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Friday, January 26, 2001

City & County of Honolulu

Council members
applaud mayor’s
‘stellar’ ideas

But they balk
at paying for them

By Suzanne Tswei

Mayor Jeremy Harris' vision for Honolulu is innovative and exciting, City Council members say, but some wonder how the mayor plans to pay for his proposed programs.

In his seventh State of the City address yesterday, Harris' plans include a high-technology park and an Asia-Pacific Urban Technology Institute on city properties, development of the convention center area, new day-care centers, skateboard parks, increased Internet access for the public and other programs.

"It's a great speech," Councilman Romy Cachola said. "As to details, what he's proposing requires funding. I want to know where the money is coming from."

Cachola said the city should explore sharing the costs with the state, which has embarked on similar initiatives, such as a high-technology center, sports tourism and underground utility poles.

Harris said costs for some of his proposals would be minimal. For example, the Asia-Pacific Urban Technology Institute would not require costly construction of a new facility. Instead it would be integrated into the city's new municipal building in Kapolei.

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Mayor Jeremy Harris gives his State of the City
address yesterday at Honolulu Hale.

Councilman Duke Bainum said he was pleased by Harris' inexpensive programs, such as housing a small-business incubator in a vacant city building in Chinatown.

"A lot of the projects don't have to be big or costly to be successful. Overall, I was very impressed, and I look forward to making these things happen. Of course, we will have to see the details, but the concepts are winners," Bainum said.

City spokeswoman Carol Costa said the city does not yet have cost estimates for all the proposed programs, which "are ideas to show where we are going to be putting our energy."

Councilman Steve Holmes said it is too early to speculate how the city would pay for Harris' proposals. The Council will not know the city's budget until Harris' administration submits it in March.

Councilman Andy Mirikitani said the city already has a debt totaling more than a billion dollars, and the mayor's speech failed to address how the city would cut costs, let alone find more money to fund new programs.

"The ideas are good, but the question is, how will the city manage to pay for everything?" Mirikitani said.

The "enormous debt" will be "passed on to future generations and be a drag on the economy," Mirikitani said.

Councilman John Henry Felix applauded Harris for giving a "stellar performance," but added that "the devil is in the details" when it comes to carrying out the proposals.

"I heartily endorse his entire agenda. My only concern is that there's so much on the plate, it will be straining our limited resources," Felix said.

Councilwoman Rene Mansho also said she hopes the city would be able to carry out the proposals. The mayor's idea to develop the area around the convention center to make it more attractive is "potentially wonderful," but it will require dedicated effort to turn it into reality.

Councilman Gary Okino said he welcomed hearing Harris' plans for projects affecting his district, giving him an opportunity to get feedback from his constituents.

Okino said he liked Harris' ideas, such as developing an 18.5-mile bike path from Pearl Harbor to Waianae. Okino said Harris' plan to establish a high-technology park on more than 50 acres of city land at Manana may run into opposition because the community wants to use the area for an entertainment center or medical facility.

Council Chairman John Yoshimura said Harris' address indicates the city has accomplished a great deal in the last six years and "there are a lot of opportunities ahead."

Yoshimura said his concern is "being able to keep a positive working atmosphere at City Hall."

City & County of Honolulu

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