Friday, April 30, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

Mayor, chairman
conflict heating up

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Mayor Jeremy Harris is accusing City Council Chairman Mufi Hannemann of bullying cabinet officials, referring to him as "Chairman Mufi McCarthy."

Hannemann, in turn, said he's stepped up criticism of the Harris administration primarily because "the Council has discovered that he presented a flimflam, false budget."

The mood in City Council chambers has grown increasingly heated since deliberations into next year's budget began in March.

Hannemann, Councilwoman Donna Mercado Kim and at times other Council members have grilled administration officials on a variety of budget-related issues.

"We went from a situation over the last several months where the the Council was working very cooperatively with the administration ... to a situation over the last three weeks where the Council chair has been abusive to city personnel and behaved in a very irresponsible manner," Harris said.

The public's interest "has taken a back seat" to Hannemann's political ambitions, he said.

The mayor's description of the Council chairman referred to the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who headed a U.S. Senate panel in the 1950s that investigated suspected Communists for disloyalty, often with little proof.

Hannemann said he has taken positions for and against the mayor based on the merits of individual issues.

He noted that a year ago, he and four other Council members brokered a compromise that allowed Harris' controversial reorganization plan in exchange for a promise not to lay off city workers.

Said Harris: "I've heard Council staffers talking about Chairman Mufi McCarthy, feeling that's the nature of the inquisition style that has been established down there in the last few weeks."

As an example, Harris pointed to a recent budget hearing that erupted into a shouting match between Hannemann and Salvatore Lanzilotti, director of the Department of Emergency Services.

Hannemann denied a political agenda. "If he's trying to paint a picture of hysteria and chaos and confusion where nothing is going to get done, he's absolutely wrong," he said.

It's the administration's budget that has resulted in the intense grilling of agency chiefs.

For example, the Council had set aside $20 million in the current year's budget to help with worker pay raises, Hannemann said. Instead, the money is being projected as part of a carryover "to make his budget look good."

Hannemann also said a majority of Council members oppose Harris' plan to impose a trash fee to help balance the budget. And TheBus operations were underfunded by $4 million next year, leaving the Council to find the money, he said. "This is why questions need to be asked," Hannemann said.

Harris, meanwhile, took umbrage with Hannemann's criticism of his budget proposal to dole out $38 million for 19 community visioning groups for capital improvements.

Hannemann, in a memorandum to Council colleagues, said visioning projects need to be looked at piecemeal rather than as a package. Other Council members have also criticized the Harris plan for subverting normal priority lists.

Hannemann called the visioning process "flimflammed and flawed," often reflecting the priorities of administration officials instead of residents.

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