City Council cannot shirk transit decision
A City Council committee has approved a resolution assigning a panel of experts to decide on the technology for Honolulu's transit system.
CITY Council members have agreed to give a panel of experts the job of selecting the technology for Honolulu's transit system, but it should not relinquish the authority to make the final decision. The Council must recognize that it remains accountable for the way city tax dollars are spent.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann proposed a panel comprised of four technology experts to be chosen by the administration and one by the Council. Under a resolution approved 4-1 by the Council's Transportation and Public Works Committee, the administration would choose two each, Council Chairwoman Barbara Marshall and Committee Chairman Nestor Garcia would choose one each, and those four panel members would pick a fifth.
The accountability should remain with elected officials not only because they retain the funding authority but also because such power requires them to abide by the state's sunshine law. The experts might and undoubtedly will meet behind closed doors, denying the public full access to the debate.
"Every effort that we can make to keep this process open is an imperative one," said Marshall, a former television reporter. Under the resolution, that might be impossible until the expert panel has made its decision, which the Council should regard as a recommendation because, in reality, that is what it will be.
Councilman Charles Djou cast the dissenting vote, complaining about giving "the authority to spend a billion dollars to a group of phantom individuals." Not necessarily. The Council enacted a law last year reserving the right to make the technology selection, and Councilman Todd Apo pointed out that the resolution, if enacted, will not revoke that law. The panel's decision should not be railroaded into implementation.
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