Mayor tackles homelessness, infrastructure in annual State of the City
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Mayor Kirk Caldwell stuck to some familiar themes during his State of the City address Monday, pledging to address Oahu road conditions, reduce homelessness, and tackle rising costs of Oahu's rail project.
Caldwell also touted his achievements in bringing aging and failing infrastructure up to date, most notably repaving work across the island.
"We set the goal of repaying 1,500 lane-miles of substandard roads in five years. We said we could do about 300 lane miles a year, so it would take five years to do so ," Caldwell said. "But here's the good news, we repaved 1,000 miles already in just three years."
In the speech at Honolulu Hale's Mission Memorial Auditorium, Caldwell also said he would request $100 million for road repaving in the upcoming fiscal year.
He wants to repave Ward Avenue, Date Street, and 113 lane-miles of roads on the Leeward Coast in the next few months.
Caldwell also provided an update on the city's $6 billion rail project. Construction on the rail's guideway is now in Pearl City.
Caldwell announced he will support a charter amendment that transfers the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to the city, once the system becomes operational. In addition, he said the first driver-less rail cars will arrive on Oahu in March.
"My reputation is on the line with this project. I promised to build the rail better and I'm frustrated by the increasing cost of construction and I'm upset with the increasing cost of construction," Caldwell said.
In his address, Caldwell also focused on the state of Oahu's public plans.
He said the city's Parks Department has exceeded its expectations, refurbishing 27 bathroom, 16 playgrounds and building 10 new playgrounds.
The mayor asked for an additional $1.4 million in fiscal year 2017 for restrooms and playgrounds, as part of $21.6 million total for capital improvements in parks. Plus, he announced that the city hired 20 new groundskeepers and maintenance workers. He also requested funding for legacy parks, $1.9 million for Thomas Square, and $3 million for Ala Moana beach park.
Caldwell said the city has also made significant progress in addressing Hawaii's homeless issue. Some 173 chronic homeless individuals and 600 homeless veterans have been housed, said Caldwell, who is asking for $6.6 million to house another 173 individuals.
City Coucilman Ron Menor said he was happy to see the city doubling down on its efforts to house the homeless.
"Definitely the city needs to be more proactive in addressing homelessness," he said. "So as to whether the mayor has requested enough funds in the budget, that remains to be seen and the council will be reviewing his priorities much more closely in future."
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