Posted tagged ‘Peter Carlisle’

HART saves the fight for another day

July 5, 2011

Members of the new Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation were smart to sidestep a lawsuit over who sets its budget, but it remains to be seen if the matter is settled or just postponed for a year.

The City Council insists it has the right under the City Charter to approve HART’s annual budget, while the Carlisle administration argues that the semi-autonomous agency sets it’s own budget independently of the council.

At its first meeting Friday, the HART board avoided a confrontation by adopting exactly the $20.5 million operating budget and $354.7 million capital budget passed by the council.

“Legal action is clearly not in the best interest of the taxpayers,” said HART finance chairman Don Horner, in a sentiment that surely reflects the public mood on this contentious $5.3 billion project. “We’re confident the majority of the council want to see rail move forward and there’s no sense in arguing about technicalities at this point.”

Of course, the operative words were “at this point.” We’ll see next year whether HART submits its budget to the council for approval — or what the board does if the council adopts its own budget for the agency.

Horner pledged somewhat vaguely to “provide oversight” to both the council and city administration on finances and “to engage the public in the budgetary process.”

It’ll be an interesting tap dance — especially with the always combative Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi back in charge of the Budget Committee.

But now was not the right time for a fight the mayor and council seemed to be champing at the bit for, and the HART board deserves early kudos for recognizing it.


Mayor, council heading to court on rail

June 22, 2011

Mayor Peter Carlisle and the City Council appear headed to court in a battle over fiscal control of O‘ahu’s $5.3 billion rail project.

Carlisle yesterday vetoed the $17.5 budget the council passed for 2012 operations of the new Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit, arguing that the City Charter amendment creating HART gives the semi-autonomous agency the right to set its own budget.

The council, which passed the budget 8-1, is expected to override the veto, leaving the courts to resolve the dispute if the two sides can’t come to an agreement.

Council members have expressed frustration at what they describe as a heavy-handed attempt by the administration to cut them out of rail funding decisions, which they say was never the intent of the charter amendment.

The council may have already misplayed its best leverage to negotiate concessions from the administration on control of rail.

One area where the council clearly holds the power is in the approval of bonds to pay for the project.

Six council votes are needed for bonds to be floated, and when Carlisle last month requested approval for $104 million in rail bonds that won’t actually be needed until September 2012, the council rolled over and gave 6-3 approval despite the fact that at least half of the members voting “aye” had expressed serious concern about the administration’s heavy-handedness on rail.

The better play if they were worried about rail funding would have been to withhold approval of the bonds until the administration gave ground on the project’s financial transparency.

Homeless plan or security sweep?

June 7, 2011

Stories in the local media about Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s 90-day homeless plan have mentioned the timing in relation to the November APEC conference, but have allowed for the possibility of loftier goals than removing the homeless from the view plane of Barack Obama and other world leaders.

Not so most of the stories circulating in the mainland media. The AP story that ran in the Washington Post and other major media laid the homelessness initiative directly at the doorstep of APEC:

HONOLULU — The laid-back tropical paradise seen in postcards and tourists’ photos of Hawaii has a less pleasant flipside: homeless people sleeping in tents near Waikiki Beach, men splayed out next to public bathrooms, drug addicts and drunks loitering at an oceanside park.

With President Barack Obama hosting a major Asia-Pacific economic summit in Honolulu in November — one that will draw dozens of heads of state and focus international attention on the tourist mecca — state leaders have begun pressing for solutions to solve a homelessness problem that’s as deeply entrenched in Hawaii as nearly anywhere in the country.

Abercrombie was quoted as saying it’s a “happy coincidence” that the plan will move many of the homeless out of Waikiki and the main city corridor before APEC.

Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz mentioned a moral obligation to help the homeless, but admitted APEC is a “handy deadline” to show some progress.

Mayor Peter Carlisle said the added police and security forces for the conference will be keeping a special eye on the homeless.

“Some of them are violent, some of them are mentally ill, some are so intoxicated you can’t roust ‘em,” he said. “And that’s something we simply just can’t tolerate during this particular period of time.”

The question is whether it’s motivation that really matters or results.

If the homeless are moved only temporarily out of Waikiki and the central city — or pushed to other locations where they’re just a problem for someone else — the program will be a disgrace by any measure.

But if the sweep finds actual solutions and services for a fair number of homeless and gets them into better situations for themselves and the community, do we really care what motivated the timing?

All tracks lead to Don Horner

April 18, 2011

I applauded when Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed First Hawaiian Bank chairman and CEO Don Horner to the Board of Education.

He seemed just the kind of guy needed to help shake the school system out of its bureaucratic morass and establish a culture of clear goals and accountability.

I’m less enthusiastic about Mayor Peter Carlisle’s appointment of Horner to the new Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, which will oversee construction and operation of the city’s $5.5 billion rail project.

For one thing, Horner seems to be spreading himself a bit thin. The BOE, where he’s currently chairman, and the transit authority are both big jobs, and presumably, he’s still expected to pull a few shifts at the helm of FHB.

There’s also a concern about undue concentration of power. The public schools and rail are arguably the highest current priorities of the state and city, and it seems inappropriate to have one guy in the middle of both.

There are other banks and other CEO’s in this town if those credentials are deemed essential to these projects.

Carlisle said his three appointees to the transit authority “will keep politics out of the rail project,” but it’s difficult to see how.

In addition to Horner, he named outgoing corporation counsel Carrie Okinaga and William “Buzzy” Hong, retired executive director of the Hawaii Building and Construction Trades Council.

Okinaga has been in the middle of the political fight between the administration and City Council about fiscal oversight of the transit authority, and Hong’s group was a leader in the political battle to win approval of rail.

The City Council has appointed attorney and former city finance director Ivan Lui-Kwan, planner Kelsie Hui and Damien Kim of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The city and state transportation directors are also members, and those eight will choose the ninth member.

New rail lawsuit takes shape

March 24, 2011

The city dodged a legal bullet on its $5.5 billion rail plan when a state judge yesterday threw out a lawsuit by Hawaiians trying to delay construction until the city completes a survey of burial sites along the project’s entire 20-mile route.

But a bigger legal challenge could be soon at hand with a group that includes former Gov. Ben Cayetano expected to file a federal lawsuit next month challenging the project’s environmental impact statement.

Nicholas Yost, the San Francisco attorney handling the lawsuit, will be in Honolulu next week to discuss the case with potential plaintiffs.

During the Carter administration, Yost played a lead role in drafting regulations governing federal environmental impact statements. He received the American Bar Association’s 2010 award for distinguished achievement in environmental law.

In a memo this week to Cayetano and anti-rail activist Cliff Slater, Yost indicated that the lawsuit would focus on allegations that the city:

•Violated the Transportation Act and National Historic Preservation Act by failing consider alternatives for avoiding historic sites.

•Used outdated information for population and ridership projections that skewed the results of the environmental study and fell short of the legal requirement for scientifically valid methodology.

•Improperly limited the EIS to the 20 miles between East Kapolei and Ala Moana Center while failing to include studies of future extensions to West Kapolei, Waikiki and the University of Hawai’i.

•Failed to meet its obligation under the National Environmental Policy Act to study all reasonable alternatives to heavy rail and give each equal consideration. Yost said the EIS omitted the managed lane alternative and gave short shrift to bus rapid transit and light rail.

He said the city’s EIS misstated the purpose and need for the project as “providing high capacity rapid transit” instead of the correct broader purpose of “moving people from west to east and east to west.”

“It confuses a potential alternative solution with the underlying purpose and need,” he said. “So stated, all non-rapid transit alternatives are automatically excluded. … That violates the law.”

Cayetano accused Mayor Peter Carlisle of a “publicity stunt” to impress visiting U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood when he announced this week that a $574 million contract has been awarded to AnsaldoBreda to provide cars for the rail system, along with a $372 million contract to Kiewit Infrastructure West to build the second phase of the rail line from Pearl Highlands to Aloha Stadium. Kiewit earlier got the contract for the first phase starting in Kapolei.

Cayetano said the city doesn’t have the funds on hand to cover the more than $1 billion in contracts awarded by Carlisle and former Mayor Mufi Hannemann and that it’s “irresponsible to award such contracts while there is no full funding agreement between the (Federal Transit Administration) and the City.”

State skim = rail scam

February 28, 2011

One factor that greatly erodes confidence in the $5.5 billion O’ahu rail project is the annual attempt of the Legislature to raid funds from the half-cent excise tax enacted by the city to pay for the train.

This year, senators are proposing to “borrow” $200 million from the rail fund to enable them to balance the state’s budget while ducking the tough decisions to get their own financial house in order.

The state is already skimming 10 percent off the top of the transit tax — potentially $400 million over the life of the tax — to pay for nonexistent “administrative costs.” This unnecessarily runs up the cost to O’ahu taxpayers for Hawai‘i’s most expensive public works project by 10 percent right off the bat.

In Mayor Peter Carlisle’s first appearance before the Legislature, he wimpishly let Maui Sen. J. Kalani English extract a promise from him not to try to get the 10 percent back.

It’s no wonder English is so protective of the state’s share of the transit levy; it essentially forces O’ahu taxpayers to subsidize his Maui constituents by paying a 4.5 percent excise tax for some state services while neighbor islanders pay only 4 percent.

The concern is that instead of tightly watching expenses on this enormously costly project to keep it from growing out of control, it’s being treated by lawmakers like a giant slush fund that could turn into the biggest orgy of profiteering Hawai‘i has ever seen.

There is no longer any reasonable doubt that the combination of the city’s excise tax plus whatever federal share emerges from a cost-cutting Congress won’t be enough to build the 20-mile commuter line, much less cover the operating costs.

That city leaders refuse to say how they’ll make up the difference — and that the Legislature and Abercrombie administration shamelessly skim instead of holding the city’s feet to the fire — should make us all very nervous.

Carlisle pushes early for campaign cash

February 16, 2011

Mayor Peter Carlisle has a message on his campaign website promising supporters that “steps are … being taken to remove the specter of politics from Honolulu Hale.”

Then on the same page, he’s soliciting individual donations of $100 to $1,000 and selling tables for up to $8,000 for a Mayoral Celebration on April 19 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village to raise funds for his future political ambitions.

The campaign fundraiser, originally scheduled for Valentine’s Day, is being held in lieu of the less political inaugural ball traditionally thrown by new mayors.

Carlisle promises big-name entertainment headlined by Jim Nabors, Jimmy Borges and Monica Mancini, and those who plunk down $8,000 for “platinum” tables get their picture taken with the mayor.

It’s a new day from his time as city prosecutor when he made a big deal of placing limits on the campaign contributions he’d accept.

Carlisle, who was elected in a September special election to finish Mufi Hannemann’s term, has already announced his intention to seek not one, but two more terms as Honolulu mayor “if my family and the citizens of Honolulu permit.”

The new mayor has split with one of his most prominent campaign supporters, former Gov. Ben Cayetano, who said at a recent anti-rail news conference that Carlisle is not a reasonable man and indicated he regrets backing him.

But interestingly, Cayetano’s wife Vicky is still listed as a member of the event committee for the April fundraiser.

City turns around PR disaster on senior fair

November 22, 2010

The cancellation and then rescheduling of the 36th annual Mayor’s Craft and Country Fair at the Blaisdell Center was an unnecessary mess, but I give Mayor Peter Carlisle credit for quickly getting on top of a bad situation and making it right.

The event, originally scheduled for this past weekend, was abruptly scrapped by the city after a disruption at the Kailua farmer’s market over a state excise tax crackdown on cash businesses such as farmer’s markets and craft fairs.

The  overreaction dispirited seniors, who look forward to the event and put a lot of work into it, and it turned out the tax department didn’t even plan to target the fair because it is exempt as a one-time annual holiday event.

This is the part where we’ve come to expect officials to circle the wagons, deny they did anything wrong, hang underlings out to dry, blame the state — anything to evade responsibility.

Carlisle didn’t do any of that, taking responsibility squarely on his shoulders. “This was a mistake made by the City and County of Honolulu,” he said. “We’re responsible for it, and now it’s our obligation to do everything we can to try to set this right.”

And that’s exactly what he did, getting the event rescheduled for Dec. 4 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. I could get used to this kind of forthrightness.

Carlisle makes the train his own

October 12, 2010

O‘ahu rail opponents won’t be happy with new Mayor Peter Carlisle’s strong endorsement of the $5.5 billion project on his first day in office, but they shouldn’t be surprised after his consistent support of the commuter train during the campaign.

To show the high priority he gives rail, Carlisle will travel to Washington, D.C. with City Council members in his critical first few days to assure the Federal Transit Administration and Congress that Honolulu’s commitment to building the 20-mile line from Kapolei to Honolulu is fully intact.

The new administration faces major challenges in moving the project forward. The state hasn’t completed its review of the environmental impact statement, and oppenents threaten to sue over the way the EIS was conducted as soon as it is filed.

Gov. Linda Lingle continues to insist on a financial review, which she says won’t likely be finished before a new governor takes over. Sen. Daniel Inouye has said the delay could threaten federal funding. And the political dynamics are in flux with five of the nine council seats soon changing hands.

Those who generally favor rail but have been worried about the execution will be interested to see if Carlisle changes the management of the project by tightening contracting, making it more transparent and cutting back the number of high-paid PR people hired for rail.

A less hostile city attitude toward citizens with contrary ideas would be welcome, as would an effort to forge a more collaborative working relationship with the state.

Calling Peter Carlisle

October 5, 2010

The mayor-elect’s camp is strangely silent less than a week before he’s sworn in as Honolulu mayor on Oct. 11.

After an awkward press conference last week with acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell about the transition and the introduction of his former deputy prosecutor Doug Chin as his nominee for managing director, we’ve heard little from Carlisle about his Cabinet or how he plans to organize his administration .

Some people close to Carlisle predict he’ll be a Frank Fasi-type leader who focuses on the big picture and specific projects that catch his fancy, while leaving the nuts and bolts to others. But there’s been little from Carlisle himself about his plans.

The city is in a time of major transition, with a new mayor and four new City Council members to be elected next month. In addition, council chairman Todd Apo is resigning after the general election and a special election will have to be called to replace him.

Carlisle needs to step up and take charge early. If he leaves a leadership void, he’ll have not only a city government in turmoil, but a long list of formidable foes lining up to run against him in two years.

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