Mayor Peter Carlisle delivered his second State of the City address today, highlighting some of his administration’s achievements and outlining his vision for the future of Honolulu.
He repeated his commitment to the city’s $5.27 billion rail transit project, calling it the only option for sustaining a city that is expected to top one million in population in the next decade.
"This is the only viable option for building this 21st century city and providing a sustainable future for all of Oahu that has made it through decades of vetting and is poised to employ people now," Carlisle said in prepared remarks.
Carlisle also pledged greater transparency by the city as the project moves forward.
"It starts with leadership and expecting the (Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation) board to provide the necessary oversight to satisfy the public," Carlisle said. "It means setting clear rules regarding change orders, delays, shoddy workmanship and oversight."
Carlisle has said he and his administration will be providing more facts on the rail project to combat negative information being spread by rail opponents. A recent poll indicated that public support for the rail project has declined, with more people against the completion of the project.
"I recognize many residents question the city’s ability to answer questions transparently, to address issues that have been raised, and to deliver the project on time and under budget," he said. "Given its price tag, you have a right to scrutinize it and to feel concerned. I feel those concerns, as well."
A key federal approval earlier this month cleared the way for this first segment of major construction for Honolulu’s 20-mile rail line, and contractor Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. will start work in March on the first 6 1⁄2 miles of elevated guideway for the rail system.
The project is expected to hire hundreds of local worker to work directly on the project with more gaining indirect jobs from the investment, he said.
"To the naysayers and critics, I ask, ‘What do you have to offer these workers in the next seven years if we have to start all over again?’ and ‘What do you have to offer the commuters from the west side, who in seven years would have a completed project?’"
Carlisle also provided an update on the city’s progress toward meeting the 2010 federal consent decree governing the city’s wastewater collection system, noting that 122 projects are underway and over $100 million in construction has been completed in the last year.
"The city is on schedule, in some areas ahead of schedule, and we are in compliance with the consent decree," he said, adding that parties met with a federal judge in January to review the city’s compliance effort.
"I am happy to report no issues or concerns were raised," he said.
On roads, Carlisle said his administration has paved 263 miles of roads while 26 miles of paving is underway, contracts to pave 97 miles have been awarded and 504 miles are pending bidders for paving contracts.
He said the Department of Facility Maintenance was developing a "Pavement Management System," that will allow the city to prioritize the improvements of roads while maintaining the ones already improved.
Carlisle highlighted ongoing efforts toward maintaining affordable housing, such as the city’s recent request soliciting bidders to buy and manage the city’s 12 affordable housing complexes and keep them "affordable" over the life of a 65-year lease of the land.
Carlisle also spoke of the city’s successes from hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November, noting that connections made with foreign leaders would help the city would nurture and expand sister-city partnerships around the Pacific region.
He also highlighted efforts by the city to promote alternative energy resources, including retrofitting city buildings with energy efficient structures, the establishment of a consolidated motor pool, the introduction of electric vehicles to the city’s fleet and the addition of a third boiler at the H-POWER waste-to-energy plant that is expected to go online later this year.
While he was not specific on budget requests he would make, Carlisle said he would seek $40 million to pre-fund the city’s unfunded liabilities and $20 million to the city’s "rainy day" fund.