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View Point

By Rene Mansho

Saturday, May 6, 2000

Charged up by
electric-powered car

See also: Changing Hawaii by Diane Chang, May 5

Many people wonder why my driving of an electric vehicle is so controversial. I'd like to provide clarification.

As head of the City Council's Budget and Economic Development Committee, I want to help local businesses be successful, and find ways to stimulate our economy. I found both in Global Electric Motorcars (GEM) of Hawaii.

The company was introduced to me on Dec. 4, 1999, when I first drove a GEM car in the Mililani Christmas Parade. I was impressed by the state's only "made in Hawaii" car.

I decided to test drive the GEM car for two weeks in December to see if it was practical, functional and could replace our city motor pool gas-powered vehicles to save taxpayer dollars and help our environment.

During this time, I learned that we have a law that promotes the reduction of our state's reliance on petroleum and encourages alternative fuel transportation. There are incentives for electric vehicles, such as free motor vehicle registration, free parking in government lots and free meter parking up to the year 2002.

I also learned that the federal government provides a 10 percent tax credit and mandates that local government fleets must meet a certain percentage of alternative fuel transportation vehicles.

My experience test driving the GEM car was a great public awareness opportunity, and people were extremely supportive. I found myself regularly promoting the concept of electric vehicles to help our community.

Thus, in January of this year, I asked GEM Hawaii President Mark Snyder for a monthly rental to continue test driving the car. He said the car I was driving was a "dealer demo" which is regularly loaned out for free, so he would charge me $150 per month, which I paid.

Then in February, I agreed to become an employee of GEM Hawaii because I was sold on this electric vehicle. Accordingly, a condition of my employment was to drive this "dealer demo" and encourage others to test drive the GEM car, which I also did.

In March 2000, one of my City Council colleagues asked the city Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion on my relationship with GEM Hawaii and use of the car. On May 2, I received the Ethics Commission's recommendations, which were that I terminate use of the car and reimburse GEM Hawaii for fair rental value of the car for four months.

I responded immediately, and returned the car to the dealer. GEM Hawaii is currently working on a reimbursement payment plan.

Here are other facts regarding this issue:

Bullet I paid $13 per month, a total of $65 to date, for the use of electricity in the city municipal garage to recharge the car.
Bullet The City Charter authorizes Council members to have part-time employment.
Bullet There is no appropriation for GEM cars in the city budget.
Bullet The state procurement law clearly prevents any elected official from influencing the purchasing of goods or services. All vendors must go through a closed, sealed bid process. The City Council is not authorized to participate in this process.

I hope that my passion to reduce taxpayer costs and to help our environment by promoting alternative fuel transportation and electric vehicles is a clear commitment that government leaders are willing to "walk the talk" and continue to plan for the future.

I will continue to find ways to support our local economy by promoting "made in Hawaii" companies and products. Our identity throughout the world is the "Aloha State" and we must all do our part to ensure that the true aloha spirit is alive and well here in paradise.

Rene Mansho is a member of the Honolulu City Council.

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