Thoughts on the ’07 State of the City Address


Source: April 2007 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  I was honored to be an invited guest to hear Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s State of the City address.  The Mayor’s hour long speech highlighted the many good things that his administration has already done and he also listed the many projects that he plans to complete within the next few years. 

It is funny how people tend to focus on the few things that they don’t like, but be that as it may, I was disturbed by his comments about a new gate for the Honolulu Zoo and how wonderful it was going to look.  I was also concerned about the Mayor’s plan to raise the sewer fees and his proposal to remove one day of trash pick-up.

When did the Mayor last visit the Zoo?  In my opinion, our Honolulu Zoo is one of the worst kept zoos in the country.  The animals look sickly and their cages are dirty and pathetic.  The poor elephants are chained at the legs with only a limited amount of space to move in.  Anyone who cares about animals would agree that these poor animals should be free to roam around.  If that isn’t possible, we should at least send them to a zoo that would take better care of them.  It makes no sense to waste our money beautifying the zoo’s entrance, while letting the public get repulsed by what they see once they get inside.

The Mayor also proposed an increase in our sewer fees, saying he wanted to avoid another rupture like the one that happened in Waikiki that diverted 48 million gallons of sewage into the Ala Wai.  While all of us agree that our sewers are in bad shape, I don’t see an increase in fees based on the current system of assessment as the answer.  The mayor really needs to revamp the flawed system that our sewer and water fees are calculated from.  That way, the City could charge the appropriate fees to those who are the heaviest users.

Most people are unaware that the calculation the City currently uses to charge us our exorbitant rates are not based on any fair formula.  The fees are being assessed based on our water usage.  The City claims that all of the water we use is going into our sewer systems, but what about the water that we use on our yards and the evaporation from swimming pools?  The only fair way to assess a land owner’s sewer fee is to install a meter.  Instead of giving homeowners a $150 property tax credit, the mayor should use the money to install water meters in every home so that the rates that we are charged are fair.

As for once-a-week garbage pick-up, I don’t know of anyone who thinks that this is a good idea.  The mayor has said the final program is far from definite and he is only putting it out there for the sake of discussion, but the thought of smelly, week old garbage permeating our neighborhoods and the poor sanitation it would create gives me great discomfort.  For once, I’d like to hear how the City will expand services while cutting costs.  It may be difficult, but it’s not impossible.  Just look at what Mayor Rudy Giuliani did in New York.

Also, his proposal to charge an extra $10 monthly fee to add a second pickup (for those of us who feel a once-a-week trash collection isn’t enough) is not the answer.  As any resident of Oahu who already has to deal with the high cost of living would tell you – we don’t need another fee for such an essential service.  As they say, you can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip.  Trash pick-up, like water and sewer, is one of the most important services the City provides.  Honolulu wouldn’t last long without it.  The mayor should look else where for his cuts before he turns to trash pick-up and raising sewer fees. 

The City has already significantly raised our property taxes and doubled our car registration tax.  The mayor needs to find a way to use the new monies more effectively.  There should be more wiggle-room in the City budget now that our property taxes and car registration fees have shot up so high.

I do hope the mayor and his administration will give these concerns much thought.  Honolulu residents already endure much of the burden for our visitor industry and businesses who cater to them.  Let’s not compound our problems.