Recycling and homes lead mayor’s agenda
Curbside recycling will arrive by 2009 in two communities -- Affordable rentals in Chinatown will fight a homeless problem
STORY SUMMARY »
Mayor Mufi Hannemann is proposing to expand the city's curbside recycling program and to build an affordable-housing unit to curb homelessness in Chinatown.
In his fourth State of the City address yesterday, the mayor said the city will begin curbside recycling in two more Oahu communities yet to be named -- one by fall and the other in early 2009 -- though several City Council members criticized the city for moving too slowly.
Among other initiatives proposed by Hannemann yesterday in his speech at the Hawaii Theatre:
» Provide at least 60 affordable rental units at the city-owned River Street Residences in Chinatown, setting aside some units specifically for those with disabilities or special needs. The city would use $2 million from the Affordable Housing Fund, pending City Council approval, and plan to team up with a nonprofit agency to manage the building.
» Create a parks patrol by police officers to enforce park closure hours and ensure security, beginning with the Waianae Coast, in addition to continue the city's campaign to close and clean beach parks around the island.
» Activate a new pothole reporting feature, called Pothole Patrol, on the city's Drive Akamai traffic Web site.
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STAR-BULLETIN / 2007
In announcing details of the curbside recycling program in Mililani and Hawaii Kai last year, Mayor Mufi Hannemann showed color-coded containers to be used in the pilot project.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann opened his annual State of the City address yesterday with a song and followed up by figuratively singing the praises of his administration throughout the hour-long speech.
As for new initiatives, he proposed expanding curbside recycling to two new communities and building affordable rentals in Chinatown even though the city's revenues are dropping.
Honolulu's karaoke-loving mayor began his upbeat speech by singing "My Hawaii," a song written by his brother, Nephi, and then highlighted the city's accomplishments as he seeks re-election this year.
Hannemann also focused on Oahu's youth, encouraging them to become involved in city government.
"It would pain me to think that our young people could inherit what we did: aging sewers, deteriorating roads, worsening traffic congestion and infrastructure suffering from years of neglect and misplaced spending priorities," he said to the audience of about 600 at the Hawaii Theatre. "That's why we're doing what we said we'd do and will continue this course on your behalf."
Hannemann said the city will expand curbside recycling to include two new communities. The service would start in one community by fall and in the second in early 2009, he said. Several City Council members criticized the proposal as falling short of what is needed.
The city has not picked the two communities that would join Mililani and Hawaii Kai, which have curbside pickup as part of the city's pilot project. But officials are considering areas from Wahiawa to Kahaluu to Waimanalo and west of Hawaii Kai, according to Environmental Services Director Eric Takamura.
The city will also decide whether to eliminate the second weekly trash pickup -- as it has in Hawaii Kai -- or to charge a fee for the service like in Mililani.
"The feeling of the (City) Council and the sense I get from the community is that we want curbside recycling to happen much faster," said City Councilman Todd Apo.
Hannemann said he plans on starting the program islandwide, but that takes more time to plan different routes and gauge the individual communities' reactions.
He also said the city plans to help construct an affordable rental building in Chinatown to address homelessness in that area. The proposal comes even though the mayor has stated many times that the city is not in the affordable-housing business, which he says is a state responsibility.
"I think this is a very unique situation," Hannemann said after the speech. "People have said they really want us to be proactive about our homeless here. We still won't go into the housing business in any shape or form, but if there's a niche opportunity, we need to take advantage of it."
A two-story commercial building and parking lot sit on top of the 30,000-square-foot property at River Street and Vineyard Boulevard. Under the proposal the city would seek bids from developers as early as July to build at least 60 affordable rental units with some rooms specifically for persons with disabilities and special needs.
The city would still own the land -- estimated at $4.4 million, according to Community Services Director Debbie Kim Morikawa -- but have a nonprofit agency manage the building.
"We're sending mixed signals to the public," said City Councilman Romy Cachola, also chairman of the Council committee on affordable housing. "The idea is very intriguing, but why are we not doing that for every affordable housing we have rather than selling it?"
Hannemann's speech stayed away from some major problems facing the city this year, including reduced tax revenues because of lower property assessments.
Hannemann said his priorities are to provide basic city functions, including repairing potholes, upgrading aging sewer lines and boosting public safety.
However, he acknowledged later the tighter budget this year due to lower property assessments. "It won't be a sexy budget. It's all meat and potatoes," he said after the speech. "When I can put forward these initiatives, I'm going to do it."
Several councilmembers expressed concern about funding Hannemann's proposals.
"We're waiting to hear more about how he's going to pay for a lot of the things he talked about," said City Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz. "The public is overwhelmed in regards to what it can afford."