Wednesday, June 27, 2001

GOP sees politics
in city party

Mayor Harris draws criticism
over using public money for bash

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Mayor Jeremy Harris is taking heat for mingling public funds with private money to celebrate the first anniversary of the Kapiolani Park Bandstand and the Fourth of July holiday.

The Harris administration last week sent invitations to selected Oahu residents for a first anniversary celebration of Kapiolani Park Bandstand on Tuesday and a Fourth of July picnic the following day.

The executive director of the Republican Party of Hawaii and a neighborhood board chairman say the hoopla surrounding the celebrations are politically motivated and show that Harris, who has announced he will run for governor, has skewed priorities when he is in campaign mode.

"It seems obvious that from the day after Harris was elected mayor, he has been manipulating his position for political purposes," said Micah Kane, GOP executive director.

Kane said he had received about seven or eight calls on Monday morning. He said the city could find better ways to spend taxpayer dollars given its tight financial situation.

Harris spokeswoman Carol Costa denied any political overtones.

"This is the second year for our Kapiolani Park Bandstand Fourth of July Picnic in the Park," she said. "It's regrettable that someone would suggest that this is anything but a great community celebration."

The Tuesday night event is being billed as "the Aston Resorts Full Moon Concert." Scheduled to run from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., the event features Hawaiian musical groups Reign and Na Leo Pilimehana.

The invitation says the Fourth of July Picnic in the Park event takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and includes entertainment from Ale'a, Colon, Maunalua, Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom and Sistah Robi Kahakalau.

City officials could not tell the Star-Bulletin how much in taxpayer money is being spent on the two events.

According to Aston Hotels and Resorts spokesman David Sayre, the Tuesday event is being sponsored entirely by the hotel chain and is part of a three-concert series.

"We think it's a great way for kamaaina and visitors alike to come together and experience the revitalized Waikiki," Sayre said.

City Managing Director Ben Lee said he does not yet know the cost of the events or how much would be footed by taxpayers. "We're still working on who's going to take what share (of the event)." He said he expects the entertainment will either be donated by the groups themselves or paid by the city.

Lee said the event is not political but represents a form of economic development. "We want to showcase our assets, get people to come back to Waikiki," he said.

The Fourth of July activity is being co-sponsored by the Waikiki Improvement Association. It was unclear how much the event will cost, and how much of it is being footed by the city.

Rick Egged, association president, said on Monday that members of his organization chipped in about $3,000 for a similar event last year but that he doesn't know how much will be contributed this time around.

Lynne Matusow, chairwoman of the Downtown Neighborhood Board, questioned the need to print and mail out glossy invitations for the events. "They could have done a press release and say the whole island is invited," she said. "There are other ways to get the word out."

Matusow said that the organizations providing private funding should report the contributions as gifts to the city.

But Lee said because both events are jointly sponsored, he doesn't believe the association is providing gifts to the city that need to be reported. He noted that no one questions the co-sponsorship of the Taste of Honolulu event between the city and the Easter Seals Hawaii.

"If we need a resolution down at the City Council to accept the contributions, we will do so," Lee said.

Kane said he doubts that will happen given what he described as a cozy relationship between the Council leadership and Harris.

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