As the newly chosen chair of the Honolulu City council, Tommy Waters said his top priority is to balance the budget.
“We have a $400 million deficit. $400 million, now that’s not insignificant. That’s gonna be our number one challenge, how are we gonna fill the budget?” Waters said this morning on Spotlight Hawaii.
“In county government, police, fire, ambulance, your garbage, your sewers, your roads, these are all very, very important things that we need every day, and I can’t see cutting any of those things. We’ve got to figure out how we’re gonna do it. Do more with less.”
With so many residents facing financial challenges, Waters said he does not want to raise taxes and is instead looking at other options like refinancing the city’s bonds, and not filling vacancies on the city payroll.
The Councilman said he supports keeping the previous administration’s tier system in place, because it provides clarity on what is and is not allowed. He said there could be some room for loosening restrictions on certain sectors, but overall, believes the rules are helping to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Waters has been a proponent of increased access to COVID-19 testing, and in the past has called for secondary testing for travelers once they arrive on Oahu. He said that while he is comfortable with the way the Safe Travels program is being conducted, more testing is always preferred, especially for local residents.
“Make this free. Have these testing machines all over the place. We could be testing our teachers twice a week, testing our students twice a week, right? Testing our sports coaches and athletes twice a week, just to ensure that they’re safe, and make it free,” he said.
Waters said he will formally be meeting with Mayor Rick Blangiardi to discuss their priorities next week, and expects that the new mayor and city council will have a productive working relationship. The 2020 election meant vast changes to the council, with five new members, and comprised for the first time ever of a majority of women, and four Native Hawaiians, including Waters himself.
“It’s a really wonderful team, and I’m so proud to be the chair at this time,” Waters said.
“In any decision that we make, whether it be the budget, housing, homelessness, if we treat each other with aloha every day, think about how our decisions affect our keiki, our kupuna, and our families, right? If we think about that, and channel every single decision that we make though that lens, I don’t think we can go wrong.”
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation with guests. Click here to watch previous conversations.