the viewer questions that were posted to our Facebook page. His answers can be found below, with each question posted directly from Facebook. Mayor Caldwell will return to Sunrise each month for another "Ask The Mayor" segment to answer your questions from Facebook.)

Keoni Ronald:
"May The Mainland Homeless, scare away Tourists!!! Send the Mainland Homeless, back to their original homes!!!"

Mayor Caldwell:
"Urban legend has it that many homeless are given one way tickets to Hawaii. Homeless providers say that isn't true. However, there are some homeless who do want to return to their families on the mainland, and we are working with the visitor industry to develop a program where homeless people who do want to return to the mainland can be provided a one way ticket, along with a place to take a shower and find some clean clothes, so that they can return home clean."

Kimberly Anthony-Maeda:
What is the plan for beach bathrooms island wide? Would be nice if our bathrooms were nice for both tourists and locals. Also, if you do plan to remodel, how can we make sure the homeless won't mess them up?

Mayor Caldwell:
"We need to do a much better job maintaining our restrooms and comfort stations around the island. There is currently $18 million in the city budget to use for exactly that purpose, as well as to better maintain our parks in general. Part of the problem comes from people, both tourists and residents, who trash our bathrooms and fail to take care of them the same way they would take care of their own at home. People who use the facilities need to be just as committed to keeping them clean as we are to renovating and improving them with City and County funds."

Scott Grilho:
Just like all other high positions in the government, your pay is sky high. Why won't you guys take a significant pay cut permanently? Also....why do the taxes keep going up and never go down in good times or when projects are complete? I know that specific taxes are appropriated for specific projects, but once the project is complete the tax does not go away.

Mayor Caldwell:
"As you know, County workers took a 5 percent pay cut from 2009 through June 30th of this year. My cabinet also took that same 5 percent pay cut. Now that we are finally crawling out of the recession, those 5 percent cuts have returned to 2009 levels. You're correct that when taxes are increased to pay for a project or service, when that project or service is completed, then that tax should rolled back. I would have been open to that for the fuel tax I proposed, once the 1,500 road miles that had needed to be repaved had been completed. Unfortunately, that bill did not receive any discussion along those lines, but I would've supported it."

Brian Donnelly:
I know we are focusing our attention on education rather than enforcement of the new anti-smoking law, but today I jogged pass a HPD officer smoking behind the Waikiki Police Department, and a homeless man smoking at Ala Moana Beach Park. What is the purpose of signing a law if it isn't going to protect non-smokers?

Mayor Caldwell:
"Currently, while a ban on smoking at certain beaches has become law, enforcement has not yet begun because of technical problems with the law. I have introduced an amendment that is currently before the City Council to correct the problem, so that we can now enforce the law. At that time, if you notice anyone violating the law, including a police officer, then you should call 911 and report the infraction and where it is happening."

"You're right, though that education is a big part in making sure people are compliant with the law. I do believe that most of us are law abiding and follow laws once they are passed, whether they be about speeding or drinking in parks, or now about smoking in parks."

Brian Carr:
Seven days into the month and in the Kaplolei area there are piles of trash on the sidewalks for bulk pick up. I get that you cannot pick it up all on the same day, maybe plan for that and have staggered days for different parts of the city and county.

Mayor Caldwell:
"Our bulky item pickup really has to be improved. In fact, later this month I will be riding on one of the trucks doing bulky item pick-ups so I can better understand where the problems lie. I do know that we are short staffed in terms of the crew that does bulky item pick up, and I've asked the Department of Environmental Services to expedite the hiring of additional staff so that we can pick up the bulky item materials on time and on the days scheduled. Until then, I ask for everyone's patience."

Wendell Tom:
How come pali hwy isn't completed? Band-aid job )=

Mayor Caldwell:
"The Pali Highway is a state road, not a city and county road. The city and county has 3,500 lane miles of usually secondary streets on the island, while the state has about 1,500 lane miles. The City and County is working hard to repave all the substandard lane miles on the island, which equates to about 1,500 lane miles across Oahu. I understand the state is ramping up its repaving as well, and I've been told that the Pali Highway is going to be receiving a major resurfacing next year."

Liane Matsushima:
Being that you (Mr. Caldwell) are a fisherman, why is it that your fellow fishermen are being "put out" by "curfew" on the beaches, but the homeless are given "passes"? Local people, along with their families are being kicked out of the beaches that they as young kids grew up fishing at and try to pass on the tradition. Don't you see a problem with that? But the homeless get to roam free along the beaches (doing drugs, trashing the bathrooms and just making a mess).

Mayor Caldwell:
"Our public beach parks are closed at 10 p.m. in order to deal with the homeless problem. Prior to these closures, homeless people took over large parts of our beach parks, especially along the Waianae/Leeward Coast area. We've worked hard to clean up these beach parks, and we found that closing the beach parks at night helps us achieve that goal. A bill was recently passed into law that allows fisherman to traverse our beach parks after 10 p.m. without violating the law. The fishermen cannot set up tents within the beach park boundaries, but can place fishing poles and other items below the high water mark. I've been working with the fishing community to allow fisherman to fish from our parks, but at the same time, prevent the homeless from returning to these parks after hours. I understand your frustration and am working hard to come up with a resolution."

Don Newcomb:
All questions will be followed up with a basic political bs answer.

Mayor Caldwell:
"I hope my answers are not what you call political 'B.S.' Let me know."

Desi L Kraft:
Several years ago, the MAYOR'S office along with the HPD put on a great dog and pony show "cracking down" on driver's failing to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalks. That and ticketing the j-walkers who are just as much at fault for causing pedestrian/auto accidents. I live and work in Waikiki and I take my life into my hands every day I walk to work. Cars "nose" their way thru crosswalks all the time. Even after the crossing sign comes on there are many cars that take that last second rush thru the intersection. Particularly bad at traffic lights on Kalakaua and Kuhio. Always some driver runs the red knowing no one will do anything about it. We have a police station across from the Hyatt and THAT is one of the most dangerous place to cross. One of the favorite places to speed or run lights is in front of that mini-station because everyone knows nothing will happen..all the cops are inside on break. When the HPD graduates a new class of officers, instead of just letting the rookies walk around Waikiki talking to the "working girls" have them contribute the the public safety by assigning various intersections in Waikiki and ticketing the yellow/red light runners. It would be a better use of their time. Mahalo Mr Mayor.

Mayor Caldwell:
"I appreciate your pointing out this problem to me. I will be meeting with the Chief of Police on Tuesday and will bring it to his attention, and suggest that the new recruits patrol Waikiki and enforce the traffic crossing laws better than they have been. I'm particularly concerned about speed on Kalakaua Ave., since traffic is slow moving in most areas, this could result in a fatality. I will ask the police chief to look into this as well."

John Tadeo Domingo:
Mayor Caldwell : What is the most concern you get from the citizens of Honolulu?

Mayor Caldwell:
"The biggest concerns involve our decaying infrastructure, from our roads to our sewers to our water mains, and that's why I've put my administrations focus on these infrastructure issues."

Danny Baldwin:
Why isn't any consideration given to the westside...we have one way in and one way cant say its to expensive considering the amount of money projected to be spent on rail.....and why isnt a road being built to go all the way from Makaha to the North shore??

Mayor Caldwell:
"Something needs to be done about access to the west side, and a second access road needs to be planned. I'm committed to working with the state to do exactly that. I have begun working on at least relocating Farrington Highway near Makaha to a more mauka location to prevent further beach erosion, and to make it safer for residents who use that beach to go to the bathroom, which is already on the mauka side of the freeway. That is just one small step to the bigger problem of trying to deal with Farrington Highway, which is a state highway, and working with the City land mauka of the highway, to begin to solve this problem. "

Priscilla Ingano:
Why are you taking away the homeless belongings??? That's all they have to live for n where are they going to sleep when there's not enough shelters for them??? U think it's easy for them, u try living like that n have things(life)taken away from u!!! Buddha i thought u came from waipahu....u should know about living was luse there when u were young....or u just FORGOT!!!!

Mayor Caldwell:
"We are giving significant notice and time for those homeless to move their belongings from our public sidewalks, which are built for walking on, not for camping on. Should they elect not to take their belongings with them off the sidewalk, Bill 7 allows us to remove those belongings and store them for 30 days, with notice being given to the homeless on where to recover them. I want to be compassionate, but at the same time, I know that the taxpayers of this city have paid to have the sidewalks built and maintained for everyone, not just a select few. We are working on a Housing First initiative that would help homeless find housing prior to receiving treatment for addictions or mental illness, and I believe that that is very compassionate."

Shiyana Thenabadu:
Mr. Mayor, the proposed rail cars have seating for 96 people while 222 people are expected to stand. Shouldn't there be seating for the vast majority of passengers if you really want people to use rail instead of a car? Also, could you please tell us how much parking will be available at the main stations so people can park and ride?

Mayor Caldwell:
"We have increased the number of seats on the rail cars because of concerns such as yours. I believe the increased seating capacity should be sufficient to address your concerns. Regarding parking, we will be building 4,600 parking stalls by various rail stations. This will not be enough, and we'll be working with the private section through transit oriented development initiatives to insure that more parking is built around the rail stations."

Al Mishima:
Come on Mayor Caldwell. Do you think we're stupid? SHOPO endorsed you and now it's time for PAYBACK! Don't pretend like you were totally taken off guard and stunned by the 17% pay raise!

Mayor Caldwell:
"I was surprised by the size of the percentage increase. I anticipated it to be more along the lines of the 4% increase I saw with UPW and HGEA. The collective bargaining negotiations were completed before I became mayor, but you are correct that I did receive the SHOPO endorsement and I believe the police do an excellent job of keeping us the safest big city in America."

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