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”Closing Satellites Political, Not Practical”
Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris, during his regular interview on Wednesday’s KHVH afternoon talk show with Mike Buck, and in other public statements, blamed the Honolulu City Council for the need to close down at least one, and possibly two more, Satellite City Hall offices.
Those Satellite City Halls, which accommodate hundreds of city transactions from the public such as vehicle registration normally required to be processed in Downtown Honolulu, are located in Kailua and Hawaii Kai. He already closed down the Waipahu Satellite City Hall, although residents in that area at least have nearby alternatives.
The mayor is expected to announce next week which location he will choose to close, despite tremendous protest from area residents and their Council and state representatives and thousands of people who signed petitions.
Political observers say the mayor seems to believe his action will create a backlash against his “enemies” on the Honolulu City Council, mainly Budget Chair Ann Kobayashi and Zoning Chair Charles Djou.
But whether that is true or not, the mayor is obviously on a mission to turn public opinion against fiscally conservative council members who considerably reigned in his FY 2004 budget. Harris told radio listeners the closure could have been avoided if the Council had not “misappropriated” $107,000 — money in the “wrong account” that he says cannot be accessed. The mayor accused the council of making a “mistake” during the budgeting process, that he called “frustrating” and “inexcusable.” He attacked the Council on several other points.
But City Council Member Charles Djou, who represents the Hawaii Kai to Waikiki district, told Hawaii Reporter that shutting down the Satellite City Hall is just a retaliatory move against the council and is political, not practical. He listed several facts to back up this accusation, including the reasons the closing of the Hawaii Kai Branch will save the city little money.
Djou points to the just 6-month-old Hawaii Kai Satellite City Hall and the lease with its landlord, Kamehameha Schools, which requires the city pay $1,400 per month in rent, even if the office is not open and operating, until a replacement tenant is found. City personnel working in the Satellite City Hall will not be laid off, rather moved to other city departments, meaning the city will not save on personnel expenses should the Satellite close. The financial bottom line, Djou says — the city will only save $300 per month, max, on water and utility costs.
Djou says the mayor’s proposal is especially odd since just six months ago, he gushed at the opening of the Hawaii Kai Satellite City Hall, (pushed for by then Council Member John Henry Felix) about how convenient and helpful the agency would be to the public and now he is talking about closing it.
Djou also pointed to the mayor’s hypocritical actions, saying though the mayor blames the city council for a budget shortfall, he hasn’t been restricted by a shortage in the city budget when it comes to ensuring funding for his pet projects and personnel.
“The mayor finds $16,000 when he needs to have a parade or party in Waikiki, and he finds money when he wants funds to keep the position of one of his appointees, Manny Menendez,” Djou says.
Funding for Menendez’s position as director of the Office of Economic Development was cut during Council budget negotiations yet he remains in his position because the mayor found the money in his budget anyway, Djou says.
Critics, including Djou, say the mayor has spent thousands of dollars on projects not requested, and in fact protested, by Hawaii Kai residents. Some of those include traffic calming facilities on Lunalilo Home Road; a canoe halau that did not fit the canoes because of poor planning by the city; and a 1-year-old “Welcome to Hawaii Kai” sign that cost a whopping $120,000 and already is cracking and falling apart structurally. Yet the mayor won’t ante up for the police station after he said he would.
”Police Station in Hawaii Kai Causes Rift Between Community, Mayor”
Many Hawaii Kai residents attended a neighborhood board meeting Tuesday, July 29, to ask the mayor’s representative, Manny Menendez, why the mayor is still refusing to build a police station in Hawaii Kai after the funding was allocated by the Honolulu City Council.
Hawaii Kai residents have been lobbying for the police station for years. But the mayor so far has refused to build it, citing a variety of reasons, including:
*The police chief doesn’t want the police station in Hawaii Kai;
*Police stations are not good because they take police off the street, put them in an office, thus making the community less safe;
*The city does not have the funding.
The debate continued the next day on KHVH radio when one of the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board members called Mayor Jeremy Harris on his weekly one-hour show on KHVH’s The Mike Buck Show.
The mayor reiterated all of the reasons above why the idea was bad, then once again took the opportunity to attack the City Council.
Council Member Charles Djou, who represents Hawaii Kai, says the statements the mayor has made are not true and that the mayor so far has broken his promise to the community by not building the station. This even after Djou and the other City Council members allocated $4.5 million in FY 2004, per the mayor’s direction.
In a letter to Djou on Feb. 12, 2003, Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris wrote: “If you want this project (the police station) to proceed, then you simply need to appropriate adequate funding in the upcoming CIP project.”
The mayor changed his story on the radio show and told the caller that yes, the money was allocated, but he took the money out of the budget after the Council allocated it because the police chief does not want the station located in Hawaii Kai after all.
Djou says that is not true. He personally met with Chief of Police Lee Donahue, who said he is not opposed to a police station or police substation being built in Hawaii Kai. The police chief in fact earlier designated an area near the entrance to Hawaii Kai where he’d like it built, and even lobbied for the station in a letter to the mayor on Dec. 14, 2000.
Donahue’s Dec. 14, 2000, letter to Harris (with a copy to then council members Duke Bainum and John Henry Felix) said: “We are seeking your support to continue plans to build a police district station in the Hawaii Kai area to house District 7’s administration and operation. State and federal law enforcement agencies will be sharing space at the old National Guard site at the corner of 22nd Avenue and Diamond Head Road. We have been offered approximately 2,000 square feet of space there. This space is only suitable to house District 7’s plainclothes unit, which consists of approximately 20 officers. This is not enough space for a full district station. Further, we have been advised that the year-to-year lease agreement will be for approximately three years. The Park and Ride site in Hawaii Kai seems to be the only viable site at this time. Therefore, we would like to confirm that this is the designated location and continue with the original plans and funding to build a District 7 station there. Thank you for your attention and support in this matter. If there are any questions, please call Assistant Chief Eugene Uemura of the Support Services Bureau.”
Donahue told Djou during their recent meeting that in a perfect world, he would rather have the station in Kahala, also part of Djou’s district. But the city has no property available to build the station there and so would have to move to condemn more property and find a way to pay for that too, Djou says.
Meanwhile state Sen. Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai, a strong and vocal supporter of both the Hawaii Kai police station and Satellite City Hall, started a petition drive in the Hawaii Kai area and has watched business to the young facility increase over a period of 6 months.
In speaking with the Satellite’s manager, Elizabeth Lee, Slom reported that Lee, on her own initiative, sought to expand the full community use of the facility by offering to the Honolulu Police Department some existing space and equipment for the police to more easily conduct their business, complete their paperwork and even have one police officer at the facility to serve the public until the full police station is constructed on the designated “Park and Ride” lot adjacent to Keahole St.
Apparently the city administration is not looking for practical or economical solutions and certainly is not listening to the comments of area residents and their elected neighborhood board in its drive to politically punish certain elected officials.
”Talk Story Series Off to A Running Start”
Lt. Gov. James Duke Aiona launched a series of nearly 30 “talk story” sessions with Gov. Linda Lingle in an effort to hear more from the community members about how they’d like to see Hawaii government reformed.
The first of the series was held by the lieutenant governor Tuesday night at Kapolei Middle School, and followed with visits on Wednesday and Thursday to other areas on Oahu, where citizens flocked to both to discuss Hawaii’s rising illegal drug problem and what can be done to counter this problem.
The governor will hold her first talk story session, Tuesday, Aug. 5, for the Waimanalo, Kailua and Kaneohe communities at Kualoa Kailua High School from 5:30 to 8 p.m., where she is expected to cover a wide variety of issues and solicit feedback from the community.
”Other Talk Stories scheduled for next couple of weeks include:”
*Thursday, August 7 at Pearl City Elementary School from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. with Lt. Gov. Aiona
*Saturday, August 9, at Royal Lahaina Hotel from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. with
Tuesday, August 12, at Farrington High School from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. with Gov. Lingle
Tuesday, August 12, at Maui High School from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. with Lt. Gov. Aiona
Thursday, August 14, at Kalani High School from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. with Lt. Gov. Aiona
For the full schedule and more details on the program, see “Political Tittle-tattle: News and Entertainment from Hawaii’s Political Arena