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Tuesday, January 16, 2001

Hawaii State Seal


Harris wants civil
service rules altered

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Mayor Jeremy Harris is seeking relief from collective bargaining on several civil service issues as part of a "common-sense government package" he is submitting to the state Legislature this week.

In addition to civil service reform, Harris wants the counties to continue having access to "managed competition" so they can choose to hire private companies if they can do work more cheaply than unionized government workers.

He told a joint meeting of the Senate and House money committees this morning that he's done all he can to streamline city government and make it more efficient, given existing tools.

"A lot more could be done if we had these other tools of management," Harris said. "We need greater flexibility in management options to address increasing operating costs."

Harris said he's frustrated when he needs to bring in a city worker to do an hour's work -- such as collecting garbage from a community pickup on the weekend -- and must pay the worker for eight hours at time and a half, essentially 12 hours of pay.

He also said it should not have taken the city more than a decade to fully implement automated refuse collection. The delay, the result of needing to negotiate with union leaders, cost taxpayers money and resulted in unnecessary injuries to workers, he said.

Meanwhile, Harris said, the ending of legislation this summer that allowed the counties to use private sector workers may jeopardize hundreds of existing city contracts. Public worker unions have fought the practice, saying it takes away jobs that would have gone to their members.

But, "There are times when the private sector can do the task more efficiently and cost-effectively than we can," Harris said.

The package the city is proposing is not anti-union, he insisted. He is hoping to enlist the support of neighbor island mayors, as well as labor leaders and members

The mayors of the three other counties also made their annual pilgrimage to the Legislature today to make their pitches.

Big Island Mayor Harry Kim asked for legislation that would give the counties the ability to collect a share of public utility taxes, a proposal that has failed in recent attempts.

Maui Mayor Kimo Apana also called for a share of the utility tax revenues. He further asked for legislation that would reduce county liability at beach parks, another perennial issue for the counties.

Kauai Mayor Maryanne Kusaka asked that the state Department of Land and Natural Resources get more money to better maintain state recreational facilities on the Garden Island.

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