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No plans to cancel Honolulu City Lights


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POSTED: Thursday, November 26, 2009

QUESTION: Given the concern this year about furloughs and perhaps actual layoffs of employees, and the resulting cutbacks in city services, how much would the city save by canceling the Honolulu City Lights program? Can you find out how much Honolulu City Lights cost us property taxpayers last year? I'm sure that many Kokua Line readers would like to know.

ANSWER: The city spends approximately $60,000 a year putting on Honolulu City Lights, which it describes as “;one of our city's most treasured Christmas traditions.”;

There are no plans to cancel the program, now in its 25th year and set to open Dec. 5 with the Electric Light Parade, a concert, and the lighting of the giant Christmas tree fronting City Hall.

“;A few years ago, the city conducted a survey, and I recall that our free Honolulu City Lights celebration was ranked pretty high on the list as a 'best thing' that the city provides to the people of Honolulu and that the community wanted it to continue,”; said Joan Manke, executive secretary of the Neighborhood Commission and executive director of the nonprofit Friends of Honolulu City Lights.

The budget for the program for the five Christmases of the Hannemann administration has remained the same, about $60,000 a year, she said.

The Friends of Honolulu City Lights contributes an additional $80,000 to $100,00 a year, which covers “;well over half of the cost”; of producing the monthlong event, Manke said.

The organization raises funds throughout the year through the sale of Honolulu City Lights ornaments and T-shirts and from soliciting its “;many loyal corporate sponsors who know how important the celebration is to the life of the community,”; Manke said.

Visitors viewing the Christmas displays in and around City Hall also end up tossing coins into the Honolulu Hale fountain, including people from eight to 10 different countries each year, she said.

No small change there. Manke said the fountain coins add up to $2,000 to $3,000 a year, which all goes into the City Lights fund.

That all said, there have been moves to keep the costs of the annual celebration down.

Event organizers and workers have refurbished and recycled older displays, for example, and replaced older lights with energy-saving LED lights.

“;There's been no thought of canceling Honolulu City Lights,”; which was started by Mayor Frank Fasi in 1984, Manke said.

In fact, she said Hannemann expanded the program to include displays at Kapolei Hale and in Kaneohe through increased community support, without increasing the city's budget.

Of the displays, she said: “;They are all welcome bright spots at the end of what for many people has been a very trying year.”;

As part of this year's Silver Jubilee celebration, a special photo exhibit was assembled showing how City Lights has evolved over the years and how the big displays were created. The exhibit will be on view in the City Hall courtyard throughout December.

The Dec. 5 festivities will include food booths and keiki rides near Sky Gate, beginning at 4 p.m.; Kawaiahao Church concert, 5 p.m.; tree-lighting ceremony, 6 p.m.; Electric Light Parade, beginning at 6 p.m. at River Street, going along King Street, arriving at City Hall at 6:30 p.m.; and Jubilee Celebration holiday concert at Sky Gate, 7:30 p.m.

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