City Council sets landfill deadline
The vote to close the site at Waimanalo Gulch by 2008 upsets the mayor
The clock is ticking for Mayor Mufi Hannemann after the City Council voted yesterday to close the Waimanalo Gulch landfill by May 1, 2008.
The decision was upsetting to Hannemann, who said the Council's decision was motivated by politics, and now they should be prepared to tell the public that closing the landfill will cost them millions of dollars in taxes.
The vote: The City Council voted 7-2 to close the Waimanalo Gulch landfill by May 1, 2008.
What's next: Mayor Mufi Hannemann has not said whether he will veto the measure.
But Councilman Todd Apo, who represents the district that is home to the landfill, said the 7-2 vote "will send a very clear signal of what our desire and intent is."
One of his colleagues did not see it that way. Public Works Chairman Rod Tam said the bill "is not rational and is emotional," and voted against it.
The Council also moved forward a second bill that would force Hannemann's administration to include more than just yard waste in their plans for curbside recycling pickup.
Those who voted for the bills said the deadlines and mandates are needed to keep the administration's feet to the fire in coming up with a plan for Oahu's growing garbage problems.
But Hannemann said the Council should be prepared to raise taxes.
"I'm saying if by law we've got to do that, it will cost the taxpayers big money," Hannemann said before the Council voted. "The Council's going to have to talk about raising taxes if we do that, and they're going to broach it. ... I will not."
City Environmental Services Director Eric Takamura told the Council that he will recommend rejection of the bill to the mayor.
Hannemann did not say whether he would veto it, but he made it clear he was not happy with the Council's decision, blaming election-year politics and pressures by an environmental group and a resort.
"Some of them are trying to run for Congress; some of them are trying to run for office. ... They're running for re-election. That's what they're doing. It's all being driven by election-year politics," Hannemann said.
He said the vote was a reflection of pressure from the Sierra Club, which is pushing the curbside recycling bill, and Apo's employer, Ko Olina Resort, which is located makai of the landfill and has sought to close it.
"Some of them are succumbing to that pressure; they're not looking at this thing logically," the mayor said. "What they're doing is they're folding and they're bending and they're succumbing."
Council members see things differently.
"Just because what's considered a special-interest group has an interest in some issue, doesn't mean we're bowing to it," Apo said. "I think it's the broader community that we're hearing about on both of these items. It's not just the Sierra Club that wants curbside recycling. It's not just Ko Olina that wants the landfill closed."
On Hannemann's charges about playing politics, Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz said, "I don't think there's any need to get personal. I think we should just focus on the long-term solid-waste plan."
Dela Cruz, Charles Djou and Gary Okino, who voted for Bill 37, are up for re-election this year. Nestor Garcia, who also voted to close the landfill, is considering a run for Congress.
In the meantime, Djou believes it is still possible to find a solution.
"I hope we can work something out by the end of the month," Djou said, adding he hopes his bill passes before the mayor submits his budget to the Council next month.
Takamura said the administration was planning to ask the state for permission to extend the landfill permit beyond 2008 because it will not be able to close it, find a new site and start alternative technology to process garbage within two years.
"You may be looking at 2012, 2013 before we get a new landfill in operation," Takamura said.
The island currently generates about 1 million tons of trash a year, with about half burned at the HPOWER garbage-to-energy plant. The rest is buried at Waimanalo Gulch on the Waianae Coast.
If the landfill is closed, the garbage now going into Waimanalo could be shipped to the mainland for disposal, Takamura said, but if that happens, it could cost a minimum of $40 million a year -- a figure that was quickly disputed by some councilmembers.
"Eric threw out a $40 million number today. I don't see how you reach that number," Apo said.
While councilmembers now have enough votes to override a veto, some of them said that if Hannemann presents a reasonable plan at either the Feb. 24 State of the City speech or in his veto message -- if he decides to veto -- they would reconsider their vote. The mayor has 10 days from when he receives the bill to veto it.
"If the administration is facing this deadline, they will come up with a solution," Okino said.