Tuesday, June 29, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

Mayor takes heat
over carnival issue

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Members of the City Council's Parks Committee are criticizing Mayor Jeremy Harris for trying to sneak through a permit for a Fourth of July carnival at Ala Moana Beach Park.

The Variety School withdrew its request for a permit last week after public outcry about potential traffic and health and safety concerns. But the issue lingers because the administration wants new rules that would allow carnivals at Ala Moana, Magic Island and Keehi Lagoon in the future.

"It was very disturbing to my office and the (Ala Moana-Kakaako) neighborhood board that you did not provide any notice to any of us," area Councilman Andy Mirikitani told Deputy Parks Director Mike Amii.

Amii said the city published a legal ad in the newspaper 30 days before a public hearing that was to be held tomorrow night on rules that would have allowed Variety School to put on the carnival at Ala Moana.

Ala Moana is not among 15 city-owned sites where a carnival set up by a nonprofit now can be held.

That hearing was canceled after Variety School's decision to withdraw its application.

Parks Chairman John Henry Felix noted that current policy requires a carnival permit to be obtained at least six months in advance of an event unless a waiver is granted by the parks director.

"We have to involve the total community, we cannot circumvent the rules," Felix said. "These are serious matters. It causes the public to lose confidence in their government when the rules can be changed arbitrarily."

Councilman Mufi Hannemann suggested that colleague Rene Mansho may have lobbied Harris on behalf of her close friend, entertainer and Variety School board member Carole Kai.

He questioned Amii about whether Mansho accompanied Kai to ask Harris for special consideration. Amii said he didn't know if that was true.

"I would find it very interesting if she wasn't involved at all," Hannemann said after the meeting.

Both Mansho and Managing Director Ben Lee, Harris' top lieutenant, denied that Mansho had tried to influence the mayor.

Mansho acknowledged that she is a close friend to Kai and chairs the Great Aloha Run/Carole Kai Charities, from which Variety School receives contributions.

She said, however, she merely suggested that Kai approach the mayor, but did not lobby for a permit.

Hannemann said: "We will not tolerate behind-the-scenes back-room dealings that lead to very hastily made decisions that only benefit a few."

Lee responded: "Innuendoes about back-room deals are absurd. Someone's imagination is running wild."

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