Welcome to Inside Honolulu! With a packed agenda, the City Council is considering everything from top-level hires to a major rail agreement and sewer-fee caps. Civil Beat is reporting from the inside.

3:49 p.m. Council kills leaf-blower ban

Honolulu City Council member Gary Okino led the council to defeat a bill that would have banned the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in residential areas on Oahu.

“There comes a point where you have to draw the line as to how you control people’s lives,” Okino said. “If it’s a great threat to health and safety, I can see where government should get involved. But when it comes to a choice … this is just extending it too far.”

No council member objected to the motion to kill the bill.

2:08 p.m. Harimoto is only incoming council member at today’s meeting

Only one incoming council member, District 8 representative Breene Harimoto, is at Honolulu Hale for a long day of City Council proceedings.

“You don’t work here yet,” outgoing council member Rod Tam joked to Harimoto before the afternoon session began.

Harimoto didn’t want to speculate why his fellow incoming council members didn’t show, but said he believes District 4 representative Stanley Chang1 is on vacation.

New council members will take office in January.

1:55 p.m. City Council unanimously approves new programmatic agreement

The Honolulu City Council unanimously approved a new version of the rail transit division’s programmatic agreement. The new agreement includes what city transportation chief Wayne Yoshioka describes as “significant changes.”

One that generated much discussion is the creation of a $100,000 per year position for a new staffer in the State Historic Preservation Division.

Yoshioka said the employee will likely be a contractor — that is, not a city or state worker — paid with city funds to work in a state office.

“My understnading is it would be a contractor with an outside vendor,” Yoshioka said. “It would be through the duration of construction … until 2019.”

12:37 p.m. City to audit lapse in funding for bicycle projects

The city unanimously approved a motion to audit a lapse in funding appropriated for bicycle projects over several years. Council member Romy Cachola said he worries that because the money stays in city coffers even if it’s not used, it’s a waste of time and money to investigate why it’s not being spent on bike projects as planned.

12:24 p.m. Fishy testimony sways council

The City Council is putting off a decision on a package of Legislative priorities that included stricter regulations about what fish may be collected from the ocean. More than one dozen fishermen turned out to oppose the bill, which they said was unnecessary and would cripple their livelihoods.

Multiple council members said if the bill remains in the package, they will vote against it.

The legislative package will be discussed before the Maui County Council on Nov. 29, and will return before the Honolulu City Council on Dec. 8.

11:32 a.m. City accepts $350K from Walmart

City Council members unanimously accepted a $350,000 gift from Walmart Stores Inc., and Sam’s West, Inc.

The money will be used to help the city’s Department of Planning and Permitting develop an electronic plan review processing system, including hardware and software. But City Council member Romy Cachola said he’s uncomfortable with the terms of the gift, including Walmart’s authority to monitor how the city implements it.

“I hate to see these kind of conditions exist to monitor implementation of the gift,” Cachola said. “Walmart should give us the cash, and we buy the equipment based on the standards or specifications that we need.”

Council chair Nestor Garcia also noted his cautious optimism about what he called a “very generous” gift.

“I just want to put the department (of Planning and Permitting) on notice that the council will do its duty (to monitor use of gift),” Garcia said.

11:06 a.m. Not a word from council that approves Tanoue

Without a word of discussion from the City Council, David Tanoue was given the green light to remain as the director of the Department of Planning and Permitting.

The Defend Oahu Coalition’s Mark Cunningham pleaded for the council to reconsider shortly before the nomination passed.

“On the north shore, we refer to it as the Department of Permitting and Permitting,” Cunningham said. “Please represent the people, not developers, not special interest. Our island is only this big, and we’re running out of room.”

Shortly thereafter, the council also approved the appointments of Doug Chin, Tim Steinberger, Noel Ono and Gordon Bruce without discussion. No one testified in support or in opposition of those appointments.

10:49 a.m. Overwhelming support for Tanoue in public testimony today

So far, those who are turning out to testify about the David Tanoue nomination are overwhelmingly in favor of Tanoue staying on as the director of the Department of Planning and Permitting. Nearly one hour into the City Council meeting, public testimony is ongoing.

Is $50,000 “low-income?”

The Council today will consider a bill that would set a temporary cap on sewer service charges for limited income households. Eligibility criteria stipulates:

  • The combined income of all titleholders of the property must not exceed $50,000

Even if $50,000 can be considered “low income,” it’s unclear how the city will close any number of possible loopholes. For example, a high-income earner isn’t always the titleholder of her or his home.

You’re hired!

City Council will kick off its meeting this morning with decisions on a slew of nominations to top city leadership positions, including:

  • Doug Chin as managing director
  • David Tanoue as director of the Department of Planning and Permitting
  • Tim Steinberger as director of Environmental Services
  • Noel Ono as director of Human Resources
  • Gordon Bruce as Director of Information Technology

  1. Inside Honolulu: Nov. 22 has been updated to reflect Harimoto’s speculation that Stanley Chang is on vacation.

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