Mayor Peter Carlisle, delivering his first public address as Honolulu’s 13th mayor, pledged to continue much of the work started by his predecessor while also trying to bring about change in the culture of city government.
"Hawaii is ready for change, Honolulu is ready for change and I am ready to begin the transformation created by change," Carlisle said last night in his inaugural address before a capacity audience at Mission Memorial Auditorium.
Without offering specifics, Carlisle outlined plans to maintain core service while addressing issues such as recycling, solid waste, sewers and waste-water treatment, roads, infrastructure and the planned $5.5 billion rail transit project.
The address was received well by members of the City Council, who say they are looking forward to working with the new mayor.
"He’s still trying to get his arms around what he has to deal with at the city, but that’s not for a lack of energy and enthusiasm," said Councilman Nestor Garcia, one of four Council members who will remain once the new year rolls around. "I feel he really wants to jump in with both feet first and see what it is that we need to do.
"He’s got what I think is an open-door policy with respect to the people here at the City Council."
Councilman Romy Cachola said, "Overall, it’s great."
"The main thing I liked was that he promised that we are going to spend only what we have." he added. "We have to tighten our belts."
Carlisle listed his top three priorities as "money, money and money."
"We need to do an accounting of how much money is coming in and how much is going out. It’s that simple," he said. "Directors have already been instructed to locate efficiencies and reduce spending."
While many members of his predecessor’s Cabinet have agreed to stay on board for the short term, one of the key positions still vacant is budget director. Carlisle said he has put together a team of advisers from the public and private sector to begin work on the city’s next budget.
"I always knew that that was going to be the most complicated issue for us to resolve," he said after the speech. "We lost a number of people who are very, very talented, and they had left the city before I even became mayor."
Carlisle pledged to continue efforts to increase recycling as a third boiler comes online at the city’s waste-to-energy HPOWER plant, while planning has begun on how to best implement the consent decree covering the city’s sewage collection and waste-water treatment systems.
"We’ve got to figure out what our exact legal ramifications are, and that hasn’t been done yet," he said. "Since I first focused on rail, I need now to focus on the sewer consent decree to the greatest extent possible."
Carlisle also repeated his commitment to working more collaboratively with the state, something he said he can do better than previous mayors because he has no designs on someday occupying the governor’s seat.
"My ambition is to spend the last 10 years of my career in this office in this town if my family, my health and the good people of this fair city allow me to," he said.
Last night’s inauguration included a ceremonial swearing-in.
Carlisle was formally administered the oath of office on Oct. 11, two days before he left on an official trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with federal transit officials on rail.
The inaugural festivities included a performance by Hula Halau Olana and songs by Jimmy Borges and Cathy Foy. An inaugural ball is scheduled for Feb. 14.
Carlisle won a special election last month to fill the final two years on the term vacated by Mufi Hannemann.