Saturday, May 1, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

Council, bus operators want
fare hike; mayor says no

Harris: I decide which
employees speak to Council

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Odds are that Oahu bus riders will pay more to get around the island beginning in July.

A majority of Council members appears opposed to Mayor Jeremy Harris' plan to institute a $1.10-a-pickup garbage fee that would earn the city $19 million a year.

City Council Chairman Mufi Hannemann said it's highly likely he and colleagues will approve the bus fare increases to help balance the city's $1 billion budget.

"I think the odds are very high," Hannemann told reporters yesterday of the higher fares.

The mayor opposes bus fare increases, arguing that such a move would severely hurt poor people.

"You can't take away mobility from people," Harris said.

Harris said his estimates show a loss of between 7 million and 10 million bus riders annually under a fare increase.

He also said it would promote more cars on the road when the city wants to reduce traffic.

But the city Transportation Commission, operators of TheBus, and the mayor's own budget task force all recommended raising bus fares.

Hannemann said he doesn't know how much fares will need to be raised to meet the city's needs.

The Transportation Commission and the budget task force both recommended increasing the adult cash fare from $1 to $1.50 and monthly passes from $25 to $35.

Their recommendations also called for raising student fares and senior fares.

The fare increases may not be across the board.

For instance, Councilman Steve Holmes said he would support single-fare rates but oppose raising costs for monthly passes.

The city subsidizes TheBus by about 70 percent, Hannemann said, and since not everyone rides, those who do should pick up a larger share, he said.

It would also be easier for riders to adjust to paying a higher fee rather than paying a new charge in the garbage pickup fee, Hannemann said. He also noted that TheBus fares are among the lowest in the country.

Hannemann was critical of the mayor's handling of TheBus in the coming budget.

Harris gave Oahu Transit Services, which runs TheBus, $4 million less than the $116 million it requested for next year.

"Every year is always a budget struggle," said Roger Morton, Oahu Transit operations vice president. But for the past two years, TheBus has been asked to take on more hours of service while receiving reduced funding, he said.

Oahu Transit President Jim Cowen said he's banking on getting the Council to restore at least some of the lost funding.

"It means that there will have to be a reduction in hours," Cowen said. "My position is we should make the public realize that they'll have to wait 15 minutes for a bus instead of 10 minutes."

Harris said he knew nothing of a reduced budget for bus services.

Hannemann also said it's likely that funding for most of the city's deputy directors will be chopped from the upcoming budget.

Eliminating department deputies was among the most frequently mentioned suggestions made by employees when asked their opinion, Hannemann said.

The city would save $81,102 on each salary of the 14 deputy head jobs being considered.

Harris: I decide which
employees speak
to Council

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Mayor Jeremy Harris says it's up to him to decide which city employees appear at City Council meetings.

Harris and City Council Chairman Mufi Hannemann clashed this week over the contentious tone of this year's budget proceedings.

Among Hannemann's charges is that personnel have been ordered by superiors to not appear before the Council even when asked.

Hannemann, Councilwoman Donna Mercado Kim and others said it's troubling that the administration won't let workers respond to issues they are familiar with or offer their expert opinion.

In other instances, Hannemann said, "they are ordered, they are told what to say to us."

Harris told reporters yesterday he has no problem having agency chiefs and others appearing before the Council on policy matters.

On Wednesday, Harris accused Hannemann of being "abusive" to agency chiefs at budget hearings.

Hannemann said the mayor's use of the word "abusive" had "harsh racial overtones."

"Using the word 'abusive,' especially in the context of a Polynesian male, brings out harsh, racial overtones," said Hannemann, a Samoan-American. "I worked very hard all my life to overcome the negative stereotypes."

The mayor called Hannemann's accusation "ridiculous."

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