The current city budget stands at $2.58 billion, but Caldwell does have a bit of wiggle room if he decides to increase spending. Recent property tax assessments increased by 2.3 percent to $184.36 billion, and the city has a $142 million windfall from the sale of 12 affordable housing complexes. However, Caldwell said when it comes to new contracts for public workers, he would take a balanced approach.
"Where the workers for the city and county of Honolulu are paid a fair wage (and) get fair benefits to deliver the services we all count on, but at the same time bringing balance in terms of the revenue that we've collected," said the new mayor.
The State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers is currently awaiting an arbitration panel's decision on a new contract, while the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association expects to enter binding arbitration shortly. Two other unions, the Hawaii Government Employees Association and United Public Workers, must still negotiate agreements with the state and four counties.
Meanwhile, Caldwell is pledging to build the $5.3 billion elevated rail line better, especially as the 20-mile system approaches downtown Honolulu. The new mayor made his remarks after a short organizational meeting of the new City Council.
"We're building a good system that can be built better by mitigating the visual impact, particularly as we come into town," said Caldwell. "There's time do that."
During the inauguration, Caldwell invoked the memory of Queen Emma, whose efforts on behalf of the public established Queen’s Hospital in 1859, which is now The Queen's Medical Center. That early achievement is an example of leaders seeing beyond political disagreements of the day to ensure the long-term health of the community, Caldwell said.
The ceremony's Oli Aloha was delivered by Kahu Wendell Kalanikapuaenui Silva; the Invocation was delivered by Bishop Eric Matsumoto; the National Anthem and Hawai‘i Pono'i were performed by Misty Kelai; Kumu Hula Mapuana de Silva and Halau Mohala 'Ilima gave a cultural performance; and Reverend John Heidel gave the closing prayer.