Mayor’s plan combines
good news and bad news


An energized Jeremy Harris has proposes welcome ways to cut expenses and an unwelcome increase in tax rates.

MAYOR Jeremy Harris' decision to seek an increase in the real property tax rate was certainly dismal news for Honolulu residents, but the bitter pill may be easier to swallow if he is able to ensure that the city has shaved excessive spending.

The new City Council members should have their calculators ready for a close examination of the mayor's budget proposals when he submits them in a few weeks. Council members also should be ready to present their own ideas if they are unhappy with his.

Harris, who has been largely out of the public eye since problems arose about finances for his aborted gubernatorial campaign, delivered an energetic State of the City address this week, outlining some aggressive objectives for his administration. Among the notable were to turn over to private enterprise the operations of Waikiki Shell, Blaisdell Arena and the Honolulu Zoo and maintenance of the Pali golf course and unspecified parks; and selling city-owned rental properties.

His intent to reduce municipal costs is encouraging. In the past, possibly spurred by his political ambition, Harris had served up expansive and expensive projects supported by borrowing and shifting funds around. This led last year to contentious budget battles with Council members, who worried that his plans were digging a deeper debt hole for the city.

Harris' other proposals reflect his core roots in environmental protection. As a marine biologist, he has long been green, and several of his new initiatives could enhance Honolulu's natural assets. They include investing 10 percent of the city's share of hotel room tax revenues in environmental and cultural programs, beginning a monthly curbside recycling pick-up, recycling waste-water to use for agricultural irrigation, cutting energy use at city facilities by designing efficient structures, providing federal funds to low- and moderate-income people for solar water heaters and using biodiesel fuel for 60 percent of the city's fleet of maintenance vehicles.

The mayor has never been short of creative and ambitious strategies for the city. They have been viewed with skepticism by his political opponents or have been embraced unquestioningly by those who had hoped to ride his coattails to the State Capitol. Harris -- who as a candidate was loathe to put the words "tax" and "increase" in the same sentence -- appears to be facing up to fiscal reality: Costs for running the government have gone up as the city has grown and as taxpayers' demands for services have increased. His acknowledgment that citizens must pay a bigger slice of the load, however, must be countered with a penetrating look at what they will get for their money.

Council members, most of whom are new to the job, should bring themselves up to speed in deciphering budget numbers and propose their own solutions to the city's money problems. Dismissing Harris' tax increase proposal by rote, as did one councilman, won't fly without clearly defined alternatives.


Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748;
John Flanagan, Contributing Editor 294-3533;

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