Mayor Vows to Win Battle of the Potholes

(KHNL) - In his second State of the City address Friday, Mayor Mufi Hanemann introduced a no-frills budget which will support his war on potholes, curbside recycling, and mass transit plans.

He touted public-private partnerships as one hallmark of his administration. "We encouraged the three largest organizations in Chinatown to cooperate on sponsoring a single chinese New Year, saving themselves and the city considerable time and expense."

The mayor will ask the council next week for nearly one and a half billion dollars for his fiscal year 2007 budget, to reflect increase in services like transportation and traffic.

Hanemann's War on Potholes update includes, "We're filling potholes to the tune of nearly 47,000 in calendar year 2005."

Next week the city's curbside recycling of green waste begins. It hopes to reduce green waste in the landfill by 60,000 tons over two years.

While he said little about his vision for solid waste, he did say he set aside two million dollars in his budget proposal for a benefits package for the Leeward community to offset the nusiance of living near the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill.

Hanemann also addressed the hot topic of property taxes, saying, "Yesterday the council approved Bill 80, which gives a tax credit to owner occupants."

Hanemann promises to review Bill 80 right away, and continue to push for lower property taxes for homeowners. THe mayor also talked about mass transit. He's formed the Transit Solutions Advisory committee to encourage public and private involvement in the planning for a rail system, with an eye for groundbreaking as soon as 2009.

City council members have mixed reaction to the mayor's speech. Some hoped he'd say more about property tax. The three bills the council passed yesterday would double the homeowners' exemption, cap taxes at four percent, and stabilize tax bills by tying the tax rate to the changing assessments.

Councilman Charles Djou, who authored a curbside recycling bill, wanted to hear more about recycling and the landfill. "I was hoping he'd say definitively where he'd put a landfill. I was also disappointed, I was hoping he'd be more bold and definitive about recycling."

Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi is the budget chair. She wouldn't speculate on how the council will receive the mayor's budget proposal, but she did say this factors into her consideration.

"He touched on a lot of things. There'll be an increase in debt service. We have to be careful. Debt service is 20% of our budget. We have a debt of $3 billion which this mayor inherited. Yet we have all these repairs to do."