Recycling plans
spark messy fight

Mayor Jeremy Harris and the
City Council criticize each other

Plans for an islandwide curbside recycling project has City Council members and Mayor Jeremy Harris talking trash about each other.

City & County of Honolulu

The mayor said the Council is micromanaging the implementation of curbside recycling project to the point where the program won't ever get off the ground.

"It's throwing so many obstacles in the way that you'll never be able to implement an islandwide system," Harris said.

The chairman of the Council's Public Works Committee says that the mayor wants control of the project to take all the credit for curbside recycling.

"He's looking for legacies," Councilman Rod Tam said.

Their comments come as the Council is scheduled to hold special committee meetings on Wednesday on a package of recycling measures.

A joint meeting by the budget and public works committees will be held 9 a.m. on a resolution calling for an audit of the curbside recycling pilot project in Mililani that began in November.

At 10 a.m., the public works committee will consider two bills introduced by Tam. One bill sets out the process for implementing the islandwide curbside recycling project.

"We just want to make sure that the program is done correctly and that it addresses some concerns of (the recycling program) being rushing through," said Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz, who also introduced the measures.

Dela Cruz said it's prudent that the bills be introduced before the mayor sends the operating budget down to the Council next month. "We want to make sure that we're deliberate, that we do things correct so we can better serve the public because we definitely do favor recycling."

Last year, the City Council trashed the mayor's islandwide curbside recycling program, voting it down in part because there were concerns that the administration was trying to ramrod the islandwide recycling without proper planning.

Some on the Council also didn't like the $8 a month fee that would have been charged for those wanting a second day a week general trash pick up. Instead, the Council appropriated funds for a pilot curbside recycling project which the administration instituted in Mililani.

Harris said that the measures that will be considered this week by the Council aren't needed because the administration has been planning for the last year to implement a curbside recycling program.

He said what's in Tam's bill will throw a monkey wrench into any effort to put curbside recycling in place.

"I don't know if that's his intent or he simply doesn't know enough about the whole subject or how to operate the system but the net result, it will be very devastating towards the efforts for recycling," Harris said.

For example, the bill mandates the use of 35 gallon receptacles for recycling. Harris said the city uses 96 gallon bins because trash pick up is automated, which is also the plan for recycling.

"Councilman Tam is trying to pass a law that says no bin can be bigger than 35 gallons," Harris said. "You can't run the (automated) system with 35-gallon cans and so if that law passes, you won't be able to run the recycling program."

Harris said there are many examples of provisions like that in bill. He also said that a provision that calls for no fee connected to recycling is "just stupidity."

He said he doesn't know if a fee will be needed, but fees are used as incentives to recycle.

Tam said that the one-size-fits-all approach in Mililani may not work around the island and the mayor should seek out help from the Council to devise the best plan possible for all areas.

He said the mayor is just looking for accomplishments.

"The mayor's not utilizing the positiveness of the involvement of the City Council to make this program work whereby we can give assistance. I guess the mayor is concerned about, well, this is my project, I want the glory of it," Tam said. "We're looking at it in terms of how to make the program work on curbside recycling not in terms of taking credit."

Harris, however, said that the administration is ready to go and will present its plan to the Council.

"If there's anything we need authority or appropriation for, we will clearly define that and then they will be able to review whatever we propose to them and if something requires their approval then they will have the ability to vote 'yes' or 'no' on that item," Harris said.

He also said that "to rush out ahead of the experts and try to direct the experts at how to do their job when clearly they don't understand the job or the complexities of it is not a good idea."

Tam said he is seeking an audit of the Mililani pilot recycling program because, "I've heard word from the Mililani community it is not really working, it's had some problems."

Harris said the audit is merely "a study of a study" because the pilot program was designed to study the best way to implement curbside recycling.

The second bill mandates city agencies to recycle. Harris said it's another example of too much micromanaging of something that the city has already been doing for over a decade.

"The way (the bill) is currently worded, it will cause some operational problems because it doesn't leave any room for common sense," the mayor said. For example, mandating that all newspaper be recycled would leave a mechanic who wipes up oil spills with a newspaper in technical violation of the law because he won't be able to recycle that newspaper, Harris said.

Tam said the city should set an example for the rest of the island.


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