Tom Berg

Tom Berg

BY COUNCIL MEMBER TOM BERG – Here’s quick update on getting you your money’s worth from City government. We’re in the final stretch of “budget season” here at City Hall. This is when the nine council members (including yours truly) and the mayor (plus all his department heads) wrangle and arm-wrestle over the City’s annual budget for the coming year. As the funding mechanism a multibillion dollar corporation, funded by YOU the taxpayer through all kinds of taxes and user fees, the 2011-2012 budget is a really big deal which impacts your cost of living and your quality of life.

At my office, which is truly YOUR office, our priority is to set things right at Honolulu Hale after decades of seeing City Hall take much more from you than it gives back in the services we are supposed to provide.

I’m proud to tell you that next Friday, June 3rd, we are on schedule to adopting a budget which (though imperfect in many ways) is definitely trying to make up for the shortchanging of taxpayers in years gone by. While Mayor Carlisle wanted to cut the budget to fix our deteriorating roadways and spend that money on vacant positions, the City Council pushed hard in the other direction . . . especially since everyone knows that Oahu has been ranked with some of the worst roads and highways in the entire nation.

I’ve been fighting against the urge of some at City Hall to increase your taxes, on everything from gasoline for your car, property taxes, and much more. We’ve won some battles and we’ve lost some. But now comes the big vote next week. And that’s where I really need your help.

Something I’m very proud of is being able to champion long overdue capital improvement projects (CIP’s) for the council district I am proud to represent. Ewa, Kapolei, and the Waianae Coast will see attention for parks, roads, public safety, flooding prevention, and much more. The benefits to West Oahu contained within Bill 14 (the CIP budget) — to be voted on next Friday — will be felt from Ewa to Kapolei to the Waianae Coast; including the widening of Renton Road to allow easier turning onto Fort Weaver during morning rush hour, the renovation of baseball/softball fields at Kapolei Community Park, the restoration of a now-closed comfort station at Nanakuli Beach Park, the expansion of facilities at Ewa Mahiko Park to include football fields and a dog park, the restoration and enhancement of the annual benefits package to areas affected by the Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill (originally proposed to be cut entirely by Mayor Carlisle), as well as multiple improvements to facilities at Kahe Point Beach Park. Other highlights of the CIP budget relating to West Oahu include a new fire station in East Kapolei with related road improvements and a major expansion of the capacity of Kapolei’s H-Power garbage-to-energy facility.

In addition, thanks to the support of our budget committee chairman, Councilman Ernie Martin, and many of my colleagues, our West Oahu parks and recreation initiatives will receive an extra $1.5 million in 2011-2012 on top of those CIP items for Council District One. This ‘benefits package’ is being granted for West Oahu out of respect for our district’s burden of being the only community which hosts Oahu’s landfills . . . which are utilized daily by every single neighborhood and business on our island.

This package of benefits earmarked for West Oahu, contained within Bill 13 (the operating budget) will be overseen by our neighbors who will be serving as newly-elected representatives neighborhood boards for the very communities most impacted by these landfills. These are Board #34 (Honokai Hale/Kapolei/Makakilo), Board # 36 (Nanakuli-Maili), and Board #24 (Waianae Coast). This July 1st (which happens to be the first day of the City’s new fiscal year), the members of these boards will begin working with the City’s parks department to determine how the $1.5 million is to be spent; with each of these three neighborhood boards having authority over $500,000.

All that needs to happen is for the City Council to approve the new City budget next Friday. To help ensure success, citizens across Oahu need to let their representatives on the City Council know that they should support Bill 13 and Bill 14 in their final form. In particular, it would be great if you could let the council know that you support the West Oahu benefits package which provides $1.5 million to Leeward communities in return for having hosted Oahu’s landfills.

Please call or e-mail members of the City Council to help ensure passage of Bills 13 and 14 at next Friday’s City Council meeting. Better yet, please be there to speak in favor of adoption of these important pieces of legislation.

The Waianae and Nanakuli boards have already lent their support for these dedicated funds. Unfortunately, last night, the outgoing members of the Kapolei Neighborhood Board (whose terms are expiring in the days ahead) chose to engage in partisan politics and parliamentary maneuvering by refusing to officially add this to their agenda for consideration. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE. This prevented them from joining with the Nanakuli and Waianae neighborhood boards to support the mutually-beneficial measure. While this misguided inaction could put at risk the many improvements to Bill 13 which Board #34’s own constituents living in the communities of Honokai Hale, Kapolei and Makakilo justifiably deserve for putting up with having a landfill in their backyard decade after decade, we are confident that the new members of the Kapolei board will step up to the plate upon passage of Bill 13 and help prioritize how the discretionary monies should be spent.

Thanks for your attention to this looming deadline and enormous opportunity for positive change. For more information about the many battles we’ve been fighting at City Hall since being inaugurated just four months ago, please visit my very informative legislative website: www.CouncilmanBerg.com

Finally, I hope to see you next Friday at City Hall. Thanks for your help in making our island a better place to live. Till then, have a great Memorial Day weekend.

Tom Berg is a Honolulu City Council Member

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