Rail takes center stage at mayor's swearing-in ceremony

Rail takes center stage at mayor's swearing-in ceremony
Updated: Jan. 3, 2017 at 8:08 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and five City Council members were sworn in Tuesday for their new terms. And they all said: Job no. 1 is securing funding for Honolulu's embattled rail project.

At his swearing-in ceremony at McCoy Pavilion, Caldwell focused solely rail, in what was likely a preview of his critical pitch to lawmakers this year as he seeks to extend the rail tax surcharge.

"The state is going to be asked to extend the surcharge. I know its unpopular but with visitor industry hitting an all-time high in terms of visitor arrivals, with the thriving of this industry and to say lets find another revenue source, where more of it is based on the residents of this island or this state, is not the proper way to go when we can get it from our visitors," the mayor said.

During his speech, the mayor didn't dig into any other big issues facing the city, such as homelessness or affordable housing.

That surprised some onlookers.

"I was expecting to hear more of the issues regarding homelessness which is another priority for the county," said former City Council Chairman Ernie Martin said. "I think the mayor focused on probably what's going to be the biggest issue coming up in the next few months -- rail."

Later in the day, the City Council swore in five members who all won re-election in the fall.

There was also a leadership change at the top with Martin -- the longest-serving council chairman -- stepping aside as Ron Menor took the top leadership spot.

"I'm hoping to have a more open and collaborative kind of approach with the mayor and his administration in tackling the difficult issues facing our island in the future." Menor said.

When asked whether Martin's leadership style was not effective, Menor said, "No, no, no, I think he had his own style. And in general, I thought Council Chair Martin did a really excellent job in trying to assist the council in dealing with the tough issues facing our island."

For his part, Martin said: "No hard feelings. That's politics. What people would say is the probably the dirty side of politics. But the blessing for me, personally, is that I still have two more years to serve."

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