A tight budget
is testing tempers
at Honolulu Hale


Mayor Harris and the Council's budget chairwoman trade barbs over the city's financial document.

NOW that state lawmakers have left the Capitol building, the battle of the budget has moved a block Diamond Head to City Hall where there's no shortage of conflict between the City Council and Mayor Harris. The finger-pointing that accompanied previous budget negotiations continues despite a Council largely composed of new members.

Right now, the rancor is drowning out a constructive discussion of differences. The combativeness, involving the mayor and second-term budget committee chairwoman Ann Kobayashi, does nothing to advance the process.

Both turned up the volume last week when Kobayashi threatened to hold Harris's budget hostage in her committee, which would mean no changes in the $1.2 billion proposal. Her attitude appears to be "let the mayor take his lumps." However, the shibai move would leave the Council out of the deliberations, which would not be the best way for members to represent taxpayers' interests. The mayor seems more nonplussed than irritated by Kobayashi's characterization of his numbers as a "stealth" and "phantom" budget, and suggests that a careful reading of the budget section of the City Charter might clarify matters.

Like the state, Harris and the Council must deal with severe revenue shortfalls while worker health-care and retirement costs that are beyond their control keep increasing. The pressure is pushing the Council to eliminate the mayor's pet projects, such as Sunset on the Beach and other entertainment programs that have brought back a welcome liveliness to Waikiki. Harris deems them vital to Honolulu's economic development, while the Council views them as extras the city can no longer afford.

In hopes of lessening the need for user fee increases and a property tax hike, which seems all but certain, the Council is shuffling Harris' budget proposal, much to his dismay. After Kobayashi's threat, Harris called her "disingenuous" and questioned her understanding of the process. Kobayashi countered that she would not engage in a war of words with Harris, then proceeded to do exactly that. "He's been bad-mouthing me since last year," she said.

Meanwhile, other members, such as Barbara Marshall and Gary Okino, are now re-examining the problem and looking for ways to compromise. This is the way to go.

More than a month remains before the Council will pass the final budget document. Kobayashi and Harris should declare a truce and go back to the bargaining table.


Safety should trump
drivers’ comfort


DOT trims the new rumble strips on the Pali Highway after motorists complain about the rough ride.

DRIVERS who complained new rumble strips on the Pali Highway rattled their cars too much were probably going faster than the 35 mph limit, in which case, slowing down a tad -- and obeying the law -- would have made for a smoother ride and, more importantly, a safer thoroughfare for pedestrians.

Quick response from a government agency is generally desirable, but the state Department of Transportation's swift move to shave down the nubs may have been too hasty. The department should have given motorists more time to get accustomed to the new bumps in the road.

The strips were installed to reduce speeding on the highway that has been the scene of scores of pedestrian accidents, including 11 fatalities between 1996 and 2002. Although the four-lane highway runs through a dense residential neighborhood, drivers often exceed the limit as they head to and from the downtown district. After an elderly woman was struck and killed by a car in 1999, residents sought safety measures, which include traffic signs and lights, speed indicators and the rumble strips.

No sooner than the strips were laid down, drivers began to grumble that the knobs shook them too hard and that slowing down could cause rear-end crashes. DOT responded by cutting the height of the bumps from half-inch heights to a quarter-inch. However, if the alteration allows motorists to continue at excessive speeds, the strips may as well be removed completely.

Hawaii has the dubious distinction of being fifth in the nation for pedestrian fatalities and Honolulu 100th out of 245 U.S. cities, according to a recent federal traffic safety report. Older people and children are the most vulnerable, police officials say, and speed and inattention are the leading causes.

Driving Honolulu's jammed roadways can be a frustrating, time-consuming experience. Nonetheless, it is little to ask that motorists trade a bit of comfort and a small amount of time to prevent a pedestrian's death.



Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Frank Teskey, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor, 529-4791;
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor, 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor, 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748;

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