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Caldwell outlines vision for city, including position cuts

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

LAST UPDATED: 08:45 p.m. HST, Feb 26, 2014

Mayor Kirk Caldwell offered a "plumeria lei" vision for Honolulu in his second State of the City address Wednesday.

Setting aside his prepared text momentarily, Caldwell showed the McCoy Pavilion crowd a plumeria lei he received.

"It's simple, honest and humble ... but boy it smells really good," the mayor said.

The most dramatic news coming out of the speech was the mayor's plan to cut 618 vacant positions and cut funding for addition slots, which is expected to free up $37 million annually.

"This not only helps us in the short-term, but in the long-term it serves to reduce our massive unfunded liability for retirement and health costs, which is a burden on all of us."

Caldwell gave no specifics. After the speech, Managing Director Ember Shinn said the cuts in positions will come from all city agencies.

Asked if that included first-responder agencies such as police, fire and emergency medical services, Shinn said officials from those departments all participated in discussions. She added that those agencies do not just employ sworn and uniformed employees.

Vacant funded positions in city agencies have been criticized by City Council members, who argue that the money for the positions has been used for de facto slush funds, in which departments can store away dollars for other purposes.

Caldwell also renewed his call to sell advertising on the sides of city buses to raise up to $20 million annually.

"These are not billboards," Caldwell said, a reference to the strong opposition to the plan led by the Outdoor Circle.

Council members have held off deliberations on the proposal, saying they first want to see Caldwell's budget for the coming year.

In other areas, Caldwell pledged to include $18.9 million from the city's Affordable Housing Fund into Housing First shelter programs. An additional $2.5 million would go toward "wrap-around" services.

Caldwell said he wants to work more closely with the state and private sector to help the homeless.

The mayor said he will include $1.4 million for a bike plan that will include creating a "protected bike lane" from downtown Honolulu to the university area this year. The lane would be located between the sidewalk and parked cars.

He also unveiled a plan to convert all 51,700 city street lights to LED fixtures that use 40 percent less energy, and could save the city $3 million annually.

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Maneki_Neko wrote:
Only in government accounting is the cutting of vacant and unfilled positions considered an accomplishment and a mater of vision.Anywhere else it is simply an obvious thing to do and a no brainer.
on February 26,2014 | 09:25AM
what wrote:
So right you are. If it takes "vision" to cut un-needed jobs and make the government more efficient, then that makes him a very poor manager. I fear his "vision" is actually lasered in on our wallets. His "vision" is taking every last dollar from us through higher taxes. For example, the City and taxpayers are shouldering about 75% of bus operations, and gas prices aren't going down. When is he going to do the fair thing and make fares fair?
on February 26,2014 | 10:35AM
lwandcah wrote:
That $37M will barely make a dent in the deficit we will all be stuck with once the choo-choo train is running.
on February 26,2014 | 10:56AM
what wrote:
By their own estimates, it will cost the City another $100 Million per year to operate the rail (pay the workers, electricity bill, etc.). The GET money that is coming in now only pays for construction, not operation. The City is broke as it is.
on February 26,2014 | 12:11PM
false wrote:
I wonder if the State of Hawaii has the balls to do that instead of holding on to those open positions and keep asking the legislature to fund them. Its a practice that has been going on for years in State government. Let's see it Neil. Legislature?
on February 26,2014 | 09:46AM
control wrote:
The problem is that many of these vacant positions should be filled with actual workers. The departments are not filling some of them but it puts pressure on the other peons who have to carry the double or triple or quadruple load. Caldwell should instead cut from the top, those are the higher paid do nothings that won't be missed. When you see long lines at the dmv or have to wait long to get your permit approved it is probably because they cut some lower level positions from workers who do actual work. With many workers nearing retirement, you will find them retiring but what's left are the do nothing heads and patronage people, pretty soon you won't have anyone that actually does any work. I wish that Keoki Kerr or Gina M. would go up to some partronage people (like deputy director secretaries) and ask them what they actually do to justify their position, the public will be angered to find they don't really do much but are taking home a paycheck.
on February 26,2014 | 10:54AM
engineersoldier wrote:
Not to mention the padding of pension with unreasonable amounts of overtime to cover the vacancies. It's the fat overhead admin costs that need deep cuts. There are too many departments and offices, each with its overhead trappings.
on February 26,2014 | 11:41AM
localguy wrote:
Move all new workers to a Roth 401k retirement plan and you completely eliminate pension spiking. Hmmmm, wonder why our bureaucrats and union bosses are dead set against this? Like we have to ask.
on February 26,2014 | 04:35PM
TheFarm wrote:
Yay to the bike lane!
on February 26,2014 | 11:00AM
control wrote:
A bike lane is a great idea but isn't workable unless more laws are passed to protect the bike riders. It is dangerous to bike in Honolulu, you risk injury or death daily because riders aren't protected by laws like pedestrians are. On the other hand there are bike riders who are dangerous and don't follow laws or the rules of the road and they give a bad name to the rest of the bike riders. The existing roads do not allow a bike lane, creating one will take one lane of traffic or parking away. The young street bike lane is a farce as it doesn't go far enough, stopping at Thomas square, how are you going to get downtown from there except ride on the road or sidewalk and endangering the rider or pedestrian.
on February 26,2014 | 11:00AM
localguy wrote:
Same for bike riders, they must be held accountable for going through stop signs, intersections, cutting in and out of traffic, thinking we all must kow tow to them. I can't tell you how many times I've had a bike rider look at me as they go right through a stop sign, as if daring me to challenge them. Gee, I wonder who would win? My money is on the car. Truth is while there are law abiding bike riders, the bad apples are giving them all a bad name. HPD can give tickets, but will they?
on February 26,2014 | 04:45PM
sailfish1 wrote:
It's a start. He should also start cutting unneeded filled positions, including upper level managers and senior positions.
on February 26,2014 | 11:36AM
Skyler wrote:
I'm a little concerned about the LED replacements for street lights, mainly because of the wide range of color temperatures LEDs can emit, and for some - including myself - the flickering effect is bothersome. I see cars on the road all the time with head lights that are so high in the Kelvin temperature scale that they're basically blue.
on February 26,2014 | 12:02PM
bikemom wrote:
This came up as a concern when we were discussing the Lunalilo Home Road street lighting project back in 2009. Perhaps improvements have been made such that it's no longer an issue.
on February 26,2014 | 02:26PM
localguy wrote:
With LEDs you can select the exact color light you want. LEDs, unlike CFLs, are immune from flicker, not in their design. Only if the power source has issues will the flicker, as any bulb would. While in California and Alaska, I've driven under LED traffic lights, they are so much better than the current lights. A great savings on energy. Word is HECO's CEO is very upset about the 57,000 new LEDs to be installed, less money they can gouge from tax payers. Ahhhh, poor baby. Deal with it. This is just the start. Soon every street light in the Nei will be LED, drastically cutting power usage and saving tax payers big time.
on February 26,2014 | 04:48PM
iwanaknow wrote:
Today in sfgate.com they have an article about how Safeway's put up special fencing on planter boxes to keep the homeless away.................then you read the 282 electronic responses both pro & con on Homeless issues................people bemoaning the fact that so many end up in San Fransisco CA (frankly they are in all big cities......what are best practices to help them?)................can we sent ours one way somewhere that need people?
on February 26,2014 | 01:20PM
kekelaward wrote:
They wanted a sanctuary city and they got one. They aren't too happy with the influx of rich google yuppie types either.
on February 26,2014 | 04:48PM
tim5fl wrote:
Looking at this backdrop for 'state of the city" address one would think Cladwell actually is important, not.
on February 26,2014 | 03:57PM
kekelaward wrote:
If he were truthful, and realized that time is important to working people, he could have just said "We're screwed. Thanks for coming.", and be done with it.
on February 26,2014 | 04:51PM
localguy wrote:
Kirky boy fails to understand the difference between 618 vacant positions and how many of those positions are needed to do essential government work like food safety, occupational safety inspections. Good to eliminate excess positions where technology has eliminated jobs, positions truly not needed. Unless Kirky Boy did his due diligence, which he normally fails to do, shooting from the hip, he will be back later on admitting he made another mistake. Not his first, definitely not his last.
on February 26,2014 | 04:34PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
"but in the long-term it serves to reduce our massive unfunded liability for retirement and health costs, which is a burden on all of us." cancel these unfunded liabilities already, you know it's going to happen eventually, the costs are just too great. It's already started in Cali and Wisconsin, sooner or later pension and medical coverage for public worker retirees will be a thing of the past. They'll be lucky to have a job and 401K. Taxpayers should not have to provide retirement benefits to public workers that are not available to the average private sector worker anymore. It just isn't right!
on February 26,2014 | 08:31PM
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