Boost sought for Civil Defense Agency
The mayor stresses preparing Oahu to handle emergencies
Mayor Mufi Hannemann's wants a beefed-up Oahu Civil Defense Agency elevated to a Cabinet-level position in city government.
His proposal, first made last year during his State of the City address, is scheduled to receive a City Council committee hearing today.
"This basically reflects, I believe, the post-9/11 world that we live in -- very, very different," Hannemann said. "We have to be prepared to respond to many things that go beyond disasters, whether natural or manmade."
The agency currently has nine full-time employees and a budget of about $900,000. Hannemann said yesterday he also plans to ask the City Council during the upcoming budget season for an additional $100,000 and four more positions. Hannemann said he hopes to obtain federal funds to help pay for the positions.
Under the proposal before the Council's Executive Matters Committee, the agency would be renamed the Department of Emergency Management.
The department would be headed by a director that would be appointed through the civil-service selection process not as a political patronage position.
Hannemann said this would be the 18th executive department. Under the City Charter, the administration can have up to 20 departments. Hannemann said the elevation of Oahu Civil Defense to a department will signal the importance of its work.
"I definitely felt that under the old setup that I don't think it got the attention or funding or focus that it deserved," Hannemann said. "We're basically keeping the operations the same but we're upgrading it, we're strengthening it and we're making it much more a part of this team of first responders.
Oahu Civil Defense has paid "an extraordinary amount of deference" to the state Civil Defense director and sometimes had to wait for the state to make certain decisions, Hannemann said. "Here it's clear, the buck stops with a mayor of a county. ... We're going to respond until the state steps in."
The resolution creating the department will become law upon approval by the Council or 60 days after being sent to the Council unless it is rejected by at least six of the nine Council members.