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Honolulu City Council Reorganization: Rail Transit Funding

Wayne Yoshioka

The Honolulu City Council voted in new leadership today. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka has this update.

The vote was 5-to-4 in favor of reorganizing the Honolulu City Council.  Ousted City Council Chair, Ron Menor, called on his fellow councilmembers to work together for all the people.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Ousted City Council chair, Ron Menor

“I would just respectfully ask my colleagues, that after you take the vote that we will rise above personal differences and political ambitions.”

Also voting “no” on the reorganization were Councilmembers Ikaika Anderson, Joey Manahan and Brandon Elefante.  Along with Menor, they support the Mayor’s budget proposal that includes $44 million of construction bond financing for the Honolulu Rail Transit Project.  City Budget Director, Nelson Koyanagi, says bond financing would provide assurances to the Federal Transit Administration without cutting city services.

“By having it in the capital budget, if no bonds are issued and HART says it doesn’t need the money, it costs the city nothing.  But it shows the commitment to the FTA and hopefully, that will allow them to pass the recovery plan.”

But, Councilmember Kymberly Pine, who is now the City Council Vice Chair, says there’s $113 million in carryover money in the General and Highway fund that could be used without negatively impacting the city’s bond rating.

“If the money to fund that ficticious amount and we put it in a different pot in the city budget, it’s not going to be spent, it’s going to be carried over – I’m talking about if you don’t use CIP, then bond raters would therefore, based on your own logic, is not going to look at that money as being used.”  

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Councilmember Ann Kobayashi

Councilmember Ann Kobayashi, who served as Budget Committee chair previously, says the 8.2 billion dollar rail transit project has never been on time or on budget and now, the administration wants to mix operating and construction or capital money.

“I don’t know how you can justify putting operating costs into the capital budget.  It really is a dangerous thing, especially with the record of what has been said by HART over the years.   I would still worry about it.”

The Honolulu rail transit project has a funding shortfall of 214 million dollars, according to the city budget director.  Returning to his former position as City Council Chair and presiding officer, Ernie Martin says the budget process takes 3-months and the new city council leadership will get it done.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Council chair Ernie Martin

“We’ll come up with a budget at the end of the day that’s gonna address the mayor’s concerns but the FTA’s concerns, the legislature’s concerns as well as the requirements and necessities for HART itself.”

Council Chair Martin says Committee Chair positions and member assignments will be announced before the end of this week.

Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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