Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says he has no regrets about allocating millions of dollars in federal funding to the Honolulu Police Department through the CARES Act, despite reports of overtime abuse and concerns about millions spent on police equipment.

“When you think about it, enforcement is a critical component of how we fight this virus,” Caldwell said Tuesday. He said perhaps in retrospect he would have added stronger controls on police overtime, “but you learn as you go.”

The mayor noted HPD spent about $21 million of $63 million in federal funds allocated to it. Earlier this month, Caldwell announced city taxpayers would foot the bill for overtime abuse rather than continuing to use federal funds.

Some officers were doubling their salaries as HPD engaged in unprecedented policing to enforce stay-at-home orders and park closures, including rules that experts said defied science. Some homeless people were ticketed dozens of times.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell masks up at press conference announcing the www.Backonthewave.com site and reopening bars safely during COVID-19 pandemic. Caldwell announced 125 positve COVID-19 cases today and urged the public to be vigilant. November 4, 2020
At his last scheduled press conference Tuesday, Mayor Kirk Caldwell urged people to wear masks and reminded them to limit gatherings to groups of five. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Caldwell thanked HPD for its work.

“They did their job and they brought about widespread compliance on the island of Oahu,” he said.

It was the mayor’s final scheduled press conference during his last week in office.

He has just two full workdays left in office before he’s succeeded by Rick Blangiardi on Saturday at noon.

Caldwell also discussed the city’s spending of federal CARES Act money, announcing that the city has allocated all of the $387 million received in April. About $300 million has been disbursed and $87 million has been committed.

The outgoing mayor also unveiled a draft budget that he said he’s leaving for the Blangiardi administration. Earlier this year, the Caldwell administration identified a $451 million budget gap for fiscal year 2022. Caldwell said the revised proposal presents a balanced budget that includes cuts across all agencies but no layoffs or furloughs.

Caldwell noted the city’s budget accounts for reduced revenue, including a $45 million drop in the transient accommodations tax on hotels that the counties receive from the state.

The outgoing mayor’s budget proposal also takes into account $50 million in federal funds for bus services included in the recent federal COVID-19 relief bill that President Trump just signed.

Blangiardi doesn’t need to submit a budget to the Honolulu City Council until March. On Tuesday, Blangiardi announced a slate of cabinet appointments.

Caldwell complimented Blangiardi’s team, calling them “incredible” and complimenting their private sector experience.

“It’s been a great eight years and an honor,” he said before ending the press conference.

Caldwell is contemplating a 2022 run for governor.

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