"We are in a crisis period." Those were the opening words of Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell given during his annual State of the City Address Thursday night.
The mayor addressed a crowd of both supporters and protestors at Honolulu’s Kewalo Basin Park. The focus of his remarks was the threat posed by climate change and the potential consequences of failing to act.
Caldwell used the June 1st start of hurricane season to launch the city’s climate resilience strategy, which he called the issue of our time.
Included in the mayor’s climate related initiatives were an island-wide moratorium on the construction of new sea walls, which worsen beach erosion, and a review of the current 40 foot shore line setback for property.
But Caldwell also cautioned that the city will need to make major investments in hardening some parts of Oahu. Noting that Kewalo Basin could not be moved to Makiki, the mayor acknowledged the reality that buildings, roadways, and other public infrastructure in the urban core of Honolulu would likely need to be raised ahead of anticipated rise is sea levels.
Caldwell also addressed other issues during his speech. He expressed his support for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and announced that the City and County would voluntarily raise all wages to at least that level, which should result in a pay increase for around 1,000 city workers.
The mayor also expressed hope that the City Council would reach an agreement on regulating short term rentals and announced that he would be seeking legislative approval levy a fee on properties that are left vacant for an extended period of time.
According to Caldwell, that idea was based on a similar program in Vancouver, British Columbia that significantly lowered the rate of vacant properties.