Council approves $8,000 for Washington rail trip


POSTED: Thursday, February 25, 2010

The City Council gave final approval yesterday to the use of up to $8,000 in city transit funds to pay for four Council members to visit Washington, D.C., next month on a fact-finding mission on Honolulu's rail transit project.

Council members Todd Apo, Ikaika Anderson, Romy Cachola and Ann Kobayashi plan to visit March 6 to 10 to meet with officials from the Federal Transit Administration.

The measure was opposed by Councilman Charles Djou, who previously characterized the trip as a “;junket,”; saying members should use funds from the $16,000 budgeted to each for miscellaneous expenses.

“;I know $8,000 isn't a huge amount of money, but if we're wasting just $1 of taxpayer money, it's far too much,”; Djou said yesterday.

Council members say the trip and meetings with FTA officials are needed because of conflicting statements by political leaders over federal backing of the $5.5 billion rail project.

Gov. Linda Lingle says federal officials are wary of the financial plan for Oahu's proposed rail system, while Mayor Mufi Hannemann says it is on track.

Resolution 10-37 approves the use of funds from $50,000 set aside in the Council's budget for hiring a transit analyst.

Each Council member would be limited to $2,000 for airfare, meals, transportation and up to two nights of hotel accommodations.

In other business, the Council gave preliminary approval to bills banning unpermitted camping-style tents and shopping carts in public parks. Opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, argued the bills target homeless and that the Council should spend more time examining solutions to homelessness.

The Council also approved a bill to assess hefty fines for improperly disposing of bulky waste items. The measure currently has an unspecified amount for the fine; lawmakers are hoping to solicit more public input on the bill.

The bills now go back to the Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee for further vetting.