After months of preparation, officials say the city is primed for its place in the Asia-Pacific spotlight
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 08, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 10:09 a.m. HST, Nov 08, 2011
State and city officials declared Honolulu ready for the biggest international event ever held in the islands but warned drivers that Monday's relatively light traffic might not continue for the rest of this week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
Barricades went up around the Hawai'i Convention Center and throughout Waikiki Monday afternoon, and Mayor Peter Carlisle warned people to be prepared for security checkpoints and congestion, especially around Waikiki.
"If people can avoid traffic," Carlisle said, "they should take the opportunity to avoid it."
City officials have created a special APEC link at honolulu.gov with various APEC-related information, but Carlisle said security restrictions will be unpredictable in Waikiki.
State and city officials have been making plans for this week for months, Carlisle said, "and now is the time where the rubber meets the road."
The heavy work of the APEC summit begins today with the APEC Business Advisory Council Conference, a gathering of private business representatives who will make recommendations on the business sector's priorities and concerns; the APEC Senior Finance Ministries Meeting of officials focused on APEC regional financial issues; and the APEC Concluding Senior Officials Meeting, which is comprised of officials who will guide meetings of APEC ministers and economic leaders.
Outside the convention center Monday, Todd and Dawn Stoner of Puyallup, Wash., who are on their seventh vacation to Hawaii, learned why workers were putting up barricades.
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The Stoners are in town with their 11-year-old son, Jake, and twins Brooke and Jordan, 16, and a dozen other members of their extended family.
On Monday they were planning almost daily trips to and from Waikiki to see the sights. But even after so many vacations here, Todd Stoner didn't know what kind of security delays to expect in the days ahead.
"We don't know what we don't know yet," he said, "but I'm anticipating hassles."
Fred and Julie Ikin of Sydney booked their sixth Hawaii vacation in January and would have timed their trip differently had they known they would have been on Oahu with 20,000 APEC visitors and foreign journalists.
"It seems like it's going to be a lot of restrictions, a lot of road closures,"•Fred Ikin said. "It seems like a big do -- that's what we call it in Australia."
Gov. Neil Abercrombie said he believes APEC will significantly alter Hawaii's image among the 20 other APEC countries sending their top leaders and delegations to Oahu.
"We're no longer a crossroads; we're now the anchor of the Asia-Pacific region," Abercrombie said. "We want Hawaii to now register in the Asia-Pacific region mind. That's what this opportunity is for, and that's what we're going to take advantage of."
State Rep. Gene Ward (R, Kalama Valley-Hawaii Kai) toured the convention center Monday and said Hawaii is ready for APEC.
"We've been waiting for decades to do this, and now we have the opportunity," Ward said. "This is the Hawaii we want to be, the epicenter of technology and a place to do serious business. This is our entree to the future."
State Sen. Glenn Wakai (D, Salt Lake-Foster Village) got on the road an hour earlier than normal from Salt Lake to get to the convention center by 9:30 a.m. Monday.
"I was expecting it to be bumper to bumper, but it was clear sailing," he said. "I think people are aware (of traffic issues) and will stay away."
State Rep. Tom Brower (D, Waikiki-Ala Moana) walked from his home in Waikiki to the convention center on Monday and said this week will serve as a test of Hawaii's ability to plan for all kinds of contingencies.
"We're going to learn how far we've come with our tourism economy," he said. "And we're going to find out how we've done with protests, how we've done with traffic and with crowd control. ... For me, I plan to do a lot more walking."