Veto for culturalGov. Ben Cayetano said yesterday he will veto the surprise $8 million construction appropriation slipped into the state budget and approved by lawmakers to bail out the financially troubled Japanese Cultural Center.
Cayetano says criticism swayed
him against approving Japanese
Cultural Center funds
Staff and news reports
The governor said he is taking the action in "response from the public and, in particular, Japanese Americans who have contacted me and told me that they thought that the way it was done was not right."
Senate Ways and Means Chairman Brian Taniguchi (D, Manoa-Moiliili-McCully-Pawaa) inserted the appropriation into the budget after learning of the problems the nonprofit center had in making its mortgage payments. He had been criticized for slipping it into the budget unnoticed.
Taniguchi said last night that $8 million appropriation "wasn't inserted in the last minute. It's factually not true.
"My goal is to try to be sure that the center is preserved. If he (the governor) vetoes it, that's one less option that the cultural center will have. But it's his prerogative to do so."
Sen. Sam Slom (R, Kalama Valley-Aina Haina) said Taniguchi is "technically correct" because the appropriation was added to the budget before conference committee meetings, however, "there was never a public hearing on it.
"No one came forward and said, 'This is why we want the appropriation.' It was totally inappropriate to be in the budget. I applaud the governor's action," he added.
The money was earmarked for planning, land acquisition, design and construction for the center.
"I think the senator had the best of intentions. I just think that it is an appropriation that does not have the support of the community, including the Japanese-American community," Cayetano said.
Susan Kodani, the center's president, has said the center did not directly ask for the money but had welcomed the support.
Although $10 million was raised largely through private donations to support the 8-year-old cultural center, it had only enough capital to operate on a day-to-day basis, Kodani said in March.
Kodani said last night that she and other members of the center are discussing "many kinds of other options" to meet the center's mortgage payments, but would not comment on those alternatives.
Cayetano also said he is still weighing a veto of $5.5 million in the budget for the University of Hawaii's purchase of the old Paradise Park property in Manoa Valley because he is not sure it is a university priority.
The university reportedly was negotiating to buy 150 acres in upper Manoa Valley that includes the former Paradise Park as the site for a Pacific Center for Ecosystem Science to coordinate state, federal and private research into preserving Pacific island ecosystems.
Conservation biologists and archaeologists would use the rain forest setting for their studies, according to Kenneth Kaneshiro, director of the UH Center for Conservation Research and Training. He said the concept of the shared site came up more than 10 years ago.
The center also would provide a site for the UH medical school to study linkages between ecosystem health and human health, addressing such problems as dengue fever, Kaneshiro said.
Cayetano said he needs to discuss the proposal with UH President Evan Dobelle.
"I want to know why the university did not include it in its capital improvement program," he said.
"This was a legislative proposal that came primarily from the (House) speaker's office," Cayetano said. "I think if the university wants to do it, then the university should move forward and get the Board of Regents to support it."
The Paradise Park purchase is not included in the university's priority list of capital improvement projects, and if approved would displace projects with a higher priority, he said.
The Associated Press and Star-Bulletin reporter
Rosemarie Bernardo contributed to this report.
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