Parking fees won’t be going up in city parks anytime soon, council member Stanley Chang announced Tuesday.
In a press conference held under a Kapiolani Park tree, Chang told community members that the council would not be passing a proposal to raise parking meter fees parks. The bill is scheduled for what would have been its third and final hearing this Friday.
“I wanted to come out here, where I’ve already been in touch with residents, and bring the news to them before Friday,” said Chang. “I wanted to give the community reassurance that the bill would be recommitted.”
In other words, the council plans to return the bill to the Budget Committee for reconsideration.
Bill 30 proposes increasing parking meter fees to $1 per hour at Kapiolani Park and Aala Park 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The bill would also double parking fees — from 50 cents to $1 per hour — at Kapiolani Park.
“I’m very confident that the bill will not go forward without significant change,” Chang said at the conference, noting that the Council plans to consult further with residents and specialists for future proposals. Any new proposal, said Chang, would aim to address both residents’ concerns and provide funds for the repair and maintenance of city parks.
“We’re going to be dialoguing with the community a great deal more,” he said. Many community members are upset about the prospect of being charged for overnight parking alongside Kapiolani Park. Right now, parking at the park is free between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m.1
The strongest support for Bill 30 appears to come from the Carlisle administration. In his State of the City address, Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle identified the city’s current approach to parking as “primitive and inefficient.”
While Carlisle mostly emphasized the opportunity for technological improvements to city parking structures, like allowing drivers to pay for parking using credit cards, he has also talked about the extent to which changes to city parking can drastically increase city revenue.
Critics point out that Carlisle campaigned on a fiscally conservative approach, but has taken an approach that increases taxes and fees, further burdening the taxpayer. Chang’s announcement means the proposal likely won’t survive before the city budget is due on June 30.
Bill 30 is widely unpopular with community members, most of whom say that it would be punishing them for the government’s budget mismanagement.
“It’s only fair that people who use this park have parking rights that are reasonable,” said David James, a Diamond Head Apartments resident who attended the conference. “We see so many people playing, picnicking, using the park, which is supposedly free to the public. I think City Council will reconsider and defeat [the bill] on the basis of its fairness.”
James proposed higher taxes in other areas, such as gasoline, or increased permit fees for events held in the park.
At the conference, Chang said that until now the community had not been consulted on the bill, which was introduced by Council Chairman Nestor Garcia on behalf of the mayor.
Some also note that city council members have long been the designated trustees of the Kapiolani Park Trust – the 1896 arrangement that defined the park as a free, recreational area for the public – and therefore cannot legally enforce such a bill.
“The City Council must do only one thing: protect the Trust and its beneficiaries,” said Richard Quinn, an attorney and park-area resident.
According to Quinn, any Kapiolani Park parking-fee measures violate the Trust by charging people for access to the park.
“The problem is that if you listen to the Council, all they’re trying to do is maximize revenue,” he said. “While that is generally their responsibility, it should not be with respect to the Trust.”
Many council members — Tom Berg, for example — have raised concerns about the bill, saying it goes too far.
While residents agree that money to upkeep the parks must come from somewhere, most say that the Council needs to come up with more creative solutions.
Quinn suggests that the city government adopt wide-ranging measures that would reduce its budget deficit.
“The whole society needs to tighten its collective bill,” he said. “There’s a lot of momentum towards spending. Society needs to put on the breaks on spending in general.”
—Adrienne LaFrance contributed to this story.
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