Council head opposes mayor's recycling plan
The extra fee might cause customers to let trash pile up, she says
City Council Chairwoman Barbara Marshall said she opposes a $10 monthly fee for a second day of regular trash collection each week, an idea proposed by Mayor Mufi Hannemann to pay for expanded curbside recycling.
"I still don't want to charge people for a second trash pickup until I can be convinced that that's not going to create a huge health and safety hazard," she said, noting that she fears people will stockpile garbage if they cannot afford the fee.
Hannemann made his proposal yesterday during his State of the City address. He also announced plans to assess sewer fees higher than what is already scheduled to fund millions of dollars more in repairs to the city's aging sewer system.
STATE OF THE CITY
Mayor Mufi Hannemann's State of the City address also outlined other proposals:
» A property tax credit to homeowners higher than the $200 credit he proposed last year.
» Reduce property tax rates on agricultural land to $5.70 from $8.57 per $1,000 in assessed value.
» Asked police and other city departments to come up with recommendations for pedestrian safety within 45 days.
» Looking for a developer to help expand and renovate the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall.
On the Net
» Read the text of the mayor's speech here or at www.honolulu.gov/ mayor/soc2007.pdf.
Environmentalists criticized Hannemann in 2005 when he scrapped plans by former Mayor Jeremy Harris to roll out islandwide curbside recycling.
They then led the charge for a proposed City Charter amendment on the ballot in November to mandate curbside recycling, a change that voters approved overwhelmingly.
Hannemann said the $10-a-month fee would be charged only to households that want to continue a second regular trash pickup a week. If a household can do with only one trash pickup a week, it would not have to pay the fee.
Under his proposal, single-family homes would have one regular trash collection and one recycling pickup a week -- with green waste one week and other recyclables the next week. The city began automated pickup of green waste last year.
"I think I remained true to my principles on curbside recycling. I never said I was against it. That's incorrect. I said, 'If we do it, it's going to cost,' and we have a culture here where everything is free when it comes to our opala (rubbish)," Hannemann said after his speech. "To expect that we can do it for free is what my concern was."
Eric Takamura, director of environmental services, said if all of the 150,000 homes opt for a second trash pickup a week, the city would raise $1.5 million a month.
Takamura said the administration is still working on how much the program will cost, noting that the program will not be going islandwide just yet. Previous estimates for islandwide curbside recycling have come in at about $8 million a year.
The program will start in Windward Oahu, where blue bins for recyclables have been distributed, as well as either Mililani or Hawaii Kai. Hannemann said the program will start Sept. 1.
Mililani residents were part of a curbside recycling pilot project by Harris. Hawaii Kai could be chosen because its councilman, Charles Djou, pushed the administration to implement curbside recycling sooner.
"I think it's great that the administration is at least dipping its toes into doing curbside recycling," Djou said.
Hannemann plans to hold community meetings in April and May "to see which communities will step up and say, 'Hey, we're willing to do it,'" he said.
"It will be clear to the people of Honolulu that if it doesn't happen, it's not the mayor and his administration. It's either the public that doesn't want to pay or the City Council that doesn't want to assess the fee," he said.
The Harris administration proposed in 2003 an $8-a-month fee for a second day of garbage pickup a week as part of its roll-out of curbside recycling, an idea that the City Council quickly trashed.
Marshall said she supports curbside recycling, but noted that the Hannemann administration found ways to fund other solid-waste programs without resorting to a new user fee.
"The city went into (automated) green-waste pickup at twice the cost of the old method -- twice the cost -- without ever having to charge the residents anything. The city went to monthly bulky-item pickup at no one's request that I know of ... and we're not charging for that," said Marshall, who represents a portion of Windward Oahu.
Sierra Club of Hawaii Director Jeff Mikulina, who criticized the mayor's handling of curbside recycling, said the mayor's proposal shows progress, but Mikulina would like a quicker conversion to islandwide service.
He also said it might not be necessary for the city to charge a fee. "The administration hasn't done the necessary legwork to see if we need to charge people or we can rebate people," he said.
Hannemann will provide more details next week on how much more he plans to ask sewer customers to dole out in fees that went up 25 percent in 2005 and then 10 percent last year after no increases for 10 years. He vowed not to repeat last year's 48 million-gallon sewage spill into the Ala Wai Canal.
Of the increased sewer fees, Takamura said, "It's more trying to get us into what we call compliance, to get us credibility with the regulators."