Four weeks into the job at Honolulu Hale, Mayor Rick Blangiardi says he is energized and undaunted by the challenges ahead.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been in a role before where you can feel the expectations. They’re so high,” he said today on Spotlight Hawaii.
“It’s really palpable as I go around and meet people and listen to what they have to say. And at the same time, the sense of responsibility is amazing. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever felt before.”
The mayor has largely been focused on assembling his cabinet, including 21 new directors, some of whom were being confirmed by the City Council as the interview took place this morning. He spoke highly of the team he has put together, and said that he has urged each of them to lead from day one, for example by trusting them to choose their own deputy directors, rather than assuming that choice himself.
Blangiardi said that he plans to work closely with the City Council, in a spirit of collaboration and action.
“I’ve heard all the horror stories in the past about dysfunctions between mayors and city councils, this is not that moment in time,” he said.
For now, the mayor said he is keeping tier system created by the Caldwell Administration in place. Blangiardi has been critical of some of the restrictions on business, and said that that he hopes to loosen the rules on certain sectors next month.
“I’m hoping by the middle of February I’m gonna be able to relax a couple of things, which is what we’d like to do. And I very much understand the need to get bars open, to get our kids playing, and those kind of things,” he said.
One of the primary challenges facing the City will be the budget deficit, projected to be roughly $400 million. Blangiardi did not offer specifics on where he hopes to make up that money.
“We’ll make it work. I can say this, we got a lot of tough calls in front of us. A lot of tough calls,” he said.
Blangiardi also reflected on the death of former Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi, whom he had dinner with just last month. He said Kenoi seemed “incredibly strong and vibrant,” and that his passing came as a shock.
“It is such a privileged to lead, and the thing about Billy was, he embodied all of that. It was like he was born to do that, he felt it and he loved it. He was just a real inspiring guy. He leaves an incredible legacy,” Blangiardi said.
“He was the real deal. My love and aloha to Billy Kenoi. He lives in my heart.”
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.