Budget cuts could sink the newest city department
The city's new office of climate change, sustainability and resiliency has been around for 10 months.
The switch from older, more inefficient streetlights to brighter LEDs has been helped by the city's new office of climate change, sustainability and resiliency.
In the10 months it has been around, it has also received feedback from residents on how Oahu can be ready for climate change, by designing a resilience strategy.
"We need to have a good long term plan, so we are not throwing good money after bad, but there is a lot of low hanging fruit, that benefits the people and the environment. a great example, the LED streetlight conversion project already underway," Josh Stanbro, executive director of the office of climate change, sustainability and resiliency said.
In his proposed budget, Stanbro wants to increase funding for his office by more than 50 percent, but council chair Ernie Martin wants to keep it the same as this year's, he issued this statement:
"While we support the efforts of OCCSR, given its infancy and other pressing needs of the city, $717,388 (current budget), as opposed to its request of $1,148,764, is more than a fair investment."
After the recent King Tides, some saw how the rare occurrence could become a more frequent problem because of rising sea levels.
"There is probably no more critical issue we need to deal with than climate change," Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.
The new city office hired not only staff, but also paid outside experts to help pinpoint places around Oahu most vulnerable to climate change, hired consultants to audit the city for ways to save electricity and for technical data.
"There are some serious computer modeling and planning that needs to be done one time as part of the climate action plan and our office doesn't have the capability to do that," Stanbro said.
"Anytime we deal with consultant services, the council raises a red flag because of consultants the administrations has hired," Honolulu City Council member Trevor Ozawa said.
In fact, the office of climate change, spent just as much on consultants as full time staff.
Stanbro says he hopes to have more of his workers trained to do those jobs in the future, but until then, any budget cuts will slow down the city's sustainability efforts.
"Budget cuts will stop us from our ability to do our mission as approved by the people under the charter," Stanbro said.
"We have a president who questions climate change, I sure hope we don't have a council that is thinking like he does," Caldwell said.
Ozawa countered, the issue isn't climate change but how to balance the budget.
"We want to make sure the money we are spending there will be efficiently used and we will see some results as a part of it," Ozawa said.
Stanbro says some of the results won't be seen until years or even decades later, when a natural disaster hits or sea levels rise. But that is when today's efforts will be needed most.
"FEMA can look at that and see $1 spent on resilience can save $5 on the back end but science shows if you're proactive and build resilience you save money on the back end," Stanbro said.
Ozawa, the council budget committee chair, tells Island News, they are not singling out the city's new office but instead looking at cutting back in all departments as members work to come up with their final budget.