Honolulu elections are finally over, and — with the end of the holidays in sight — the City Council is starting to get back to work. Countdown to the mayor’s 2012 budget deadline: Eight weeks! Civil Beat is reporting from the inside.

Mayor Disappointed So Few Voted

3:09 p.m.
Incoming Honolulu City Council member Tom Berg won a special election this week with a meager 4.3 percent of the vote. Less than a quarter of registered voters split their votes among 14 candidates.

“I’m very disappointed that we don’t have more people voting,” Carlisle said. “We have people on foreign shores who are giving their lives so that we have the ability to be in a democracy, and democracy is founded so that everybody has a say. I don’t know why people aren’t exercising the rights that other people feel are so dear, and was a critical point of the founding of the nation. I would very much like to see people come out and vote. They do make a difference.”

The city clerk said she was actually relieved by the numbers.

“At least it was that,” Bernice Mau said. “We were thinking it might be less.”

Thieves Scoop Up Fountain Coins at Honolulu Hale

2:48 p.m.
A security guard at Honolulu Hale said he caught a pair of teens scooping up what he estimated was $20 in coins from the fountain in front of Honolulu Hale Thursday morning. He said he scared off the duo, who made off with the money.

The coins — or wishes, as the old tradition goes — are being collected as donations for the Friends of the Honolulu City Lights, the group that helps decorate City Hall each year at Christmas.

The security guard said today marked the second time he caught someone stealing from the fountain.

City Information Technology Director Happy with Controversial Company

The company that the state auditor said produced “a contract that is not in the best interest of the state” is also doing tens of millions of dollars of work for the City and County of Honolulu.

The State has spent more than $87 million on contracts with the Canadian-based consultant CGI. The company helped revamp the Hawaii Department of Taxation’s computer systems in a project similar to the work CGI is conducting for the city.

CGI was awarded a bid to help Honolulu overhaul its aging financial infrastructure under former Mayor Mufi Hannemann. When CGI took on that massive project, the city had systems in place that were decades old — some departments were still using typewriters — and Honolulu Information Technology Director Gordon Bruce said he has only been impressed by his interactions with CGI.

“At the state level, CGI does the department of taxation,” Bruce told Civil Beat in October. “Our experience with CGI? You look at a government organization putting in this kind of system in 18 months, on time and on budget, that’s almost unheard of. We essentially replaced 20-year-old mainframe systems.”

The city is also just beginning to mine data that CGI has been collecting for years, to better understand how to manage city money. Bruce said Honolulu officials won’t be able to assess the data in time for the mayor’s 2012 budget, which is due in March.

Bruce’s assessments of CGI have been so glowing that the company quotes him in a press release on its website..

A New Era Begins for Honolulu City Council

All of a sudden, City Council members Nestor Garcia, Romy Cachola and Ann Kobayashi are the Honolulu City Council’s old timers. Well, maybe some of them already were. But the nine-member council is welcoming five new members next month. For legal reasons, some of the new council members are being sworn in today. Stanley Chang, Breene Harimoto and Tulsi Tamayo will be sworn in this afternoon. Due to scheduling, Ernie Martin will take the oath of office this morning. A ceremonial swearing-in for all but just-elected Tom Berg — who has to wait for a 20-day challenge period to pass — is planned for the full City Council meeting on Monday.

Berg to Chair Parks & Human Services Committee

Longtime West Oahu legislative aide Tom Berg will have to sit on the sidelines as four other new City Council members are sworn in today. After a 20-day challenge period expires, Berg is set to chair the Parks & Human Services committee. He’ll also be vice-chair of the Planning Committee. Both posts were selected for the District 1 City Council member before the election took place.

Committee Chair Vice Chair
Budget Ernie Martin Tulsi Tamayo
Exec. Matters & Legal Affairs Romy Cachola Breene Harimoto
Parks & Human Services Tom Berg Ikaika Anderson
Planning Ann Kobayashi Tom Berg
Public Works & Sustainability Stanley Chang Ann Kobayashi
Safety, Econ. Development & Govt. Affairs Tulsi Tamayo Stanley Chang
Transportation & Transit Planning Breene Harimoto Ernie Martin
Zoning Ikaika Anderson Romy Cachola
Committee of the Whole Nestor Garcia Breene Harimoto

Berg gave Civil Beat a lengthy response about tackling homelessness in his response to a candidate questionnaire.

“I favor placing persons lacking shelter who are willfully trespassing on public property to be relocated to a place where sanitization, social services, and transportation can be streamlined to help as many as possible overcome their plight. … I want to allow prefabricated housing to enter into the real estate market to offer residents a real chance of attaining a home they can afford. Prefabricated housing would bring the cost of renting a home way down as these types of dwellings are much less expensive to build. I would promote a tax credit be extended to the manufacturer that operates a prefabricated home building plant here on Oahu.

Berg has said he can envision prefabricated housing made out of retrofitted shipping containers. He’s also suggested tent-like structures.

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