City Council tries to slide corporate welfare bill out the back door.
The City Council is trying to slide a reconstituted corporate welfare bill out the back door.

Bill 47 was passed unanimously by the City Council and signed into law by Mayor Carlisle. It removed a long-standing “subsidy” for island automobile recyclers. The big tipping fee discount for ASR, or automotive shredder residue dumped into the landfill, had netted Hawaii’s largest metal recycler, Schnitzer Steel, around $19 million since 1998. Schnitzer, pocketed $1.9 in taxpayer largesse last year alone. They don’t really need it as they are very profitable (netting about $1 a month in Hawaii). Perhaps they shouldn’t be dumping ASR at any price since the toxic content of their recyling waste, much of which originates on the Neighbor Islands is under fire by environmentalists. When asked to show any actual need for this subsidy, Schitzer curtly informed the City Council that they had no right to see their books. But, they still wanted the money back to pad their bottom line and, due to our malleable city council, might actually get it. After a monumental lobbying effort by Schnitzer, the Council is now trying its best to put this corporate welfare back.

The full Council passed their new Bill 36 (7 to 2), to reestablish the Schnitzer pay off, only three days after their Bill 47 (removing it) was signed into law. Only Tom Berg and Breene Harimoto were not “persauded” by Schnitzer’s back room shenanigans.

In his daily blog, Ian Lind listed a partial roster of Schnitzer’s army of lobbyists:

‘Then there’s Schnitzer Steel Hawaii with an unusual number of big guns, including “Red” Morris and John Radcliffe, PR exec Cindy McMillan, John Sabas (married to Jennifer Goto Sabas, Sen. Dan Inouye’s chief of staff), Travis Taylor (former communications advisor to Duke Aiona), and former city council member (remember her?) Rene Mansho.”

In fact, you won’t find anyone who testified on behalf of Schnitzer’s “entitlement” that was not on their payroll. Ex-City Council person, Rene Mansho has been employed by Schnitzer for years as their “community relations” specialist. Her job description also seems to involve lobbying her old colleagues. She often attends council hearings with a gaggle of blue-shirted Schnitzer employees in tow, Rene sings the praises of her employer while she lines up her conscripts for photo ops. The origin of the lucrative recycling “subsidy” that they all share dates back to Rene’s active city council days, and according to Schitzer insiders, her job depends on her holding it all together.

Mayor Carlisle will most likely veto this “unbudgeted” pay off to a profitable mainland corporation. It remains to be seen, however,  whether Schitzer’s investment in cultivating “loyalty” among their seven council members will hold together enough for an override. Judging by the growing voter backlash, controversial environmental liabilities and general stink of the political downside; it’s anybody’s call.

When asked over and over, why this was being done, and what possible benefit the taxpayer’s would get from this unjustifiable give-away of their money, the Schnitzer Seven have offered little convincing logic. Every taxpayer in Honolulu should press for the answer to that question before we let them pull this scam off.

 

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