With just five weeks to go until Mayor Peter Carlisle must present his first budget, he still doesn’t have a permanent budget director. One big distraction: Cleaning up the literal and figurative mess at Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill. It’s a busy week, and Civil Beat is reporting from the inside.

Hansen to Stay on as Permanent Budget Director… For Now

1:36 p.m.
Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle is asking the City Council to approve a resolution that makes Budget and Fiscal Services Director Mike Hansen the permanent director of that department — with a catch.

“We’re still looking,” Managing Director Doug Chin told Civil Beat, who added that the mayor always reserves the right to hire and fire Cabinet members.

Hansen has said he doesn’t want the full-time director position. He’s been serving as acting director since October, and his temporary commission was set to expire Jan. 31. Carlisle said he had expected to find a new budget director by that date. The new appointment — without a built-in termination date — provides some stability for the city.

But Chin emphasizes, titles notwithstanding, Hansen has been doing the work of a permanent director all along. The managing director said the mayor is still on track to turn in his first budget on time, the first week of March.

Read the nomination, including Hansen’s résumé.

Tam Sentencing Pushed Back

1:09 p.m.
Former City Council member Rod Tam was set to be sentenced tomorrow after pleading guilty in November to 26 counts of theft.

A District Court staffer told Civil Beat Tam’s attorney, Nelson Goo, asked for the date to be moved. Tam’s new sentencing date is March 28. Goo could not be reached for comment.

The new date may be welcome news for a couple of City Council members, who cringed after a ceremony this morning honoring Tam and other former council members.

If City Council Chairman Nestor Garcia was bothered by honoring a man who is facing jail time for stealing from the city, it didn’t show. Garcia commended Tam — calling him “Mr. Sunshine,” an old nickname on which Tam prided himself —for helping the council pass a cell phone ban for drivers and other city laws, as well as reaching out to his constituents on a grassroots level.

Garcia congratulated Tam for “leaving the city and his district in better shape than when he arrived,” and wished him “warmest aloha and continued success.”

Shovels Ready: City Edges Closer to Rail Construction

12:39 p.m.
Brace yourselves for the splashy ribbon-cutting: The City Council today unanimously approved permits allowing rail construction to begin.

“This is a very important permit for us because it allows us to technically break ground,” Honolulu Transportation Services Director Wayne Yoshioka said. “It clears the way for all the other permits we need to get.”

The permits approved today pertain to construction in coastal zones. The rest of the permits the city needs are not subject to council approval, but will come directly from the Department of Planning and Permitting in most cases.

Five people turned out to give testimony opposing the permits. Many of them cited concerns over a high concentration of iwi in a later portion of rail construction. Three members of the public expressed their support for the project.

The only City Council member who didn’t support the permitting with an “aye” was Ann Kobayashi. Without saying, “nay,” though, her vote still counted as approval. City Council member Romy Cachola is not present.

City transit planners don’t need to consult the City Council again before beginning rail construction, but Yoshioka emphasizes his department will still answer to the council as the rail project moves forward.

“There are many checkpoints along the way after this,” Yoshioka said. “FTA specifically noted what things we were authorized to proceed on, and we will do only those things. … We will be coming before council on numerous other things in the future.”

As for the inevitable groundbreaking ceremony with Mayor Peter Carlisle holding a shovel? Yoshioka says it will happen “early this year.” This month? Next month? He won’t say.

Full City Council Still Not in Action

10:30 a.m.
Today marks the first opportunity for the full City Council to officially conduct business. The last member to join the group is Tom Berg, who was elected to represent District 1 in a special election late last year.

So far, just eight City Council members are present. Berg isn’t the only newcomer. This is only the second full council meeting for Stanley Chang, Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo, Breene Harimoto and Ernie Martin.

City Council Chairman Nestor Garcia, Ikaika Anderson and Ann Kobayashi are the veterans on the council.

Romy Cachola is not present.

Managing Director Responds to Civil Beat’s Fact Check on Mayor

10:07 a.m.
When Civil Beat heard Mayor Peter Carlisle tell a crowded City Council committee hearing that landfill operator Waste Management had never violated its permit requirements, we immediately thought to Fact Check his statement.

A quick Google search turned up reports of the millions of dollars in fines the landfill company has paid in the past five years. When Civil Beat reported the mayor’s statement was false, the mayor’s office responded quickly with a hand-delivered statement admitting Carlisle’s statement was unintentionally misleading.

Managing Director Doug Chin explained that the mayor meant to specify he was talking about permit violations pertaining to medical waste. But Carlisle didn’t say so before the City Council.

“He omitted that phrase but the ommission was unintentional,” Chin told Civil Beat. “The funny thing was, I didn’t catch that because I think I knew what he was going to say. So it wasn’t until I read the article that it was like, ‘Wait a second, what did he say?’ We appreciate Civil Beat catching that because it helps us. We don’t want to mislead people.”

No More Camping Out for Holiday Camping Permits?

For years, those who wanted to enjoy the great outdoors on two of the biggest holidays of the year have needed to camp out near satellite city halls to obtain city camping permits.

That could become a thing of the past if a proposed city ordinance becomes law.

Bill 1 [pdf], introduced by City Council member Ann Kobayashi, will get its first reading in today’s full council meeting. If passed, it would create exemptions from city park rules, carving out permit-free camping nights on New Year’s and the Fourth of July.

The proposal comes even as the city has said it’s counting on permit fees for revenue. Bill 60 [pdf], introduced by Ikaika Anderson at the request of the administration, would introduce fees for use of city campsites. Anderson and other City Council members said in a committee hearing they were skeptical about the bill and how it might affect their constituents. It’s set for second reading and public hearing in the Committee on Executive Matters and Legal Affairs.

— Michael Levine

Read Previous Editions of Inside Honolulu

Jan. 25, 2011: Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle appointments more city leaders; State and city agencies announce safe chromium levels in Honolulu drinking water; Lawmaker considered banning elephants in Hawaii.

Jan. 24, 2011: Until EPA intervened, landfill operator Joe Whelan was putting debris from spill back into closed dump.

Jan. 21, 2011: Waimanalo Gulch to stay closed until next week; Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle among mayors meeting with President Obama today.

Jan. 20, 2011: Mayor Peter Carlisle reports a positive meeting with congressional transit leader; City eyes Bellows, Waimanalo North for new landfill site.

Jan. 19, 2011: Advisory committee to meet on landfill site selection; Tom Berg is officially a City Council member; Sen. Dan Inouye reiterates his support for rail; Read the Record of Decision.

Jan. 18, 2011: City officials celebrate after FTA issues Record of Decision on rail; Sen. Dan Inouye wants an office at Honolulu Hale; City still working to clean up medical waste from landfill flood.

Jan. 14, 2011: Deputy prosecutor sworn in; City confronts myriad trash issues; Ikaika Anderson creating task force to consider sweeping overhaul to property tax structure; City workers hit the Furlough Friday halfway point.

Jan. 13, 2011: City opens emergency shelter on Leeward Coast; Heavy rains continue to hamper city business; City Council Chairman Nestor Garcia is in Washington, D.C., to discuss APEC.

Jan. 12, 2011: City Transportation hearing a one-sided affair; Council members concerned about camping fees; Customer Services director nominee Gail Haraguchi breezes through committee; Hawaii could get a preseason NFL game; Former Mayor Mufi Hannemann says air travel is key for economic recovery.

Jan. 11, 2011: First Zoning Committee of the new year gets updates on pending amendments to Honolulu’s Land Use Ordinance.

Jan. 10, 2011: Mayor Peter Carlisle gives kudos to Kauai; Committees move forward with two director nominations; Statewide fireworks ban unlikely; City officials worry about fireworks hoarders.

Jan. 7, 2011: City transportation director preps to take up IMG report in Transportation Committee meeting next week; Mayor Peter Carlisle stays quiet on illegal rental to President Barack Obama; Carlisle plans business trip to Hollywood, jokes about wanting a cameo in Hawaii 5-0.

Jan. 6, 2011: Emergency official cites threat of “huge mudslide” in Kaneohe highway closure; City eyes user fees, but in what form? Mayor tells Pacific Club crowd about inevitable cuts during “financial crisis,” calls city challenges “exciting.”

Jan. 5, 2011: Council vice chair to host hearing on IMG report; Rail division moves down permitting check list; A new year means a new website for Honolulu.

Jan. 4, 2011: Carlisle’s drinking buddies may be lonely this month; Honolulu’s first mayor inaugurated 102 years ago today; Tom Berg isn’t happy with his Council committee assignments.

Jan. 3, 2011: City Council to explore user fees as revenue generator; Nestor Garcia talks rail, APEC, city values in celebratory inaugural address.

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