Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris presented his State of the City address on prime time television last night, using the words “sustainable” or “sustainability” at least 14 times [not that there is anything wrong with that, but what does that word mean?]. He also shared his “vision” for Oahu, which came down to ramming his $1 billion Bus Rapid Transit System down the taxpayers’ throats and then finishing the expensive screw job with a tax increase to pay for the bus and the parties he is planning on the beach in Waikiki. He deemed the BRT “HART” probably to rhyme with “BART” like the San Francisco rapid transit. But think about it — what else rhymes with HART? The graffiti already is on the bathroom wall. He also cited as “on the way” other “high-tech improvements” to TheBus, including a smart card that for “greater efficiency and customer convenience” will be used as a debit card for bus riders. What is so smart about it? Apparently the makers of the system and the mayor think the card is smart because users don’t even have to take the card out of their wallet to have it read. Here is the direct quote from the mayor: “And you won’t even have to take the card out of your purse or wallet when you step aboard. The bus will automatically and electronically debit your card — or read your pass.” This is a disincentive to most people with any common sense. After all, if the card is so smart, it might decide to read off a few credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers and eye retina prints while debiting TheBus card. The reaction from the Honolulu City Council members to the Mayor’s speech? City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi says she was not really surprised by anything in the mayor’s speech, except his proposal for a tax increase and his plan to cut $100 million in CIP funds. City Council Zoning Chair Charles Djou also was surprised and dismayed by the tax increase proposal. Both he and Kobayashi said they don’t plan to raise taxes or support the mayor’s proposed $1 billion BRT system. Djou is staunchly against any tax increase, saying it is unfortunate that while state and federal governments are looking for ways to lower taxes and give money back to the nation’s families, the city is planning to take that very same money from the people of Honolulu. One Hawaii Reporter reader wrote in to say he was “incredulous” at the Mayor’s “evangelical” speech, which he says came across as “cheerleading, with a continued infatuation with grandiose ideas and projects and an “if we build it they will come” attitude. The reader pointed out the mayor talked about the “finite natural resources” Hawaii has, but didn’t seem to think there are “finite financial resources.” He says all citizens of Hawaii should ask their lawmakers who propose tax and fee increases: “What specific suggestions do you have to the families of Hawaii that will help them pay for your proposed tax increases and fee hikes? Should he have three jobs instead of two? What food should we do without? What should we sacrifice?” He adds, “Would our legislators consider a pay cut to themselves?” ‘Bottle Bill May be Capped’ One of the worst bills passed in the 2002 Legislative session was HB 1256, the bottle bill, which imposed a tax on the sale of beverage containers and put the burden on grocery stores to create and staff mini recycling centers on their property with no government assistance. Gov. Linda Lingle apparently agrees the bill was a bad bill. She will seek to repeal the bill, offering other ways to take care of Hawaii’s litter and lack of landfill space without taxing people in the state further, including allocating $300,000 to non-profits that organize community cleanup days and $2 million to counties for proper garbage disposal. While environmentalists and bureaucrats do not agree with Lingle, the business community is relieved. Several of Hawaii’s business leaders called HB 1256 “expensive and punitive to Hawaii businesses,” “untested” and a “financial experiment.” In a letter to then Gov. Benjamin Cayetano, business leaders pleaded with him to veto the bottle bill, saying it would have a small impact on waste and litter, but put an extra burden on business, mainly food stores, general retailers, hotels, bars and restaurants. That is because businesses are expected to provided the labor, space and equipment for the beverage containers to be returned for refund and for finding someone to collect empty containers and recycle them, regardless of the costs. The letter was signed by small and large business owners and operators including: *Paul Kosasa, President, ABC Stores *Dane Starling, Vice President, Anheuser-Busch, Sales of Hawaii, Inc. *Charles K. Kawakami, President, Big Save, Inc. *Dan Whitford, Area Manager, Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Hawaii *Jenai S. Wall, Chairman, Foodland Super Market *Ed Thompson, Executive Director, Hawaii Food Industry Association *Burt Okura, President, Hawaiian Sun Products *Ken Niimura, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Itoen *Barry Taniguchi, President, KTA Super Stores *Jane E. Sinnott, Director of Government Affairs, Macy’s *Ken Simon, President, Menehune Water, Inc. *Paul E. Smith, President, Pacific Allied Products, Ltd. *Michael Shibuya, President, Paradise Beverages *Carol Pregill, Executive Director, Retail Merchants of Hawaii *Glen Tamura, President, Tamura’s Wahiawa *Gary Yoshioka, General Manager, The Pepsi Bottling Group – Hawaii *Roger Godfrey, President, Times Supermarket *Bob Adams, Vice President, Wal-Mart ‘Governor Goes Wild on Bills, Business Reforms’ Gov. Linda Lingle yesterday sent down 168 bills to the state Legislature, a considerable number of which are doing damage control for atrocities done to the business community and those who believe in the free market, competition, less government intervention and all of the amendments in the U.S. Constitution over the last 40 years. The public can obtain the full text of each bill online at the Hawaii State Legislature’s Web site (http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/) or copies can be requested in person at the Senate/House Print Shop in the basement of the State Capitol. More on her bills and proposals in the Monday edition of HawaiiReporter.com. ‘Republicans Say Democrats in the House Vote Against Open Government’ Republicans say “bipartisanship” failed its first test on the House Floor, Wednesday, as Democrats voted unanimously to prohibit Republican members from serving on a key House committee. House Rules prohibit Republican membership on the House Review Panel, which has the power to review bill committee referrals. In the past, Democrat leaders have referred Republican bills to multiple committees, a practice that stalled bills from moving forward in the legislative process and often killed the bills. Republicans say they moved to open the panel to both the Minority as well as Majority members, however, Democrats voted unanimously against the measure, barring Republican members from the committee. After only a few minutes of debate, House Speaker Calvin Say refused to hear any further comment and called for the vote. Representative Lynn Finnegan, R-Moanalua, says “? democracy took a slap in the face.” While Rep. Mark Moses, R-Kapolei, turned the tables on the Democrats saying “just two days after celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s march toward freedom for oppressed minorities, we once again find the Majority party in the house discriminating against the elected Minority.” Rep. Bud Stonebraker, R-Hawaii Kai, called the exclusion a move to “bound and gag” nearly a third of Hawaii. The Republicans in the House point out the move by Democrats comes just a day after Gov. Lingle’s call for partnership for honest government and a week after Speaker Say’s Opening Day remarks, which emphasized a need to work together. ‘Taxpayer Protection Caucus Forms to Encourage No New Taxes’ Grover Norquist, president of the Americans for Tax Reform based in Washington D.C., contacted Sen. Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai, to form a Taxpayer Protection Caucus in the state Legislature. The caucus welcomes any lawmaker who signed the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge, which says the person who signed it will not raise taxes or propose, introduce or support legislation that raises taxes. Slom signed it as did his co-chair in the House of Representatives Lynn Finnegan, R-Aiea. They are recruiting into the caucus those Hawaii lawmakers who signed the no tax pledge sent out by ATR and distributed by Dick Rowland of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. Gov. Linda Lingle, who met with Norquist while he was in Hawaii just prior to her election, signed the pledge, as did around 20 percent of the state Legislature currently in office. See http://www.atr.org for more information. Hawaii is the first state to create such a caucus. Slom says those legislators who break the pledge will be no longer allowed in the caucus and the caucus will publicize the lawmaker’s violation. ‘New Hero or Scoundrel Voting Feature a Hit’ Sen. Cal Kawamoto, D-Waipahu, was the first legislator to be put on an unofficial trial as a hero or scoundrel for his proposals to raise Hawaii’s gasoline taxes by 2 cents to fund a rapid transit or light rail system. Hawaii’s gasoline taxes already are the highest in the nation. Ironically, Kawamoto signed a pledge with the Americans for Tax Reform that says he will not introduce, support or vote for a tax increase. Breaking his pledge did not sit too well with HawaiiReporter.com readers. The results ?- 155 people voted Kawamoto a scoundrel, while 11 people voted him as a hero. Then Gov. Linda Lingle was put on trial for her controversial education reform proposals offered in her state of the state address. Gov. Linda Lingle wants to give parents of children in public schools more choice in education, saying the current system is not working. She wants charter schools to receive funding equal to that of their sister public schools (now the funding is around half and principals don’t know their budget until after the school year is over, making it nearly impossible to budget properly. The governor also wants to break up Hawaii’s centralized school system (Hawaii is the only state with a single statewide centralized system) into multiple districts, so control of the schools can go back to the communities they are based in rather than remain with the state. She is asking the proposal be put on the general election ballots of the 2004 election so the people can decide. Finally, Lingle wants to free public school principals from any ties to the public teachers’ union, saying they need to be independent to accomplish their job. Out of 117 people who voted yesterday, 106 say Lingle is a hero for her reform proposals while 11 people voted her a scoundrel. Whether those 11 voters who voted Lingle a scoundrel are the same who voted Kawamoto a hero is a mystery that will never likely be solved. If you have a hero or scoundrel in mind, send your nomination to tips@HawaiiReporter.com ‘NFIB Members Voice Top Concerns in Business Poll’ Bette Tatum, president of the National Federation of Independent Business in Hawaii, says her 5,500 members in Hawaii believe the increasing cost of healthcare, taxes and workers’ comp are the top three most important issues as business owners and operators. Tatum says while her members are still concerned about Hawaii’s business climate, 70 percent already report they believe the business climate is getting better in Hawaii and none of them used the word “hostile” to describe the state government as they did in the past. “There is a whole new attitude in the business community,” Tatum says.