(Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
It’s getting hard to take Kirk Caldwell seriously.
There is a huge disconnect between what the people of Oahu see every day and what they’re being told they’re seeing.
They see mountains of trash piling up on neighborhood streets and are told that the city’s bulky item pilot project is working to discourage illegal dumping.
They see homeless encampments all along the sidewalk perimeter of city parks and are told that the city is doing a great job keeping the grass clear for park use.
They see urgent problems in their community like drug dens and “monster” houses and illegal rentals and are told to file a complaint, to file another complaint, file another complaint after that.
The City of Honolulu doesn’t work. It doesn’t function with reliability, efficiency or accountability. When it does, it’s surprising.
That lack of accountability starts at the top with Mayor Kirk “Move On” Caldwell.
In his 2019 State of the City speech, Caldwell said the No. 1 problem facing Oahu was climate change, not the legions of homeless living in squalor on city streets and beaches, not the fact that no one can figure out how to pay for the rail project, not the shameful goings on of the Kealohas and what their crimes say about how two of the most important departments in the city were run under Caldwell’s watch. None of that. It’s all about climate change and scary maps that depict Waikiki completely underwater, Kakaako and Ala Moana Beach Park all but sunk.
But then, from the other side of his mouth, Caldwell is pushing a fancy playground structure at Ala Moana Beach Park right where the scary maps say the ocean is going to be. He’s unveiling plans to tear down the Blaisdell and build a new Blaisdell, perhaps so that all the wealthy Kakaako residents have an emergency shelter when the tide is high and they have to evacuate.
Now that he’s done the dog-and-sustainable-pony show for the Mayors Conference, Caldwell is following up that act in the Netherlands this week where he’s attending a Climate Change Summit, talking big about what a great job Honolulu is doing.
Now why does that sound familiar?
Oh yeah, that’s a page from the Jeremy Harris playbook. Remember Jeremy? There’s a name you never hear anymore. Honolulu Mayor Harris started setting up his Sustainable City tour as he wound up his time in office, spending city money on a poorly written, vanity-driven book about how sustainable he made Honolulu, hosting international environmental summits and traveling to far-flung places to talk big about what he did.
Harris’ Honolulu was in a lot better shape than Caldwell’s city, though.
Honolulu needs a mayor who is hands-on and at-home. Job One is to fix the Department of Permitting and Planning. So many of the city’s most intractable problems, from monster houses to illegal vacation rentals to abandoned buildings that become neighborhood drug dens, wash up on the shore of the DPP where citizen complaints go to die. The department has no real enforcement power. Remake it so it does. The DPP has had an “acting” head for too long. Get someone in there who is going to run it like a boss and clean up this town.
For a guy who used to be so anxious to have everyone like him, Caldwell doesn’t seem to give a rip anymore. He’s moved on.