Mayor Peter Carlisle delivered his first State of the City address last week and unveiled his budget this week.
Judging from some of his remarks, it seems he wants to build upon what former Mayor Mufi Hannemann did to emphasize basic services and public safety, fix neglected infrastructure and improve the city’s finances.
Mayor Carlisle referenced a $100 million budgetary shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year that was a very preliminary number based on conservative estimates of declining property values and the elimination of furloughs.
Foreseeing the fiscal challenges that would continue to plague the city in the coming years, Hannemann instituted a hiring freeze and restrictions on operating expenditures back in July 2009. As a result, fiscal year 2010 ended with a carryover savings in excess of $100 million more than was budgeted.
Fortunately for Carlisle, that savings covered much of the anticipated budget deficit for FY 2012.
Hannemann always maintained that his objective was to leave the city better than it was when he arrived in 2005.
I believe that he did.
Actions taken by his administration set a strong foundation for the city’s ability to plan for its future.
For example, the wastewater system consent decree was significant. As Mayor Carlisle pointed out, for the first time in 17 years the city’s wastewater program does not have an environmental lawsuit hanging over its head.
The Hannemann-negotiated global consent decree, Carlisle said, "will directly and cost-effectively benefit our environment and our residents for years to come."
Another case in point is the addition of the third boiler to HPOWER, which will reduce our reliance on the landfill and produce energy that will generate revenue for the city.
The city’s borrowings relative to the capital budget during the former mayor’s tenure were driven primarily by funding for rail, HPOWER and solid waste, the wastewater program and road repairs. Discretionary capital spending was kept to a minimum, and the city’s debt service never exceeded 20 percent, the maximum percentage recommended by the City Council.
The city maintained a high double-A bond rating with a stable outlook throughout the past six years and, in fact, Standard & Poor’s upgraded both the city’s general obligation bond and the wastewater system revenue bond ratings during this period.
Since becoming mayor, Carlisle has referred to Hannemann-administration initiatives as programs he himself likes and will continue: the third boiler at HPOWER, the slurry seal paving program, the computer-based work order management system, the Honolulu Zoo improvements, as well as pay cuts for himself and his appointees.
And, of course, there is the Honolulu rail transit initiative.
This was all accomplished with an outstanding team of Cabinet members and civil service employees led by the former mayor.
As Carlisle is filling the remainder of Hannemann’s term, it’s good to see the new mayor continuing along the same path.
To his credit, Carlisle has retained most of the department directors, a clear signal that the city will continue to build upon the solid foundation that has been put in place.