In January 2012, just after announcing his candidacy for Honolulu mayor at the Kalihi transit center, Kirk Caldwell read from a slip of paper listing two concerns from a city employee.

“One is more soap for the bathrooms, and he wants signs for not spitting on the floor,” Caldwell said, adding that he planned to keep such lists on hand “because it’s about these kinds of hands-on details that make life better for all of you. And that is the kind of mayor I’m going to be.”

Caldwell won that race, as well as a second term last November. While the fate of the Honolulu rail project dominated the latter contest, it’s worth pointing out that rail was but one of his six campaign priorities. Parks and playgrounds was another, and there has been progress.

Under Caldwell’s Kakou for Our Parks program, the mayor’s 2016 re-election campaign boasted that the city refurbished 32 comfort stations around Oahu, renovated 25 playgrounds, built 15 new ones and resurfaced 20 play courts. It included restoration of McCoy Pavilion and improvements at Magic Island.

The city’s Department of Parks and Recreation website states that, as of May, more than 100 parks have received improvements — to comfort stations, the resurfacing of play courts and the restoration or installment of new play apparatus.

Recently completed work includes the reopening of swimming pools at district parks in Wahiawa and Makiki. The pool, weight room and gym at Palolo Valley District Park, closed in April for roof leaks and water damage, are scheduled to be reopened by this fall.

So give the Caldwell administration some credit for making Oahu’s parks more inviting locales for rest and recreation.

But as Civil Beat reported this week, while millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent to improve parks over the past 10 years, some have fared far better than others.

Parks in Leeward Coast communities, for example, received less city money than in the Ewa area. And Ala Moana Regional Park — a very popular park but also one that serves as the panoramic view for all those luxury condos and retail outlets — will get $20 million in city care next fiscal year, several times more than what the entire Leeward Coast will get.

Natanya Friedheim and Courtney Teague detailed conditions such as rundown playing fields at Kalanianaole Beach Park, bathrooms prowled by drug users near Aala Park’s skate park and stinky toilets and stuffed trash cans at Sandy Beach.

And in many of the facilities visited, there was no soap. Sorry, Mr. Mayor.

There are 300 parks on Oahu, and just 86 are district parks with dedicated city staff and programming.

They include highly trafficked parks such as Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, which charges admission fees, and smaller greenswards like Paki Community Park that are free to anyone (including a young Barry Obama who is said to have played pickup basketball there).

The job of keeping parks clean and safe will never end.

Fresh examples include crumbling sea walls at Kapiolani Park between the Queen’s Surf groin and the Waikiki Aquarium, smashed urinals and sinks at Keehi Lagoon and residents afraid to go to Kamalii Park near Chinatown because of homeless camps and narcotic use.

The city posts the status of its parks as well as before-and-after photos of completed projects.

The Civil Beat story pointed to several ways people can help, including an adopt-a-park program and public-private partnerships in which businesses take time to do things like clean parks and paint over graffiti.

A third path is yet to be tested but could prove the most creative.

Last month, Caldwell signed into a law a bill from City Council members Kymberly Pine and Ann Kobayashi to set up a pilot program for groups, businesses and individuals to sponsor city facilities, including parks.

The Outdoor Circle, which has made certain there are no billboards or aerial banners here, opposed the idea, worrying that it could lead to outdoor advertising.

But the new law has safeguards that, if followed, could ensure that doesn’t happen. For example, publicity of the sponsorship must conform to state rules regulating outdoor advertising.

And the City Council must sign off on any agreements involving contributions of $50,000 or more. The city will not relinquish authority over the properties that receive sponsorship, sponsorships can’t show favoritism to city employees, and the city can’t be seen as endorsing the sponsor.

Any physical indication of sponsorship “must blend in with the surrounding environment,” the sponsor can’t advertise goods or services, and the city can end the agreement at any time should it find the sponsorship no longer in the city’s best interest.

There could be problems with the new law. But it just might lead to more soap at comfort stations and more money for parks and playgrounds in less affluent neighborhoods around the island that deserve equitable consideration.

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