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Apo under fire for reviving property tax bill


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POSTED: Thursday, October 29, 2009

Facing accusations of making backdoor deals and bending to the will of the mayor, City Council Chairman Todd Apo defended his last-minute change of heart that revived a proposal to create a new “;homeowners”; classification for property tax assessments.

On Tuesday, some seven hours after the Council voted unanimously to recommit Bill 51 — and after most of those who testified on the measure had gone home — the bill was revived, with Apo casting the swing vote that gave it final approval.

Apo said yesterday that he still does not support the separate homeowners' class for property tax assessments, but agreed to advance the measure to keep discussion alive, noting that the Council has the final word on property tax rates.

“;This is enabling legislation — it allows the discussion,”; Apo said by phone from the mainland. “;Had this been a final vote on actually implementing it, I wouldn't support it.”;

Mayor Mufi Hannemann had strongly backed the creation of a homeowners tax class, which allows the city to differentiate between owner-occupants and property owners who do not live in their dwellings, with the possibility of separate tax rates for true homeowners.

Critics, including Apo, say the separation could drive up rents and lead to higher taxes on others, such as agricultural or commercial property owners.

After the vote to table the proposal, Apo said Hannemann asked to meet with him to discuss the matter.

;[Preview]    City Council Members Approve New Homeowner Tax Bill
  ;[Preview]
 

After last-minute lobbying by Mayor Hannemann, City Council members approved a bill to create a new tax category for homeowner occupants.

Watch ]

 

“;He wanted to explain to me face-to-face how important this was and that it was enabling legislation, not implementing legislation,”; Apo said.

Councilman Romy Cachola, at Tuesday night's hearing, suggested the possibility of political horse trading, saying he hoped Apo's change of heart had nothing to do with promises related to the landfill or rail transit.

Yesterday, Council members Ann Kobayashi and Charles Djou also said they felt some manipulation or backdoor dealing had occurred. Djou called Cachola's insinuations “;spot on.”;

Apo said at the hearing and again yesterday that no such insider deals were cut.

Djou said: “;Anybody who has any interest in open, transparent government should be disgusted with how the Honolulu City Council and city government in general conducted itself.”;