Thursday, May 13, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

Leadership shuffle
slows city budget

The Council delays action to give
the upcoming fiscal chief, Rene
Mansho, a clean shot at the choices

By Pat Omandam


The City Council has put off changing Mayor Jeremy Harris' proposed $1 billion operating budget and $252.2 million construction budget until after Monday's scheduled reorganization of Council leadership.

And while the mayor's most vocal critics are being reshuffled from power, Harris still faces a Council that wants to avoid imposing a $1.10-a-pickup garbage fee by coming up with $19 million elsewhere in the next year's operating budget.

Outgoing Budget Chairman John Henry Felix yesterday recommended that the budgets for fiscal year 2000 pass unamended, leaving a "clean slate" for incoming Budget Chairwoman Rene Mansho.

Felix said the lack of changes to the mayor's plans are not signs that Council members have no suggestions for the city budget. Rather, it acknowledges that a new Council majority -- this time led by Councilman Jon Yoshimura -- must decide what it wants to do.

"In short, it would be an exercise in futility to attempt to amend this budget today," said Felix, who along with Council Chairman Mufi Hannemann and Councilwoman Donna Kim, is left on the outside of the proposed reorganization.

The budgets are up for second reading before the Council and still face more committee and Council hearings before they can be approved.

Final reading is scheduled for June 9. The new fiscal year starts July 1.

In preliminary plans, some Council members want to eliminate deputy director and executive assistant positions, as well as raise bus fares to help balance the budget.

"One thing we want to make clear to everyone out there is that by our action today, we do not agree entirely with the mayor's operating and CIP budgets," Yoshimura said.

Earlier yesterday, the committee heard testimony from city workers who sought more funding for their programs, as well as from members of Harris' community-based visioning program, in which each community was left to decide how it wants to spend up to $2 million in construction money.

Hannemann said the public must understand there is not enough money to fulfill all of those visioning requests. And it may take more than a year before work can begin on projects that are approved.

"I'll be a monkey's uncle if every visioning recommendation that was made in fiscal year 2000 gets completed in a year," Hannemann said.

He said people were misled that these visioning recommendations were firm and that the Council would automatically approve them. Both he and Felix want to cut the construction projects budget to $200 million to reduce the debt service, or interest paid on bonds for those projects.

Kim, who is set to lose her longtime seat as Zoning Committee chairwoman, supported allowing the incoming leadership the first crack at the mayor's budget. She hopes the new majority will focus on cutting government, making it more efficient and paying attention to infrastructure, including city parks.

"I still hold on to a glimmer of hope that perhaps there are people on this Council with enough fortitude to be able to do that," she said.

"I don't hold my breath, however."

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