Parks upkeep
a top concern
for mayor

Hannemann gives his
first State of the City
address this morning

The city needs to rethink how it funds the maintenance of parks and other recreation and entertainment venues, Mayor Mufi Hannemann says.

City & County of Honolulu "We just haven't, I believe, done a good job of making sure that there's a steady stream of revenue," Hannemann told reporters yesterday. "We just can't give away the house time and time again as we've done in the past. We've got to see how we can maintain what we have."

It is one of the themes Hannemann is expected to talk about in his first State of the City address this morning, in which he will describe further the city's bleak financial outlook. Hannemann was to deliver his speech at 10 a.m. before the City Council in the Council chambers.

For the past two years, former Mayor Jeremy Harris bought 30 minutes of air time on two television stations to deliver the speech live at night during prime time.

Hannemann's speech comes as he raised concerns about a bill that would allow a private vendor to sell alcohol at three Leeward parks: Central Oahu Regional Park, Waipio soccer complex and Hans L'Orange ball field.

He said he is open to the idea, but "I want to make sure that we don't endanger the lives of people if the alcohol is going to be consumed in a legal fashion here, and that's my major concern, especially when you have young people involved."

City Council Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said she introduced the bill as a way to discuss options available to the city to raise revenue to fund park maintenance.

"The idea was floated mainly to save on the maintenance," Kobayashi said.

She said the maintenance costs of Central Oahu Regional Park alone are about $1 million. When the park was constructed, there was supposed to be a maintenance plan in place, but that never happened, she said.

Under her proposal the private vendor would be allowed to sell beer and wine in a restaurant at the parks during large sports tournaments. The concessionaire would also be responsible for the security and maintenance of the parks.

In the bill's first reading before the Council yesterday, the Police Department and the state's drug czar, Tamah-Lani Noh, testified in opposition.

Hannemann said that even though he has concerns about the bill, he believes the issue is more about trying to generate revenue to maintain the parks.

"I know that the Council is trying to do the same thing we're trying to do, and that is to figure out how we're going to pay for the upkeep and maintenance of our parks that many people enjoy," Hannemann said. "I think that what our administration was trying to do was to take a more comprehensive look at all our facilities."

For example, he said, it might be time to look at how much nonprofit agencies and schools are charged to use facilities such as the Blaisdell Arena.

"Maybe it's time to revisit that and not charge as low as we do for the use of that," he said.

Kobayashi said the Council looked at that issue a couple of years ago and opted against it.

"When you get into having kids maybe not having to participate because there'd be some sort of fee ... it's kind of contrary of what we're trying to promote," she said.

Hannemann said he is also looking at more partnerships with private groups to help with maintenance. "I don't think it's a total privatization that I'm looking at. I really believe that this is an area that we haven't scratched the surface on in reaching out to potential partners."

Hannemann said his speech will restate the findings of his Mayor's Review, which concluded that the city's financial health is declining due in part to increasing debt, but he will not focus only on the problems.

"I'll be putting some solutions on the table in how we're going to address some of these issues," he said.

Hannemann has already said he will raise sewer fees, although he has not said by how much. He has also said he plans to either raise user fees or institute new ones.

City & County of Honolulu

E-mail to City Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com