Mayoral candidate Rick Blangiardi today unveiled a 13-page, “90 Day Roadmap to Recovery” position paper designed to outline his thoughts on how to address current, lingering and future problems that often call for new job descriptions for city officials, greater accountability, and pledges to work cooperatively with state officials, the City Council and other critical officials should he be elected mayor on Nov. 3.
Blangiardi’s proposals cover a range of issues, including public health and safety in the era of COVID-19, Oahu’s economic recovery, housing, increasing city efficiency, oversight of the city’s troubled rail project, dealing with homelessness and other issues.
While many of the ideas lack specifics, Blangiardi told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser today that the theme of his document is greater efficiency and accountability in addressing problems that, like the city’s troubled rail project, have seen critical changes in just the last two weeks.
Blangiardi, who is running against Keith Amemiya, insisted that one of the keys to crisis management is remaining “fluid” while adhering to fundamental principals such as accountability and oversight.
“I didn’t come down from the mountain with this carved in stone,” Blangiardi told the Star-Advertiser. “In crisis management, you need to expect the unexpected.”
With a dwindling, statewide tax base due to COVID-19, Blangiardi said he has no intention of expanding the city budget, but rather expects to adjust many job descriptions to deal with the fallout from the pandemic. This includes the appointment of a “full-time public health expert or physician to an advisory position to inform and guide City COVID-19 policies.”
His plans also include:
>> “Affirm that Department Directors will actively engage with communities in all districts, establishing direct lines of engagement between departments and communities.”
>> “Designate regional representatives from the mayor’s office who will be dedicated to neighborhood-specific interests and will serve as liaisons to the City administration.”
>> “Establish an economic recovery business roundtable made up of public and private stakeholders to reopen O‘ahu’s economy,” which would include coordinating “with state and federal agencies.”
>> “Identify local/national/international experts with first-hand success reopening economies safely and quickly (preferably from communities with shared challenges akin to O‘ahu, i.e., tourism-based economy, national/international flights, etc.”
>> “Work with the Governor, Legislature and City Council to improve mortgage and rental assistance programs for residential and commercial properties.”
>> Provide longer-term childcare options “by working with childcare providers and resource agencies.”
>> “Develop stronger partnerships with the military to expand the number of military contracts (services, operations, management, and/or construction) awarded to local businesses and workers.”
>> “Issue a mayoral directive designating a City official to work with City departments and agencies in aggressively pursuing additional federal and state funding resources, (to explore) opportunities for public-private partnerships and (to explore) opportunities for private-industry resources and assistance to local families and businesses (following the lead of other cities).”
>> “Pledge to work in close cooperation with the City Council on all matters related to COVID-19 mitigation and economic recovery/revitalization, to integrate and implement like-minded initiatives, to capture challenges unique to Districts, to avoid and reduce redundant and contradictory efforts, and to deliver more efficient services to the people of Honolulu.”
>> “Create a dedicated City grant-writing team to attract additional private and federal funds to supplement the City budget. The cost of a few positions will yield a substantial return on investment.”
>> “Appoint a City Affordable Housing Advocate to prioritize and expedite affordable housing plans, permits, and projects within the City and County of Honolulu and coordinate expedited processing of State of Hawai‘i and private-sector developments.”
Other Blangiardi ideas include:
>> “Reviewing existing City audits across all departments for which responses are outstanding and/or unresolved, including the January 2020 audit of the Department of Planning and Permitting, and establish timelines for resolution and completion.”
>> “Evaluating local, national, and/or international best practices for improvements to City governance, including departmental operations, transparency, and accountability.”
>> Meet “regularly with the CEO of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit and the mayor-appointed HART board members for” updates.
>> Improve “communication and working relationships between the City and HART. … It is unacceptable for the City and HART to not be fully aligned.”
Regarding homelessness, Blangiardi wants to:
>> Eliminate the city’s use of so-called compassionate disruption, especially during COVID-19. “This approach merely moves homeless individuals from park to park and street to street.”
>> Prepare for increased homelessness after expiration of CARES Act funds and federal programs which are scheduled to expire at the end of the year.
“The challenge of this job is to be a really strong collaborator,” Blangiardi said. “What’s new is the leadership and that’s what I own.”