City & County of Honolulu

Harris backs down
on Sunset program

He limits the beach community
event to once per month

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Mayor Jeremy Harris is cutting back on the number of Sunset on the Beach events held each month at Queen's Surf, saying he is bowing to the wishes of the City Council even though attorneys tell him that is not necessary.

Key Council members say they still believe Harris tried to undermine their authority and that they want him to communicate better with them.

Harris told reporters he is canceling Sunset on the Beach activities scheduled for July 20-21 and July 27-28 "in the spirit of cooperation." Council members this week said they agreed to slot $300,000 for the program only after attaching a proviso that barred the mayor from holding the event more than one weekend a month beginning this month. The Council cited the need to save money in the city's budget.

While technically the second Sunset event of July, this weekend's event will continue with all expenses paid from a $10,000 grant from Outrigger Hotels and Resorts, the mayor said.

Harris said he did not purposely ignore the intent of the proviso and that he was "a little bit befuddled" when the Star-Bulletin reported that Council members had expected that there be only one event a month.

"It had been my understanding that they were concerned about the cost of the program," the mayor said, noting that he does not understand why they would want to curtail a program that provides affordable entertainment for local families and visitors while helping to stimulate the economy.

Harris said that the Council "overstepped its authority" to regulate money. Later yesterday, Corporation Counsel David Arakawa issued an advisory opinion mirroring the mayor's opinion, stating "While the City Council has the power to enact appropriate bills and set broad policy, it does not have the power to intrude on administrative functions reserved to the executive branch."

Nonetheless, Harris said, "in the spirit of cooperation," the city will sponsor Sunset only once a month through the next 12 months, he said. "We will try to encourage nonprofits and the corporate sector to step forward and hopefully sponsor a few additional weekends."

Council Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi applauded the mayor's decision.

"The point right now is the Council specified in a proviso in a legal document, the budget, that these events should be held once a month and that they should seek private funding for them," she said.

Harris and his top lieutenants should have told the Council about their intentions "if the administration intended to defy the Council," to come up mutually with a solution, she said.

There is a possibility that Sunset could be extended beyond one weekend a month, Harris said. "If the City Council would modify its position, we'll do as many as we can do, as many as we can afford depending on how many sponsors we can get," the mayor said.

Waikiki Councilman Duke Bainum, who expressed outrage earlier in the week at the administration's actions, agreed. "We would be willing to listen and cooperate," he said. "We just want to be able to afford it."

City & County of Honolulu

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