Councilmembers thank Hannemann
for attending their meeting
Mayor Mufi Hannemann won kudos from City Council members yesterday for simply showing up.
"Thank you for being here. This is kind of awesome for me. This is the first time in my two years and three months on this Council that the mayor has ever appeared before us," Councilwoman Barbara Marshall told him.
"We've invited the previous mayor to come to our budget hearings, to come to answer questions, and not once did he come here. And we appreciate the time you're taking to be with us," Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said.
It apparently won't be the last time, either, as Hannemann is expected to present his office's operating budget today before the Budget Committee.
"I'd love to see you often," Marshall said.
The former City Council chairman said he knows what it's like to be where the Council is.
"As you know, I used to sit on that side of the table, so I know how frustrating it can be when answers are not forthcoming," Hannemann said, pledging that his department directors would be open and frank with their answers to the questions asked by the Council.
Hannemann's main reason for appearing before the committee yesterday was to stand behind his managing director-designee, Jeff Coelho, who was chastised by members of the Budget Committee earlier in the week for not being present to answer policy questions when budget hearings began last week.
Coelho was attending a Civil Defense meeting but has since sat in on subsequent budget sessions.
"I hope that you can appreciate that the managing director that I've appointed has just been on the job for a week, and therefore it's really impossible, in my view, for him to be able to answer questions at this point relative to policy," Hannemann said. "He's doing his best to get up to speed as quickly as possible, but in all fairness he was not in on the policy formulation of the budget."
Yesterday was also an opportunity for the committee to directly ask the mayor the reasons behind some of the policy decisions in the budget.
For example, Marshall wanted to know why the mayor was using $6 million in bonds -- which would mean more long-term debt for the city -- to finance salaries instead of using operating cash.
"When I was on the Council, I had the same concerns. It's a situation whereby, as you know, we've inherited a number of projects that we've got to play catch-up on, and we've got to do it quickly," Hannemann said. "So it's a cost-saving measure, but it also enables us to be able to get to that project as soon as possible."
Hannemann said it is a short-term fix, but if bonds were not used to pay for those salaries, his administration would have sought a higher sewer fee increase -- 35 percent, as opposed to the 25 percent he is currently requesting.
"We really want to work with you. We can't do it alone," Hannemann said.