Honolulu City Council Reorganization: Rail Transit Funding

Mar 19, 2018

(L-R) Councilmembers Ikaika Anderson, Kimberly Pine and Council Chair-elect Ernie Martin discuss the City Council reorganization
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

The Honolulu City Council voted in new leadership today. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka has this update.

The vote was 5-to-4 in favor of reorganizing the Honolulu City Council.  Ousted City Council Chair, Ron Menor, called on his fellow councilmembers to work together for all the people.

Ousted City Council chair, Ron Menor
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

“I would just respectfully ask my colleagues, that after you take the vote that we will rise above personal differences and political ambitions.”

Also voting “no” on the reorganization were Councilmembers Ikaika Anderson, Joey Manahan and Brandon Elefante.  Along with Menor, they support the Mayor’s budget proposal that includes $44 million of construction bond financing for the Honolulu Rail Transit Project.  City Budget Director, Nelson Koyanagi, says bond financing would provide assurances to the Federal Transit Administration without cutting city services.

“By having it in the capital budget, if no bonds are issued and HART says it doesn’t need the money, it costs the city nothing.  But it shows the commitment to the FTA and hopefully, that will allow them to pass the recovery plan.”

But, Councilmember Kymberly Pine, who is now the City Council Vice Chair, says there’s $113 million in carryover money in the General and Highway fund that could be used without negatively impacting the city’s bond rating.

“If the money to fund that ficticious amount and we put it in a different pot in the city budget, it’s not going to be spent, it’s going to be carried over – I’m talking about if you don’t use CIP, then bond raters would therefore, based on your own logic, is not going to look at that money as being used.”  

Councilmember Ann Kobayashi
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Councilmember Ann Kobayashi, who served as Budget Committee chair previously, says the 8.2 billion dollar rail transit project has never been on time or on budget and now, the administration wants to mix operating and construction or capital money.

“I don’t know how you can justify putting operating costs into the capital budget.  It really is a dangerous thing, especially with the record of what has been said by HART over the years.   I would still worry about it.”

The Honolulu rail transit project has a funding shortfall of 214 million dollars, according to the city budget director.  Returning to his former position as City Council Chair and presiding officer, Ernie Martin says the budget process takes 3-months and the new city council leadership will get it done.

Council chair Ernie Martin
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

“We’ll come up with a budget at the end of the day that’s gonna address the mayor’s concerns but the FTA’s concerns, the legislature’s concerns as well as the requirements and necessities for HART itself.”

Council Chair Martin says Committee Chair positions and member assignments will be announced before the end of this week.

Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.