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The City Council slashed the mayor’s operating budget and companies that lost in their bid for a lucrative rail contract with the city are putting up a fight. Civil Beat is reporting from the inside.
Hawaii’s four mayors are showing unity at a time when they clearly don’t agree, and sending a message that any union-government deal could play out differently county-by-county.
Here’s the statement the Hawaii Council of Mayors issued on the tentative deal between state and county governments and labor union HGEA.
“This is a statewide agreement, and therefore must meet the divergent needs of each of the employer groups involved,” they wrote. “All Mayors or their representatives are willing to discuss with HGEA the details of how the various elements may be implemented for our individual counties. We anticipate there will be the potential of a master agreement, and then supplemental agreements to provide for flexibility within each county.”
We’re still waiting to hear more reaction on the possible deal from Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle and Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa, who are least likely to support the agreement Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced yesterday. Carlisle appeared caught off guard by the announcement, but didn’t speak out as strongly as we’ve seen him react in other situations.
We hear a lot from people who complain about Honolulu’s “heavy rail” project. As we reported earlier today, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood mentioned Honolulu’s proposed “light rail” system on a conference call with reporters.
City rail officials tell us the rail line can aptly be categorized somewhere in the middle.
“We categorize our system as a ‘light metro’ system,” Jeanne Mariana-Belding wrote in an email to Civil Beat. “Essentially, it has characteristics of both light and heavy rail. Honolulu’s system will draw its power from a third rail, be fully automated and will be grade separated, similar to heavy rail. But the size of our transit stations is smaller and our rail vehicles will operate in shorter, two-car configurations, which is much more comparable to light rail.”
What’s your take?
The monster item on the City Council’s to-do list these days is the budget. This week, we got a first look at the City Council’s amendments to Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle‘s operating and capital spending plans.
Today’s the day City Council Budget Chairman Ernie Martin is meeting with the other City Council members’ aides — he meets with staffers rather than other council members to avoid breaking sunshine law — for an annual budget retreat.
It’s the opportunity council members get to explain their amendments (via their staffers) to the Budget Committee leader before he presents his recommendations to the committee in a pair of special budget hearings next week.
There’s a lot of speculation swirling about the terms of state and county governments’ tentative deal with HGEA. But the union’s spokeswoman, Jodi Endo Chai, told Civil Beat the union is not ready to confirm or specifically deny some of the details that have emerged. Endo Chai said she was puzzled by Mayor Peter Carlisle‘s response to the news of a possible deal issued by Gov. Neil Abercrombie‘s office yesterday.
Carlisle’s office issued a statement saying he “could not agree with” the governor on “additional paid time off for government workers,” and said the provisions he didn’t like were left out of the governor’s press release.
“I caught part of what mayor Carlisle had issued, which is a little curious,” Endo Chai told Civil Beat. “It implied that the mayor was cut out of the loop. They work together as an employer group.”
Maybe so, but it’s been clear since the November election that — based on the local political dynamic — self-identified fiscal conservative Carlisle might have a hard time getting his way. Abercrombie just needed one likeminded mayor to agree with him in order to move forward with a deal Carlisle may not have liked.
“According to the law, the governor just needs one more vote,” Endo Chair said. “I can’t speak to how they worked things out on their end.”
Read more about the mayor’s role in union negotiations: Carlisle’s Campaign Rhetoric Meets Reality of Bargaining Table, Feb. 8, 2011
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is the top boss for all kinds of transportation projects. You have to forgive the guy for not keeping Honolulu at the center of his universe.
But Inside Honolulu still noted with interest the fact that LaHood twice referred to Honolulu’s rail project as a “light rail” system in a Thursday morning conference call with reporters.
Thanks to Civil Beat’s Michael Levine, who participated in the conference call, for the tip.
City Council member Ikaika Anderson shared his nominee — a lawyer with the Iron Workers Union — for the new transit agency with Civil Beat this morning.
“I nominated Arnold Wong,” Anderson told Civil Beat. “He’s also an attorney, so he brings a solid background in law and legal expertise as well. It is my understanding that someone who is involved with labor should be considered to be on the board. I think that Arnold’s involvement and full knowledge of the labor community will help him as a board member, especially when you couple that experience with his legal background.”
Anderson said his first nominee was Joe O’Donnell, a financial secretary from the Iron Workers Union.
“I actually nominated Joe because he’s a constituent,” Anderson said. “But I understand that Joe was not able to serve … He has other obligations right now and for the forseeable future. He had suggested Arnold as someone who he felt would be a strong HART board member.”
It’s now Thursday. The City Council’s nominees to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit were due on Monday. So where’s the list of nominees?
Honolulu City Council Chairman Nestor Garcia and Vice Chair Breene Harimoto both told Civil Beat they are still working out “logistics.” Neither would reveal who they nominated to the board.
The City Council gets to pick three members on the 10-member transit board. Ultimately, Garcia and Harimoto will decide which three names to advance for council approval.
We know some of the names for sure, from City Council members who were willing to share with the public their picks:
Both Stanley Chang and Romy Cachola declined to tell Civil Beat their picks.
Civil Beat is waiting for hear back from City Council members Ikaika Anderson and Ernie Martin about their nominees.
We have to wonder: Is this going to play out like another controversial nomination process of late?
City Council Transportation Chairman Breene Harimoto says he and Mayor Peter Carlisle are working on putting aside differences to forge ahead on the city’s rail project.
“I requested to meet with the mayor and we had a very nice meeting,” Harimoto told Civil Beat. “We agreed to work together and concentrate on the bigger goal of getting this rail project done.”
Harimoto had raised what he called “growing” concerns about the project that he said stemmed from a lack of transparency from Carlisle and his administration.
Now, Harimoto said, after this week’s meeting, he is again optimistic.
“I just leave it to God that it will all work,” Harimoto told Civil Beat. “Time will tell.”
April 6, 2011: City, state and other Hawaii counties agree to deal with HGEA; Council grows capital spending; City Council member asks for legal fees to fight administration.
April 5, 2011: Council member Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo says her deployment to Afghanistan is unlikely; HART nominees still not official; City cites $1.4 billion for Ansaldo contract.
April 4, 2011: Todd Apo and Don Horner surface as mayor’s possible picks for transit authority; Tom Berg nominates Panos Prevedouros for transit authority; State awaits results on more dengue cases; Losing rail bidders set for debriefs.
April 1, 2011: Gov. Neil Abercrombie taps former City Council candidate; GOP wants Nestor Garcia ethics investigation; Budget Chairman Ernie Martin schedules two special budget meetings.