Measure outsources public transit decisions
Councilmembers vote 4-1 to give tech experts the authority to choose the appropriate system
Some City Council members raised questions yesterday about a resolution giving experts the power to select the technology for the planned multibillion-dollar transit system.
"This panel is going to be a bunch of yes men to rubber-stamp what (the administration) has already wanted," said Councilman Charles Djou. "The people ultimately footing the bill is the taxpayers. ... You're asking us to give over the authority to spend over a billion dollars to a group of phantom individuals."
Djou's was the lone dissenting vote as the Council's Transportation and Public Works Committee voted 4-1 for the resolution, which would waive its power to select the technology -- one of its most important decisions on the city's largest public works project, which would connect Kapolei to Ala Moana.
Under the proposal, five technology experts from across the country -- two selected by the city administration, two from City Council members and one by the panel itself -- could make a selection as early as March.
The experts would be paid $20,000 each for about 100 hours of work and one trip to Honolulu.
Toru Hamayasu, the city's chief transportation planner, said he will release a list of potential experts and their resumes before a meeting on Dec. 12 when the full City Council will vote on the resolution.
"Selecting the fixed-guideway technology should not be a political or emotional decision," Hamayasu said. "The people of Honolulu have the right to expect a decision to be made based on the system's technical variance and the best value."
According to an amended version of the proposal, Council Chairwoman Barbara Marshall and Councilman Nestor Garcia, chairman of the committee on transportation, would select two of the panelists. The original proposal gave the city administration more power by allowing them to select four of the panelists.
"This is the best way I could come up with to make it impartial," said Garcia, who added he would likely consult with the administration for potential experts when making his selection.
Most councilmembers seem to agree that there should be a group of technology experts, but some said the panel should be an advisory committee and that the Council should make the final decision.
"There is a massive perception out there that this project has not been done on a neutral, objective basis," Marshall said. "Every effort that we can make to keep this process open is an imperative one."
Ultimately, the decision would need the Council's approval, Councilman Todd Apo said. Since the Council controls the budget, it could elect not to fund the project if it does not agree with the technology selection.
Furthermore, the measure up for consideration is a resolution, which does not have the power to overrule a law passed last year that said the Council reserves the right to make the technology selection, which it could invoke through another bill.