The return of the out-to-lunch councilman

Honolulu Councilman Rod Tam is fully back in the saddle three months after colleagues censured him for the second time in three years and stripped him of all committee assignments for ethics violations relating to $13,700 worth of falsified meal expenses he charged to the city.

In a reorganization announced by the council yesterday to reflect Lee Donohue’s replacement of Charles Djou in the East O’ahu seat, Tam was restored as chairman of the Planning Committee, named vice chair of the Boards and Commissions Committee and given seats on the budget and zoning committees.

It’s simply irresponsible for council leadership to give so much power to someone who has shown so little regard for taking care of taxpayers’ money. Chairman Todd Apo must be getting hard up for votes.

There are only six months left in Tam’s dismal term, and he should have been left to serve it sitting in the corner.

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20 Comments on “The return of the out-to-lunch councilman”

  1. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Are you sure that your information is corrent. Ikaika Anderson has been chair of the Planning Committee long before the Tam hoop-de-doo hit the media while Tam was chair of the Zoning Committee until a few months ago. Surely, he is not going to kick Ikaika out of his position!!

    And what the heck is the Committee of Boards & Commissions?!?! In the 15 or so years I’ve been tracking the Council, I’ve never heard of that committee before.

    Rod Tam considers himself unbeatable as long as he selected the race carefully. The reason he left the State Senate in 2002 was that after reapportionment in 2001, he would have been forced to run against Suzanne Chun Oakland in the 2002 Primary – and there’s no way that he could have won.

    As for his plans this summer, he truly believes that he can beat Peter Carlisle and Kirk Caldwell – or else he would retire and run again for the State House or Dogcatcher.

  2. David Shapiro Says:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Council Chair Todd K. Apo

    Contact: (808) 768-5001 or 781-7761

    CITY COUNCIL ANNOUNCES NEW COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS

    (HONOLULU, HI) June 22, 2010 – The Honolulu City Council announced its new committee assignments this afternoon. The new assignments were precipitated by the recent addition of Councilmember Lee Donohue last month.

    “The Council’s committee week schedule will continue as before and convening under the following committees: Zoning, Public Infrastructure, Budget, Executive Matters, Public Safety and Services, and Planning,” said Honolulu City Council Chair Todd K. Apo. “The committee schedule and assignments seek to continue the Council’s operations and decision making process in a consistent and efficient manner,” added Apo.

    Committee Membership is as follows:

    BUDGET COMMITTEE

    Voting Members

    Chair Nestor Garcia

    Vice Chair Gary Okino

    Rod Tam

    Ikaika Anderson

    Ann Kobayashi

    PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE COMMITTEE

    Voting Members

    Chair Ann Kobayashi

    Vice Chair Donovan Dela Cruz

    Nestor Garcia

    Ikaika Anderson

    Lee Donohue

    BOARDS & COMMISSIONS COMMITTEE

    Voting Members

    Chair Romy Cachola

    Vice Chair Rod Tam

    Donovan Dela Cruz

    EXECUTIVE MATTERS & LEGAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

    Voting Members

    Chair Donovan Dela Cruz

    Vice Chair Ikaika Anderson

    Todd Apo

    Nestor Garcia

    Gary Okino

    Rod Tam

    Lee Donohue

    Ann Kobayashi

    Romy Cachola

    PLANNING COMMITTEE

    Voting Members

    Chair Rod Tam

    Vice Chair Romy Cachola

    Ikaika Anderson

    ZONING COMMITTEE

    Voting Members

    Chair Ikaika Anderson

    Vice Chair Lee Donohue

    Nestor Garcia

    Gary Okino

    Rod Tam

    PUBLIC SAFETY & SERVICES COMMITTEE

    Voting Members

    Chair Lee Donohue

    Vice Chair Ann Kobayashi

    Gary Okino

    TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE

    Voting Members

    Chair Gary Okino

    Vice Chair Nestor Garcia

    Donovan Dela Cruz

    Romy Cachola

    Lee Donohue

  3. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Wow! Wonder what Ikaika did to tick off Apo? Zoning is far less important than planning – but then Tam will be gone in six months and Ikaika won’t be.

  4. zzzzzing Says:

    hmm…must be some bad blood between Ikaika & Apo…

    Rod Tam’s a bad joke, imho, but Apo must have made some kind of deal with Tam to put him where he is… any guesses as to what?

  5. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    zzzzzing

    I do know that Ikaika battled against Todd Apo’s two-tiered property tax rate – one for homeowners who live on the property and a higher rate for landlords who rent to local folks which includes about 48% of the population of O`ahu – including yours truly & my SigOth.

    Ikaika lost 6-3 with Lee Donahue voting YES based on the mythic absentee landlord syndrome touted by Mufi.

    Ikaika also wanted to do away with unfilled positions which had been vacant for more than two years. He lost that battle as well.

    To be fair, Todd was following orders from the Hannemann Administration to balance the budget without cutting Summer Fun, Royal Hawaiian Band, and senior programs at City parks amongst other items, including raising fees and taxes on elderly & moderate income households who bought their homes more than 25 years ago.

    Mufi’s argument was that, rather than raise property taxes moderately across the board equally, it was easier to do it this way since “everyone” knows that these absentee landlords are getting rich renting to Canadian Snorbirds and speculating on empty properties.

    The budget deficit was excacerbated by the plunging real estate assessments last fall; however, with housing prices rising on average 15% this past quarter in time for this year’s assessments, we might actually be able to do away with furlough days twice a month in the next fiscal year.

  6. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    CHANGE OF SUBJECT: For those of you who oppose Mufi because of his mass transit plans, please bear in mind that many of us who also oppose Mufi are very strong supporters of mass transit. I know I have been for as long as I can remember going back in the days when Frank Fasi was still in office as a Democrat in the late 70s.

    Certainly I did so in the early 1990s and again during the Harris Administration.

    It is critical that we get off fossil fuels and switch to alternative energy resources as well as reduce our dependency on internal combusion engines. Mass transit is one of the answers – and I’m willing to pay for it.

    Will I use it? Probably not very often even though I buy a bus pass every month. Once I get into town, I either get around by foot, bike or a bus up to UH or into Kahala & beyond where the transit system will not be going anytime soon.

    Mass transit is part of a larger planning process to protect ag lands and to support the creatiion of walkable, bikeable community in urban areas well as in traditional suburban communities such as Pearl City.

    And, no, I have absolutely no connection financially or personally to any of the contractors, sub-contractors, developers, or individuals within the Hannemann Administration. I support mass transit because it’s the right thing to do for our great-gandchildren when they get ready to start their own families – in my case about 40 years from now.

  7. WooWoo Says:

    Cap/Doc-

    What about an at-grade light rail instead of the proposed monstrosity?

  8. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    WooWoo:

    I testified either in writing or orally at more than 20 community meetings and public hearings about using at-grade and underground segments along the route in addition to building massive pylons. I also asked that they consider building along H-1’s center as well.

    Reluctantly, I had to give up on the underground routing because of the issues with groundwater and brackish water seepage. However, I continued to support building at-grade in some areas – especially out in the less developed areas. Pylons, although ugly, do make sense in high-density urban areas.

    However, after being blown off by a consultant because I was “just an environmentalist” and not an engineer, I decided to return to school for a degree in civil engineering just to have street creds when working with decision-makers on this and other City projects, especially in waste management.

    In about five years, I should be finished – assuming that I do not shuff off this mortal coil between now and then. I was enrolled at HCC taking math classes but had to drop out this spring semester for health reasons; however, I’ll be returning to class this fall. The plan is to be enrolled in the College of Engineering by the fall of 2012.

    Fortuinately, since I already hold two undergraduate and five graduate and professional degrees, I won’t have to take History 150 and English 100 again. Still, it will take me at least nine semesters at UH-M to finish the degree.

    Anyhow back to your questions: The problem with trying to kill the current project is that it will be decades if ever before it will be on the front burner again. Too many communities want federal mass transit funds for us to dork around again. We cannot afford not to build it for many different reasons, but the one which is my top priority is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing our dependency on fossil fuels.

  9. zzzzzz Says:

    Cap–good luck with the BSCE. However, I think you’ll still get blown off, but for some other reason, once you have your degree. My experience at community meetings is that the communication is largely one way. I once had Mufi spend about 10 or 15 minutes trying to explain to me why he was going to ignore my suggestions.

    How about just raising the tax on gasoline by a couple dollars per gallon? I bet that gets us off fossil fuels and onto alternative energy resources a lot faster than waiting for the train.

  10. zzzzzing Says:

    @cap/doc – tnx for the info & i hope your health continues to improve.

    re: rail… i hate the current idea (rail, not mass transit in general – i do ride the bus) that is being shoved down our throats by mufi. harris’ idea of brt was better; the old or&l route makes infinitely more sense to me if it has to happen – and i don’t care HOW long it takes. if thebus was free to all students, it would help free up the freeways (now that’s a novel concept…) for workers. if thebus pass was discounted for the city, state & large corporations (such as hotels) workers, it would also be a huge help. yes, they’d have to add/change/upgrade/put back some of the busses, but so what? the honolulu county taxpayers would benefit, everyone that rides thebus would benefit, and the people left who use cars would benefit – as opposed to the rail just helping a few & causing no real reduction in traffic, all for billions of dollars everyone in honolulu county has to cough up. not to mention maintaining this big, noisy rust-prone monstrosity that’s like 3 football fields of concrete in the sky…

    wait. how did we get on this subject again? oh yeah. rod tam’s boring, lol. sorry to go off track, dave… cap/doc started it 😛

  11. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    zzzzzz:

    Unfortunately, most people – like my Sigoth and I – live here and work there. Without some form of transportation – whether four-wheeled private vehicles or TheBus or mass transit or bikes/motorcycles/mopeds – people would not be able to get to & from work, let alone deal with running errands, shopping, going to ball games at Aloha Stadium or surfing on the North Shore. The people who are too young or too old or too infirm to drive or walk over to the nearest bus stop are the ones who would suffer the most because their drivers will have pay $6 or even more for a gallon of gas.

    As an almost-daily busrider, I can tell you that riding a bus is tremendously inefficient when it comes to time management – not so much the actual time spent on the bus, but walking over to the bus stop, waiting for the bus and then walking to a building three blocks away.

    If I drive, it takes me 35 minutes to get to Ala Moana Center. If I take the bus, it takes me well over an hour. Heaven forfend if I have to transfer downtown to a bus going up to UH-Manoa or out to Kaiser Moanalua.

    Mufi was not at most of the meetings and hearings I attended. He certainly does not show his face at City Council meetings although his department heads do.

    Actually, I do understand why Mufi is so single-minded on mass transit. He too realizes that the opponents in the three previous tries wound up creating the situation we face today.

    It’s his style and his way of working with others that has torked so many people.

    Returning to the history of mass transit on O`ahu:
    My then-Councilmember Steve Holmes was instrumental in getting Rene Mansho to change her YES vote back in 1992. His opposition was based upon another very different environmental perspective – that in order to make living & working close to each other the best and most attractive option available, it was important to make living here and working there something to avoid.

    And mass transit would do exactly the opposite by encouraging people to live out in West O`ahu and work in town.

    Steve and I definitely had words over his NO vote and the relationship between us became worse and worse as the years went by. Eventually, he stopped speaking to me except in the most formal situations – even though we were on the same page when it came to renewable energy and other environmental issues.

    Most people oppose the current rail project on financial grounds, but they do not take into consideration the economic costs of continuing to rely on fossil fuels. We import 96% of our energy needs – 88% oil, primarily from Indonesia, and 6% coal from several different countries.

    Most of our renewable energy resources will go towards providing electrical power so we should be reducing our dependency upon oil by 2025 in that sector. Yhe transportation sector will continue to use oil for much longer than that – and when the costs are driven so high by diminished resources, we need to have realstic alternatives to move people from
    here to there.

    Off to bed – a long, long day tomorrow in various meetings. Hope I’ll be able to stay awake during the two afternoon meetings.

  12. zzzzzz Says:

    @Cap–I’m guessing you live on the windward side. How much will rail help you? Yes, it would probably have some impact on traffic in town, and would help prevent another Black Tuesday when an event on the leeward side causes traffic backups on the windward side, but it wouldn’t provide you with an alternative to get to town, and it would cost you (around $600 a year is the estimate I seem to recall from Lowell Kalapa).

    OTOH, a step increase in gas prices (preferably as a substitute for the GET train tax), will cause an immediate change in consumption, and will reduce your commute time, whether you drive or catch the bus. If some or all of that tax were spent on things like expanding TheBus and VanPool services, that would further decrease consumption and congestion, likely provide you with a better alternative, and could happen at a much more rapid pace than building the train.

    My datum on this is the increase due to the combination of Katrina and price caps. My drive time to town went down by about 15 minutes.

    BTW, ever consider getting a folding bike or a folding scooter? That could cut down a lot of the ‘last mile’ time associated with TheBus, and could in some cases obviate the need for a transfer.

  13. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    i don’t have children in the public school system any more. I don’t have any friends or relatives in the prison system or the Hawaii National Guard. i don’t use any of the services offered by the Department of Human Services.
    \
    With respect to City services, about the only ones I use on a regular basis are the ones provided by the Board of Water Supply, the Department of Environmental Services, and TheBus. Indirectly, of course, I “use” street lights, traffic signals, and the City’s roadways.

    However, I rarely use a public park or attend their programs, need lifeguard and other First Responder services, nor do I have any direct dealings with Budget & Fiscal Services or Customer Services beyond processing annual motor vehicle license renewals,

    However, just because I don’t use these services doesn’t mean I don’t want to pay for them. I do because these government services help make my community and my city and my state a better place in which to live, work & play.

    Having mass transit will make life better for all of us. Come back 20 years from now and tell us how badly your life has become because of mass transit has been in place over the previous ten years.

    And remember expanding TheBus or encouraging car-pooling will still continue to pour greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Until eletric-powered vehicles are norm around here with the power source generated by renewables, we are stuck using fossil fuels.

    The other “solution” you offer – is not sumething those of us who need to be relatively dressed up when we go to work can use. Also, I see many, many older and physically-challenged folks on the bus even at 8 am plus the buses can only accommodate 2 bikes at any given time.

  14. zzzzzz Says:

    The train will also pour greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It will run on electricity generated by burning fossil fuels, coal, biofuel, and trash, all of which will generate greenhouse gases. A lot of renewables, e.g., biofuel and trash, will still generate greenhouse gases. Sources like solar, wind, and tides won’t, but there’s the storage issue with those.

    It’ll also be a long time before the train has any impact on gasoline consumption. At least if it was funded by a gas tax, instead of the GET, it would already be decreasing our consumption, and the overall cost to taxpayers wouldn’t be much more than it is now, albeit differently distributed. And if that tax money were used for things like expanding TheBus and VanPools, we’d already be seeing some impact on traffic congestion, as well as providing more transportation alternatives, including to folks like you who don’t live near the rail route.

    But increasingly, my objection to the train is its impact on political races, e.g., Mufi’s campaign getting so much money from rail-related companies. It will also send a lot of our money out of state.

  15. WooWoo Says:

    Cap/Doc-

    I appreciate all of your concern over fossil fuel vehicles, but the solutions are already moving rapidly ahead. By the time the rail is fully completed, there will be zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell vehicles available for purchase.

    Would you prefer Mufi’s train or a zero-emission bus? I take the zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell bus.

    And this is not far off. Honda has been testing for several years now a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in southern california. Real people have been leasing it and driving it around. Honda believes it can have a production hydrogen fuel cell vehicle available for general sale to the public by 2018.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_clarity

    I feel very confident (and sad) that the day that the train is fully completed, it will be the most polluting option around. Other municipalities will be getting zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell buses, and we will be watching the riderless train go by.

  16. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    I early on raised the issue about electricity generated by fossil fuels being used to power up the train. As it turns out, the amount will be about a tenth of what the cars its replaces would use on a daily basis. Both biofuels from all sources along with wind, solar, wave, and OTEC will be available to the HECO by the time is ready-2-go.

    My big quarrel with biofuels is that they might well take land out of food production. Food security is as important as fuel security whoch is why our organization has been focusing on the implementation of F&F security legislaiton since 2005.

    The biggest difference, however, between generating electricity with either biofuels or fossil fuels and driving hundreds of thousands of vehicles every day to and from work is the ability to use carbon capture and sequestration.

    This would be done at the generating source but would be impossible to do with internal combusion engines.

    Although still highly theoretical today, a decade from now, CC&S should be quite workable. Furthermore, power plants spend a kazillion dollars a year on making their equipment more efficient which will obviously reduce the amount of greenhouse gases. People don’t get their cars tuned up very often to burn gas efficiently.

    The opponents of mass transit only suggest using more fossil fuels in buses and car pools as an alternative. Unfortunately, I suspect that most of the opponents support buses and car pools for other people and wouldn’t dream of taking a bus or sharing a ride into downtown Honolulu or up to the University themselves.

    No one has suggested that we reduce our dependency by changing the ways in which we live, work & play. People wind up driving half a block from one store to the next instead of planning their shopping excursions in logical ways.

    Why are school buses transporting kids who live a little over a mile away from their schools? It’s not as if our kids have to slog their way through ten-foot high snow banks. Back in the day, I walked or rode my bike to elementary school except when the weather was really junk.

    Why aren’t businesses allowing their employees – especially those who rarely deal with clients & customers face-2-face – telecommute two or three days a week.

    Granted, kapolei is being touted as the Second City in order to cut down long-distance commutes; however, what about existing communities such as Kaimuki or Pearl City or Kane`ohe.

    Frankly, I think that only people under the age of 40 should be allowed to make these critical decisions. They’re the one who’ll have to live with the decisions made today thirty years from now.

  17. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Whoops!!! Both biofuels from all sources along with wind, solar, wave, and OTEC will be available to the HECO by the time THE TRAIN is ready-2-go.

  18. zzzzzz Says:

    @Cap wrote:

    “No one has suggested that we reduce our dependency by changing the ways in which we live, work & play. People wind up driving half a block from one store to the next instead of planning their shopping excursions in logical ways.”

    I think my suggestion would force people to change the ways in which we live, work, and play. Much higher gas costs will make people think twice about moving somewhere with a long commute, the gas mileage of the cars they buy, whether or not to carpool, whether to push a little harder to be able to telecommute, or whether to just jump in the car on any whim. It’ll make businesses think a little harder about videoconferencing instead of driving to a meeting spot, or offering their employees the option of telecommuting (although traffic congestion should do that too).

    “The opponents of mass transit only suggest using more fossil fuels in buses and car pools as an alternative.”

    I am not an opponent of mass transit, although I am dubious about the train. But I don’t see what’s wrong with replacing many cars by a single bus, or several cars by a single car, especially since this could happen now, and not need to wait ten years.

    Also, note that my suggestion is not incompatible with building the train. Changing the funding source from GET to gas tax would facilitate both.

    “Unfortunately, I suspect that most of the opponents support buses and car pools for other people and wouldn’t dream of taking a bus or sharing a ride”

    I was on the mainland when there was a ballot measure to increase the sales tax to build a train. A lot of people who supported the tax and the train had no intention of taking the train; they wanted it built so others would take it and leave the roads less crowded for them to drive.

  19. Michael Says:

    How many cars will the rail take off the roads?
    How will people get to the rail? Drive? Walk? Catch the bus? When it’s raining?
    How many people can ride the rail at one time?
    How much to maintain the rail daily, monthly, yearly?
    How many parking stalls will be allowed per rail stop?
    How much will it cost to ride rail?
    Will drivers who own cars get an insurance discount for using rail?
    How long will it take me from one point to another?
    20 miles does not seem that long? In a circle or back and forth? An engine at both ends?
    How long will it take from one stop to the next?
    What happens when high winds or a tsunami or Hurricane and one is on rail?
    What will happen if no power, generators not working?
    Is there an emergency escape off the rail?
    If the rail is running late so will I be late to where ever I am going?

    So many billion to build but no money to run it.
    Oahu county is broke. Da Bus fare goes up. No parking space. Maybe can run on wind, if blowing in the right direction. Passengers get out and push.
    One question I asked and they laughed. How many cars in a football field? When I see traffic on the News, I am comparing the amount of cars to several football fields or hundreds of yards. Miles, not inches on the map scale.

    I asked these question to mayo and his board members and got no answer. Too hard to answer cause there is no answer.
    It looks good on paper but when it is built there is no backing down. Rail is built, it stays built.
    All those educated said it looks good on paper.(repeat). Face it, there is no rail. Pigs will fly before Rail is built. All my questions go unanswered.
    I will fly before the rail is built.

    Tam best get used to eating something other than Dim Sum. Adobo.


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