Mayor rebuffs council over secrecy
Closed-door sessions to select mass transit have drawn criticism
Mayor Mufi Hannemann rejected accusations by several City Council members that he is keeping the public in the dark about how the technology for the multibillion-dollar fixed-guideway system is being chosen.
Hannemann also called on councilmembers who have opposed the panel to stop attempting to delay the project.
"I think what's happening is some people refused to let this project go forward and proceed as quickly as I would like to," Hannemann said yesterday after giving an update on the fixed-guideway project to the state House Transportation Committee. "They're trying to delay it, and my feeling is, get on board."
Hannemann responded to recent remarks by some City Council members who criticized his administration for letting a panel of experts meet behind close doors as they make the critical decision of what type of technology will be chosen for the planned mass transit system. He said the process has been transparent.
But Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz has asked the state Office of Information Practices to issue an opinion on whether the panel has to follow sunshine laws. "We're tired of business as usual and back-room deals," he said.
The administration has argued that the panel of five experts will be discussing proprietary information and having open meetings will slow the process. A decision on technology is expected at the end of February. Typically, the City Council is not involved in the procurement process.
"We're trying to find ways in which the Council can participate in the selection," Hannemann said. "It's an unprecedented step, but I really believe, given the interest in it, given my willingness to work with the legislative branch, I decided to go down this path."
Several councilmembers strongly opposed Hannemann's remarks, citing an ordinance passed in 2006 that says the City Council reserves the right to select the technology.
"That is exactly what Mufi Hannemann wanted," said Councilman Charles Djou. "He signed Bill 79, which spelled out that the legislative body should get involved with the procurement process. If Mufi Hannemann thought that was so bad, he should have vetoed the bill."
At a Council meeting last week, Councilman Todd Apo told members that the power ultimately remains with them because they can pass a bill to select the technology and they control the city's budget.
Hannemann said he is confident the members will agree with the panel's pending decision, and cannot imagine that the Council would pull the project's funding.
"Someone is going to have to answer to the people if they botch this process," Hannemann said. "I don't think that will happen at all. They have to be ready to take the heat if they want to delay it further after the panel comes out with a decision."
Hannemann told the Transportation Committee that the plan for the 30-mile system running from Kapolei to Ala Moana is on schedule, with a groundbreaking expected late next year. The cost is estimated at $3.47 billion, but interest and inflation bring the total closer to $5 billion.