Funds sought for city’s land, climate, sustainability and resiliency efforts
It will cost more than $1 million for the city to fully establish two new agencies that Oahu voters approved via City Charter amendments in November.
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It will cost more than
$1 million for the city to fully establish two new agencies that Oahu voters approved via City Charter amendments in November.
But Mayor Kirk Caldwell and administration officials say they intend to ramp up each agency slowly and not provide full staff until necessary.
“We’re not creating a giant bureaucracy,” Caldwell told the City Council Budget Committee during a briefing Tuesday.
The Department of Land Management, approved by a narrow majority — 51 percent — of those who cast general election votes, will oversee and manage all of the city’s nonpark land, including property that the city and private entities might have an interest in developing. The 2018 budget calls for a $730,612 budget with 22 new positions.
But the administration plans to fund only nine of the 22 new positions in the upcoming 2018 budget. And the 22 do not include nine additional people transferring from other agencies, the mayor said. Among them are two people from the existing Office of Strategic Development, which is having its duties moved into the new department. Sandra Pfund, who heads that office, was nominated by Caldwell to head the Land Management Department.
“We want to remain lean and mean and use this department to get more people into housing,” Caldwell said.
The new Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency, adopted with the support of 59 percent of Oahu voters, will oversee and coordinate citywide efforts to reduce and fight the effects of climate change on city facilities and the community in general. It calls for an annual budget of $467,388, which includes $135,000 in each of the next two years from the Rockefeller Foundation to hire a chief resilience officer.
But of the six remaining positions assigned on the books, funding is being sought for only five of those in next year’s budget.
Managing Director Roy Amemiya, while giving greater detail on the two agencies, said the new department will develop and implement plans for land management, property management, conservation and stewardship, he said.
“Prior to the development of this department, it was sort of a hodgepodge of departments that were involved in that process,”
That void was largely created in the early 2000s after a charter amendment approved by voters dismantled the Office of Housing following the Ewa Villages scandal, in which former city housing official Michael Kahapea bilked taxpayers out of more than $5 million in housing relocation funds.
When fully staffed, the new department would be split into four divisions: administration, asset management, finance and asset development, Amemiya said.
The department will also be in charge of a program, proposed by Caldwell as part of his affordable-housing initiative, to allow the city’s financing tools — such as private activity bonds, providing financial incentives for development, use of the Housing Development Special Fund and the leasing of mixed-use properties — to be used by developers to put up affordable units.
The Department of Land Management will, like all other city departments, get its own budget briefing Friday.
As for the new Climate Change office, the new agency will adopt a resiliency strategy that looks at energy programs, food sustainability, coastal zones and waterways programs, and community outreach, Amemiya said.
“This is going to be a very important agency for the city,” he said. “As you know, there are many impacts that could hurt us … including sea level rise and its impact on coastal zones.”
Justin Gruenstein, an executive assistant in Caldwell’s office, said that initially the agency will have the executive director/chief resilience officer, a deputy, a secretary, an energy program manager and a coastal zones and waterways program manager. They will be assisted by AmeriCorps volunteers in outreach efforts. Later the office will include managers for community preparedness and outreach, food sustainability, grants and research, he said.
The agency will be part of Amemiya’s office and be located in its third-floor space at Honolulu Hale.