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Councilmen find allies to fight recycling cut


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POSTED: Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Facing a June 10 deadline for final passage of the city's budget, at least two City Council members say they will try to restore a $6 million cut that would have paid for the last phase of curbside recycling on Oahu.

“;I think there'll be a bunch of floor drafts (introduced), and I'm hoping we can work together to make sure it's adopted,”; said Councilman Duke Bainum.

Bainum and Councilman Charles Djou enlisted the help of the Sierra Club yesterday to emphasize the importance of the recycling program.

Robert Harris, executive director of the environmental group's Hawaii chapter, said deferment of funding is a shortsighted move that will wind up costing the city more in the long run.

The $6 million is primarily start-up costs, to buy the recycling containers and fund educational materials, and once those are in place, the pickup would simply be integrated into the normal trash collection schedule, Harris said.

Budget Chairman Nestor Garcia said the $6 million cut was needed to lighten the tax burden on residents whose property taxes the Council will increase to make up a $50 million shortfall in the city budget.

During debate on the proposal, Garcia noted that his district included areas that would be cut off from having the curbside service.

“;I am sacrificing my community for the sake of the city budget,”; Garcia said.

The area affected by the cut would be from Waipahu through the Leeward Coast and through to Makua.

Harris called it a matter of fairness, noting that the Leeward Coast is most affected by issues related to the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill.

Proposals passed by the Budget Committee included an increase of 30 cents to the real property tax rate, placing it at $3.59 per $1,000 of valuation. To offset that, the committee also approved a one-time tax credit of $175 to homeowners who live on the property.

The Council also approved a series of fee and rate increases proposed by Mayor Mufi Hannemann. Those increases include boosts in some bus fares, golf course fees, zoo admissions, vehicle weight taxes and parking meters at popular parks.

Garcia deleted a proposal to increase the city fuel tax by 3 cents to 19.5 cents a gallon.