Tuesday, January 2, 2001
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Posted at: 4:00 p.m., Tuesday, January 2, 2001

Mayor Jeremy Harris' inaugural speech

Good morning and aloha. Thank you for joining us this morning. Ramona and I want each of you to know how much we appreciate the hard work and sacrifices you've made so that we could be here today. Your support and trust will never be forgotten. And let me thank my wife Ramona for standing by my side and for making me proud as Honolulu's First Lady.

This is a special time in our City's history. Today is the true beginning of the new millennium. This is a time to look within ourselves and ask questions about who we are as individuals and who we are collectively as a society. It's a time for us to set our sights on what we want our lives, our island, and our children's future to be. It's a time to count our blessings. After all, we live in one of the most wonderful places in the world, with unrivaled natural beauty, a healthy environment and safe communities.

The world recognizes Honolulu as a great city. Today is the time for us to rededicate ourselves to making our great city even greater. In looking back, the changes that have occurred on our island over the last 100 years have been extraordinary. We have evolved from an agricultural community with a plantation economy to the 11th largest city in the United States and a center of international tourism. Even though the changes of the 20th century have been great, they pale in comparison to the changes that await us in the new century that beckons. We face great challenges, to be sure, but make no mistake; our future is one of great hope and opportunity if we have the vision, courage, and initiative to seize it. In my inaugural address 4 years ago, I laid out three crusades for my administration to improve the quality of life on this island, to provide smarter government, and to protect and enhance our precious environment. All of those crusades have been enormously successful.

I said at the time that in four years I wanted to wake up in a Honolulu that was cleaner, greener, and safer; where more people had good jobs, crime was down, the bus system was improved and our children had more parks to play in. We've achieved these improvements in our quality of life.

Now we must do more. If we are to be successful in realizing our potential as a city, and as a people, we must take some definitive steps.

First, we've got to empower the people of this island. Many people feel that government doesn't represent or respond to them but only to an elite group of "insiders." This must end – as we officially step into a new millennium today, let's leave behind the politics of the past. Let this new millennium be characterized by an empowered populous: where people can make a difference; where their contributions and ideas are not only readily accepted by government, but actively solicited; where benefit to the majority supercedes the special interest of an elite minority.

The voice of the people must always speak louder than the whines or whispers of special interest. Over the last six years, one of the hallmarks of my administration has been to have the people of this island participate in the decisions that affect their lives. That philosophy of government will continue into the new term and will be expanded. We will be calling on everyone to exercise not just their opportunity to get involved in city government but to recognize their obligation to do so. In order to take our place as one of the truly great international cities of the world, in addition to empowering our people, we've got to develop a shared vision for our future. Over the last two years we've initiated an extensive effort to develop that consensus. We've called it the 21st Century Vision Process and we've involved thousands of people in communities all around the island. The focus to this point has been largely on planning a vision for our neighborhoods and has centered mainly on issues such as land use, transportation, and infrastructure improvements.

The time has now come to broaden our perspectives and to expand our neighborhood focus into a regional and island-wide scope. In the year ahead we need to develop a consensus on a vision for this entire island's future and its future economy. And, we need to come to agreement on a plan of action to realize\ that vision.

To start that process, let me share with you my assessment of our situation and my vision of the bright future that's within our grasp.

With the demise of plantation agriculture and the reduction in military spending, we have become overly dependent on tourism as our economic base. Over the last 9 years, we've learned how fragile that lack of diversity has left our economy. Tourism must and will continue to be a major component of the economy of the future, but it cannot be the sole component. We must recognize that we are part of the global economy, and we must use our resources and natural attributes to fit into that economy and to exploit its opportunities.

As an ecologist, the concept is basic - we must adapt and evolve in the changing environment or face extinction. Those that adapt quickly and well to new situations enjoy enormous opportunities and success.

Those that are slow to react and to change face great difficulty.

By now, the parameters of the global economy for this new century are clear to all. It is the age of Information and Technology. We can and must play a leadership role in this new economy. I believe Honolulu's true destiny is to be the center for high technology, research and development, and professional service industries for the Asia Pacific region in the 21st century.

Just consider our attributes in seeking this vision. The 21st century will be the Asia Pacific century with most of the global population and economic growth occurring in our region. We have an enormous opportunity to tap into this growth economy.

Our strategic geographical and temporal location, our multi-cultural, cosmopolitan population, our superb environment and high quality of life, all position us to be a thriving high-tech center. An economy so based would provide high paying professional jobs for our people, yet it wouldn't deplete or despoil our natural resources or our environment. A high-tech economy such as this would also allow diversification into other smaller ndustries that would enable us to be more self-sufficient – such as diversified agriculture and aquaculture, and sustainable tourism spin-offs such as sports and health and wellness industries.

In short, we need to shift to a more stable economy through diversification. We need an economic base that is sustainable and doesn't destroy our natural resources, one that is part of the global economy of the future, and one that strengthens – not erodes – our island culture and values. To make this shift, government must advocate for Hawaii's entrepreneurial activity, not restrain it. We must create the supportive infrastructure, eliminate the barriers, and then get out of the way of the private sector; and when the private sector can do a job better than government, we should let them.

This is how we will create economic choices for our community. This is how we will give our young people the exciting options they need to stay in Hawaii and make a great city greater. All of this is achievable if we just resolve ourselves as a community to its accomplishment. But make no mistake – achieving this vision will require change. Change in government's approach to governance, change in the attitudes of our institutions, change in the way we as a community deals with change.

Our history as a City and as a State has been one of great resistance to change. It's said we suffer from paralysis by analysis. For instance, this beautiful bandstand we enjoy today took less than 10 months to construct but it took years to receive approval to build, and then only after great political battles.

This paralysis can't continue if we are to fulfill our destiny and become the truly great city we can be.

Today's world changes too fast. To respond to quickly emerging opportunities and challenges we must have institutions and systems that can quickly adapt and take action.

We must realize that blindly clinging to the status quo – whether it's a rundown old bandstand or the way we organize our government – may seem safe, but ultimately it is the sure path to extinction. In government, instead of clinging to the status quo we must continually innovate. We must be on the cutting edge of technology and service delivery, whether it's automating our refuse system, employing smart bus technology, or offering all the City's services over the Internet.

As I said 4 years ago: "In seeking our destiny and charting our new course ... we've got to be bold and innovative as a City and as a community. We can no longer accept a political system grid-locked by itimidity, fearful of making a decision ... We've got to take risks, try new ideas ... Some of our efforts won't be successful; some will teach us how to try again with a new focus; some will uncover areas of opportunity not yet envisioned; and some will yield greatness and forever improve our life on these islands.” Be assured, this commitment to innovation in government will continue to be a hallmark of my administration.

Finally, as we pursue our destiny as one of the great cities of the world, it is vital that we cherish and protect our island values. Let us never forget that what makes us great, above all else, is the quilt of our society: our people, our diversity, and the way we understand and take care of each other and this spiritual place we live in. Not one piece of this quilt can be taken for granted; and one torn piece damages and weakens the whole fabric.

Respectfulness, compassion, tolerance and patience are island values that must be lived, not just talked about. These are a critical core of values that we need to protect and to work from – the essence of our being. Lose these and we lose our greatness. We must never forget our obligation to our descendents to take care of these sacred islands. We must not ignore our responsibility to care for our kupuna after all they have contributed to our community. And we must continue to put our children and our children’s children first, so that their lives on this island can be even fuller and richer than our own.

May those future generations of Hawaii say of us here today that we were bold and visionary at the turn of the millennium; that we grasped Hawaii's true destiny in the global community and produced a quality of life unparallel in the world; and that although we led Hawaii through a period of unprecedented change, we never allowed our island values to be sacrificed.

Let them say that we met the challenges of our time and that our stewardship made our great City even greater.

Thank you again for allowing me the privilege to serve as your Mayor.

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