BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Instead of just focusing on beating him outright in the November 6 General Election, state Rep. Kymberly Pine is demanding the resignation of her General Election opponent in Council District 1, incumbent Honolulu City Council Member Tom Berg.
This after Berg was sanctioned by Council Chair Ernie Martin and removed on August 13 from two of four council committees he sits on, including the City Council’s Transportation and Public Works and Sustainability Committees, over an earlier clash he had with Council Member Breene Harimoto.
“Mr. Berg’s erratic behavior has caused West Oahu to have no Representation on the committees that affect our District the most,” Pine said. “He is a failure and an embarrassment to all of us that live on the Leeward Coast. Berg must resign because of his actions on and off the Council.”
The clash between Berg and Harimoto was ignited when they were debating the city’s controversial plan to construct a 20-mile $5.3 billion elevated steel on steel rail system from Kapolei to Honolulu. Specifically, the city’s plan to buy millions of dollars worth of land along the rail line.
“When I tried to ask questions in the Budget Committee regarding why property acquisition for the rail has gone way over budget (from $75 million to $222 million) and why HART is acting in secrecy, I was interrupted by Councilman Breene Harimoto. He stated I could ask all my questions the next day in his Transportation Committee,” Berg said.
“When I tried to do just that, I was shut down, and called out of order. It wasn’t me that was stymied, but the good people of Oahu who have been duped and lied to about this runaway train.”
Berg said he has the largest constituency of Native Hawaiians in his district, and when he tried to get clarity on property acquisition on iwi (native Hawaiian burial sites) for his constituents, Harimoto cut him off and refused to let him speak.
“Council Member Harimoto should be reprimanded for his perpetuating lies about this rail project and promoting the propaganda for it. Now that is the real travesty. Why all the secrecy? Has something gone amuck? You bet it has, and I was elected to expose the shenanigans and simply doing my job,” Berg said.
Debra Murphy, a resident of District 1, said the fight is between a chair that is adamantly pro rail and a member of the committee who is not.
Murphy wrote a letter to the council chair “demanding Tom Berg be reinstated on the Transportation and Public Works committees immediately.”
“You cannot squash the public voice and only give the public taxpayers a one-sided Harimoto story on phases 1 through 4 on the rail line. We want truthful information on why the land aqusition price went from $90 million to $214 billion, which has gone unquestioned by the chair, Breene Harimoto. As the Chair, why did he not admit he knew about the discrepency and ask tough questions? Harimoto got angry when Berg was digging for the truth and lost his temper,” Murphy said.
Murphy proposed Harimoto should be removed from the committee and Berg should become the Chair.
Murphy also said Berg needs to be reinstated on the Public Works Committee as well.
“Council Committee Chair Stanley Chang only wants flowerpots on his committees, but we the people want someone like Berg to fight for us. Tom Berg is a true Hawaiian at heart,” Murphy said.
Murphy is not the only constituent to speak out.
Emily Winter of Makaha said: “I 100 percent demand Councilman Tom Berg be reinstated to both committees. I have been following this and greed and corruption have turned the rail project into a profiteering scheme and a one sided scam against the taxpayers of Honolulu.” Makaha said neither the public nor Berg has not been able to get answers about the project from the city or the rail authority.
The clash between Berg and Pine is expected to escalate as the November 6 General Election nears.
Berg is Pine’s former office manager at the state capitol and left to run for city council two years ago. Berg was the surprise winner of the race that attracted several candidates.
During this election, Berg, who is technically media savvy, created a series of campaign radio advertisements using Pine’s own public statements complimenting him while he was employed by her. The ads leave the impression Pine is endorsing Berg in his challenge against her.
Despite Berg’s repeated outbursts that have got him in trouble at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference, at a Neighborhood Board Meeting and in the council, which sharply contrasts to Pine’s polished image, he still has many supporters in his district.
He has been an outspoken advocate in favor of labeling GMO food products and protecting area farm land, which gained him support from environmentalists across the state. He’s criticized the rail tax and government waste, particularly on the rail project. He’s also fought boisterously and passionately against the current city plans for the construction of rail project that is now under construction in his district.
Pine was one of 8 Republicans in the state House and in the minority of Republicans who supports the rail project. At the legislature, she was known for fighting against tax increases and for stronger cyber crime legislation. Pine is backed by the former Lt. Governor, Duke Aiona, and the construction unions. Her signwavers have included members of the Carpenters Union.