HONOLULU (KHON2) – Saturday marked the second day of the US Conference of Mayors in Waikiki.
Speakers included former US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and second lady of the United States, Karen Pence.
The first time Honolulu hosted the conference was in 1963.
At the time, President John F. Kennedy came to the conference and spoke to the mayors about the biggest issue of the time—civil rights.
Today, many mayors say the biggest issue is fixing the climate.
After a short video played of JFK’s speech in Honolulu in 1963, Mayor Caldwell was overcome by emotion.
Now, the former president’s daughter speaking at the conference 55 years later.
“Back then, mayors would go to the federal government for support,” Kennedy said. “Today, in many cases it’s the reverse. Whether it’s on climate change, immigration, or education, mayors are leading on the issues and working to build safer, most just more resilient and more prosperous communities.”
Mayor Caldwell agreed.
“Now we have a federal government that’s not really leading much on issues like climate change,” he said. “The federal government stepped back and doesn’t want to do anything. Now you have mayors from almost every major city in the country and small cities stepping up and saying we’re still in.”
Mayors from across the country said they are facing similar issues as Honolulu.
“Even if you’re in a beautiful place like paradise here in Honolulu, issues around addiction are in places like Dayton, so we can learn from each other,” said Dayton, Ohio mayor Nan Whaley.
Mayor Whaley sits with Mayor Walsh of Boston on the substance abuse task force. Both mayors walked through Chinatown earlier this week with Mayor Caldwell.
Mayor Whaley suggested Hawaii invest more in treatment facilities.
“Getting long term continual care around substance abuse will help your homeless issue but also your mental health because they’re all connected,” she said.
Mayors by the sea also discussed how they’re addressing the climate issue.
“The city and county of Santa Cruz are working on eliminating plastic bottles in our hotels, so little steps like that in terms of policy shifts, and transitioning from straws that are plastic, and also looking at electric vehicles and Honolulu buses being electric,” said Martine Watkins, mayor of Santa Cruz, California. How do we start to continue to make those investments?”
Second lady Karen Pence also took the stage to speak about veterans and jobs for military wives
“Thank you for welcoming military families into your communities and we encourage you to find even more creative ways to integrate them into your cities and into our communities,” said Pence.
Other topics today included police community engagement, school violence which the mayor of Parkland spoke on, and recycling.
Sunday will have more on substance abuse in communities, cybersecurity, and veterans.
For more information on the US Conference of Mayors, click here.