A “truth squad” organized by former Gov. Benjamin Cayetano to investigate the city’s budget and infrastructure problems, unveiled an analysis of Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle’s budget proposal a week ago.
Made up of 9 former city and state directors who worked for four previous mayors and one former governor, the truth squad was critical of Carlisle’s management and budgeting for the city infrastructure repairs and maintenance.
Their assessment came down to this: Honolulu taxpayers cannot afford to fund a $5.3 billion rail project that the current mayor wants to build and repair the city’s aging infrastructure which needs more than $15 billion in repair.
They noted the current mayor is cutting $17 million in safety and security related programs tied to the first responders’ budgets so he could maintain the city’s credit rating while also increasing the city’s debt limit to between 24 and 28 percent to pay for rail.
Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle said on Tuesday the statements by the “truth squad” are “false and erroneous.”
He said: “From the beginning, this administration has strived to be fiscally responsible without compromising public safety.”
The city also released these statements by spokespeople for the fire, police and ambulance departments.
“The City administration has supported the HFD’s CIP budget requests and allotted appropriate funding,” said HFD Chief Kenneth Silva. “The HFD CIP budget is part of a six-year planning and budgeting cycle. Any changes that have occurred in HFD’s CIP budget are a result of planning changes. HFD’s CIP funding is currently adequate to address agency needs and to sustain its ability to keep the community safe.”
Honolulu Police Deputy Chief Dave Kajihiro said, “HPD has not seen major decreases to its CIP budget. Fluctuations have resulted from adjustments made in plans for upcoming projects. Necessary projects continue to be funded.”
“Under Mayor Carlisle, EMS services have actually increased for Oahu,” said Dr. Jim Ireland, director of the Honolulu Emergency Services Department. “While EMS services are funded by the state, the City decided to expand services in Waipio and the downtown Honolulu area in 2011 with savings achieved through management efficiencies, particularly reducing overtime expenses. As for our Ocean Safety Division, we also expanded lifeguarding services in 2011 with the addition of a rescue ski unit on the North Shore of Oahu.”
Carlisle said rail debt is paid by the state General Excise Tax surcharge tax and federal funds and does not include property taxes, or money from sewers, road repairs or law enforcement.
In response to the response, Cayetano said: “We did not say the City was cutting the budget to pay for rail. Here is what our press release said:
“’To Minimize the Impact of HART Increasing the City’s General Obligation Debt by 67%, the City is cutting $17 million in public health and safety CIP projects to preserve its AA+ Credit Rating.’
“Apparently, Mayor Carlisle doesn’t understand the difference.”
Cayetano and Carlisle are both running for Honolulu mayor in the August 2012 primary election.