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Parks emphasis expected in State of the City speech

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Using the Foster Botanical Garden as his backdrop, Hono­lulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell was expected to emphasize park improvements Tuesday morning during his third State of the City speech.

Caldwell was to announce a major new community initiative called E Paka Kakou, "parks together," that will call on community organizations to take ownership of the parks in their areas.

"It’s like Adopt a Park on steroids," Caldwell spokes­man Jesse Broder Van Dyke said.

The mayor was expected to point to the example of Hale­iwa Alii Park, where more than 100 volunteers from the community conducted a major sprucing and cleanup job last year of the surf center used in the filming of the television series "Baywatch." The project was so successful, it has discouraged people from vandalizing or damaging the improved areas, Broder Van Dyke said.

The parks initiative is anticipated to dovetail with City Council Bill 58 (2014), introduced by Councilwoman Kymberly Pine, which seeks to make it easier for groups to adopt parks, thus allowing them to put both sweat equity and capital into improvements.

Caldwell will also put $2 million in the upcoming fiscal 2016 budget specifically to make improvements at park comfort stations — long a sore point for Oahu park- goers.

With that money the Department of Parks and Recreation is expected to repair and microguard, or put a protective coating on, 24 comfort stations at city facilities, two each month. The money will also go to refurbishing 16 sets of existing playground equipment.

Broder Van Dyke said the mayor will also announce appointments of directors to head the Customer Services Department and Hono­lulu Zoo, respectively.

With public criticism about the escalating cost of the Hono­lulu rail project reaching new levels, Caldwell was also expected to reaffirm his support for the $5 billion-plus project and again insist that state lawmakers consent to continuing a half-cent surcharge on the state’s general excise tax beyond a scheduled 2022 sunset date. That will cover the budget shortfalls in the first segment, a rail line extension and likely operations.

Key state lawmakers and Gov. David Ige said that even if they support rail, Caldwell and the city have yet to pre­sent a convincing case that an extension beyond 2022 needs to be decided this session.

Meanwhile, the Hono­lulu City Council just passed a resolution pushing the semiautonomous Hono­­lulu Authority for Rapid Trans- portation to remove federal bus funds from its financial plan.

Caldwell is expected to again make the pitch that the only alternatives to extending the tax surcharge are to raise real property taxes or take bus funds, neither of which he favors, or stop construction on a partially built project, Broder Van Dyke said.

The mayor also planned to give an update on his ambitious and sometimes controversial initiatives to get more of Oahu’s homeless off sidewalks and out of parks.

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