GCA hosts Blangiardi and DPP Chief Uchida at July luncheon

From left: Moderator Glen Kaneshige, president, Nordic PCL Construction Inc.; Dean Uchida, director, Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting; Cheryl Walthall, executive director, GCA; and Rick Blangiardi, mayor, City & County of Honolulu     PHOTO BY PAULA BENDER

At the General Contractors Association (GCA) July lunch meeting at the Ala Moana Hotel by Mana, Mayor Rick Blangiardi took the liberty to go off-script to lay the groundwork about City & County of Honolulu issues that are on a lot of minds. His fellow panelist was Dean Ushida, director of the City & County of Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP). Moderating the program was Ken Kaneshige, president of Nordic PCL Construction Inc.

“First of all, fixing DPP is our priority,” Blangiardi says. “It’s key to economic recovery for us. We are now in fiscal year 2023, and now we can work with our own budget, which has received unanimous approval from the City Council.”

After at least 20 years of mismanagement, an audit of the DPP discovered red flags amid an in-house white-crime cartel to dismantle—resulting in the loss of jobs and benefits—and jail time. “Which, by the way, is an ongoing process,” says Blangiardi, indicating the investigations continue. 

“The DPP is undergoing a transformation. It controls the economy, and people want to be part of the change,” Uchida says. “The system should be customer-service based. [Artificial Intelligence] AI and bots could pre-screen applications.” Uchida added that he wanted a system out of the box, one that doesn’t get personalized by people within a department, creating roadblocks and silos of domain.

For contractors in Hawaii, the planning and permitting process has for years been the murky repository for documents that may never surface again, Uchida says, adding that forms with missing information would be tossed into a bin, and no contractor would have any indication that something was amiss. Third-party contractors working on behalf of busy construction contractors often failed to submit forms that met department requirements, unbeknownst to the contractors they represented.

With what the mayor describes as such an archaic system, a corrupt culture and an attitude of, “We be here before you. We be here after you,” the Blangiardi administration is giving the DPP an overdue overhaul. “Young hires don’t have that sentiment,” Blangiardi says. “They are excited to affect changes.”

Other issues Blangiardi addressed at the luncheon included the Red Hill petroleum leak into the groundwater table, private activity bonds, B-1 and B2 zoning, affordable housing, short-term rentals, Aloha Stadium and working for the City.

“It’s hard to get a job with the city,” Blangiardi says. “There are more than 3,000 vacancies across five departments. As a result, we are overhauling the City’s HR department. We are thinking pay-scale adjustments.” He also mentioned that job descriptions should reflect the actual jobs and not contain requirements that stop job seekers from even trying.

Related Images:

More articles