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Caldwell outlines vision for city, including position cuts

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

LAST UPDATED: 8:45 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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