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Business Trends , Economy – April 10, 2018

Aloha Town

Illustrations by Chris Danger & Kelsey Ige

Downtown / Civic Center /
Thomas Square

Honolulu has a strong mayor–but that’s not necessarily a comment on Kirk Caldwell. Of the five types of municipal government, only one type features a “strong mayor,” who acts as an executive branch to the city council’s legislative branch (a so-called “weak mayor” is subordinate to the city council). Other U.S. cities with a strong mayor: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Seattle and Denver. Cities with a weak mayor, or none at all: Portland, Oregon; El Paso, Texas; San Jose, California; and Las Vegas.

Honolulu 311
This smartphone app lets you report to the C&C: potholes, abandoned vehicles, broken streetlights, illegal dump sites, private possessions stored on public property, dilapidated sidewalks, overgrown trees and vandalized or broken street signs.

But don’t use that app while crossing the street. On Oct 25, it became illegal to cross the street while looking at a smartphone. Honolulu is the first major U.S. city with such a law.

Offices of the C&C of Honolulu

How much does it cost to run the C&C of Honolulu? For 2017, the budget was $2.3 Billion, a 2.2 percent increase from 2016.

Funding / Budget Office
It doesn’t grow on trees: Money for C&C operations comes largely from these sources:

  • Real property tax (biggest source at 33% of C&C revenue)
  • Motor vehicle weight tax
  • Fuel tax
  • Sewer fees

Homeless / Mayor’s Office of Housing
After eight years of increases, the January Point in Time Count for 2017 found good news about the homeless in Hawaii – just not on Oahu. Here are the numbers of homeless people:

  • 7,921 statewide in 2016
  • 7,220 statewide in 2017, down 9 percent
  • 4,940 on Oahu in 2016
  • 4,959 on Oahu in 2017, up 0.4 percent

Honolulu Police Department
On average, 128 patrol officers are on duty on Oahu at any given time. Does that feel like a lot, a little or just right? HPD Numbers from 2016:

  • 2,047: officers (2.1 per thousand population)
  • 2,398: violent crimes reported
  • 30,592: property crimes reported
  • 24,624: arrests
  • $60,341,783: value of property stolen

City Bird
The manu-o-Ku or fairy tern, Honolulu’s official bird, is both a native and a newcomer, with the first nesting pair observed in 1961 and a population that has thrived ever since. Urban and suburban Honolulu are the only nesting places in the main Hawaiian Islands for these dainty urbanites with soulful eyes. Manu-o-Ku love to lay their eggs in large trees on median strips, which are protected from predatory cats and rats by regular traffic.

Exceptional Trees
Honolulu has been known as a city of spreading trees for generations. In 1975, the state Legislature passed the Exceptional Tree Act, protecting trees on the registry. Oahu has about 174 exceptional trees/exceptional groves, including the Bodhi Tree at Foster Botanical Garden, said to be descended from the tree the Buddha sat under to become enlightened.

The Royal Hawaiian Band is the only full-time municipal band in the U.S., and the nation’s only band with a royal legacy, as it was founded in 1836 by King Kamehameha III. See the band Fridays at Iolani Palace, and Sundays at Kapiolani Park Bandstand.

Honolulu Hale was designed by a fleet of architects including Charles Dickey and Hart Wood. Its inspiration is the Bargello palace in Florence, Italy.

Its 13-acre grounds host community events including the Honolulu Book and Music Festival; the annual Mango Jam; the Best of Honolulu Festival; the Hawaii Hispanic Heritage Festival; and the annual Honolulu City Lights, which began in 1987.

Honolulu Hale’s Christmas tree, which is usually 60 to 70 feet tall, doesn’t arrive on the Christmas tree ship. Many recent trees have come from community parks as part of scheduled maintenance; 2016’s was a 61-foot Norfolk Pine harvested from Kahala Community Park.

10,000 parking stalls under city control. These have lower user fees, and if you drive an electric vehicle, you can park in any city stall for free (subject to posted limitations).

Thomas Square

Thomas Square has seen it all. In 1843, the British restored the Hawaiian Kingdom to Kamehameha III after a spectacular snafu. The square became a focal point for 19th century Honolulu social life, and recently has been ground zero for Occupy Honolulu protests, homeless encampments and controversial solutions to those encampments. The square is getting a face-lift, with its new look scheduled to be unveiled around July 31, 2018, the 175th anniversary of the kingdom’s restoration.

Kamehameha III
Thomas Square’s renovation will include a statue of Kamehameha III, Kauikeauoli. Kamehameha III founded many of the city’s institutions, such as the Royal Hawaiian Band and the Fire Department. He modernized the Hawaiian monarchy into a tripartite government and established watershed protections, religious freedom and universal voting rights (for men, anyway). He also presided over the controversial Great Māhele.

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