City & County of Honolulu

Harris speech to
warn of tax hikes

Commercial sites are paying less
than they should, the mayor says

State of the City

Mayor Jeremy Harris' speech will be broadcast live at 6:30 p.m. today.

>> TV: KHON, KGMB and Olelo Channel 54

>> Radio: KSSK-AM 590 and KHVH-AM 830

>> Internet: City's Web site,

The public is invited to attend the event at Honolulu Hale, which begins at 5:45 p.m., with an opening program at 6 p.m. followed by the speech. There will be free parking at the Civic Center parking structure off Alapai and Beretania streets.

Mayor Jeremy Harris will warn hotel, commercial and industrial property owners of a possible property tax rate hike in today's State of the City address.

He will also announce that he plans to take curbside recycling islandwide later this year.

In his address, which will be broadcast tonight from the Honolulu Hale courtyard, Harris will also look back at his 10 years in office and look ahead to a laundry list of projects he would like to finish in his final year in office.

"Anybody can keep the doors open and keep City Hall running on a day-to-day basis. Very few people have a chance to be the mayor of a major U.S. city," Harris said in an interview with the Star-Bulletin. "So we need to make every day count, and we're going to make every day count up until ... the last day."

The half-hour speech will be broadcast live beginning at 6:30 p.m. on KHON, KGMB and Olelo public access Channel 54. KHON and KGMB are owned by Emmis Communications Inc.

Like last year, the city is paying Emmis $6,000 to air the speech on the two stations.

The use of taxpayer money to pay for the airing of the speech was criticized last year.

City spokeswoman Carol Costa said the city approached all four stations, but Emmis was the only one to take the city's offer.

The city said Harris will deliver his speech in the evening -- prior to last year, it was held during the workday -- so more people can hear his plans for the coming year.

Earlier this week, Harris outlined generally what he will say.

Harris said that hotel/resort commercial and industrial property owners are paying less in taxes than they were 10 years ago mainly because valuations that dropped in the 1990s have not been restored.

While Oahu residential values soared 17 percent, commercial property rose 4.6 percent in value, industrial property increased 5.4 percent, and hotels and resorts declined in value by less than 1 percent. Even without a rate hike, homeowners can expect to pay higher property taxes because of increased residential values.

"I'm preparing nonresidential property tax classifications for the possibility that we may raise their rates. We don't know yet because we're still knee deep in the budget, but they should realize that they it will be unlikely that we're going to be able to keep their taxes below where they were in 1994," Harris said.

Harris said the city is still taking in less in taxes than it did 10 years ago, "but now that the economy is turning around, we can't be expected to continue to run the city with less real property tax revenue that we had in 1994."

Another topic in the speech will be garbage. Harris, declaring the curbside recycling project in Mililani a success, is expected to announce plans to begin islandwide curbside recycling later this year.

Harris said he can begin implementing curbside recycling without legislation, but he will keep the City Council abreast of his plans. As far as whether there would be a charge for garbage pickup to pay for the program, Harris said that will not be discussed in the speech.

The City Council scrapped Harris's plan for curbside recycling last year in part because of plans to charge a garbage pickup and because there were many questions on how the project would work. As a result, the program was downsized to a pilot curbside recycling project that began in Mililani in November.

Harris will tout what he plans to do in the upcoming year, including:

>> Improvements to Kuhio Avenue and Ala Wai in Waikiki and further upgrades in Chinatown.

>> More construction at Central Oahu Regional Park with a new tennis clubhouse and aquatic center to compete for statewide and international competitions.

>> The city will partner with the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute to create a hydrogen power park at Kapolei Hale.

This will not be Harris' last State of the City address. He will give a final speech at the end of the year.


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