Friday, March 21, 2003

City Council hears calls
to cut off vision teams

Some neighborhood board
members allege a lack of openness

By Crystal Kua

Critics asked City Council members yesterday to stop funding for vision team projects, saying the teams have not been following the law.

City & County of Honolulu

They also asked that the vision team process be combined with the neighborhood boards.

"It talks about long-range dreams and visions, but those have to be taken in the context of the reality, our current needs," Mike Abe, of the Kaimuki Neighborhood Board, told the Council Budget Committee. "I think that's one of the reasons why the city is faced with so much infrastructure deficiencies, deferred and ignored, while we've had these wonderful vision projects."

But vision team advocates said the process is working and asked the committee to go forward with projects recommended by the teams.

"The vision team process does allow the residents to select projects that will enhance the entire community," said Waikiki resident Bill Swett, a vision team member.

"I hope that funding won't be drastically reduced," said Ron Tolleson, of the McCully/Moiliili vision team and neighborhood board.

The committee focused its budget discussions yesterday on vision teams and neighborhood boards. More than $69 million in vision team and neighborhood board construction projects are in the $288 million capital improvement program budget proposed by Mayor Jeremy Harris.

Some Council members have been scrutinizing vision and neighborhood board projects for possible cuts.

Some critics -- especially those on neighborhood boards -- say vision groups have been ignoring the Sunshine Law governing open meetings.

That position, they said, was backed up by a March 3 letter from the Office of Information Practices, which reviewed meeting notices and minutes of each of the 19 vision groups.

The OIP said each of the teams failed to meet minimum requirements of the Sunshine Law for meeting notices, and none of the minutes reviewed had a record of votes taken.

Lynne Matusow, chairwoman of the Downtown Neighborhood Board, said that based on the opinion, the action of the vision teams are illegal. "It is my suggestion ... that you do not fund any of the (vision) recommendations for this year's CIP projects."

But city administration officials stood by their position that the vision groups are not subject to the open-meetings law.

"This is an absolutely open process," said Eric Crispin, director of the Department of Planning & Permitting.

Corporation Counsel David Arakawa called the OIP opinion "ridiculous" because the opinion does not require the vision teams to follow the quorum requirements of the law.

"It's either you're subject to the Sunshine Law or you're not," Arakawa said.

City & County of Honolulu

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