The Honolulu City Council has approved a resolution asking the city to get to the bottom of noxious sewer odors in Kakaako.
Wednesday’s resolution comes after the Hawaii Community Development Authority approved a slew of new developments for the urban district this year, including a controversial 46-story tower at 801 South St.
Community opposition to the building proposals mounted as residents grew more concerned about how the new high-rises will affect infrastructure.
Council members want the city to come up with short-term solutions to the sewer issues by the end of January and long-term solutions by the end of March.
Hawaii residents who testified in favor of the resolution asked why it has taken so long for the city to take action.
One testifier named Richard Baker criticized the resolution as paying lip service to the community’s concerns.
“This resolution could have been written by the development lobby,” he said, saying that the latest version has been watered down from the initial draft.
Many Kakaako residents fear how new projects like this tower at 801 South St. will affect the area’s already-faulty sewer infrastructure. (PF Bentley/Civil Beat)
Check out Civil Beat’s most recent coverage of Kakaako issues:
— Anita Hofschneider
The Honolulu City Council is urging the city to develop an affordable housing policy for neighborhoods by metro stations on the city’s planned rail line.
Council members approved the resolution on Wednesday.
The city is in the process of devising transit-oriented development (TOD) plans for areas surrounding 19 expected stations.
Hawaii residents who testified in favor of the resolution bemoaned the high cost of housing in the state, which pressures some residents to move away, become homeless or share homes with relatives.
Honolulu has the third most expensive housing market in the nation, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The Honolulu Board of Realtors reported that in November, the median price of a home was $684,000.
— Anita Hofschneider
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s proposal to plaster ads on the side of city buses to raise revenues is moving forward.
The Honolulu City Council passed the first reading of the bill, meaning it will at least be debated at the committee level.
Whether it gets beyond that point remains a big if.
The Outdoor Circle has strongly opposed the bill, saying it will ruin the scenic beauty of Hawaii by providing a loophole for billboards to pop up around the state.
Currently, Hawaii is one of four states that has a ban on billboards.
“We all feel that this is a very ill conceived bill,” said Alexandra Avery, president of The Outdoor Circle. “It really has more to do with billboards than it does with budget.”
The Caldwell administration has estimated putting advertising on buses could raise $8 million in revenue.
Council Chair Ernie Martin has already voiced his opposition to the bill, saying there are better ways to bring in more income.
Photo via Flickr courtesy of ninacoco.
Million dollars homes can now be taxed more under a revenue-generating bill passed by the Honolulu City Council on Wednesday.
Assuming Mayor Kirk Caldwell signs the bill into law, the city will be able to increase the taxes on certain homes worth more than $1 million, but only if the owners don’t live in the houses.
It’s estimated this could raises millions of dollars in new revenue for Honolulu, which is projecting a $156 million deficit next year.
The measure was one of 10 bills the Caldwell administration introduced as a way to increase tax revenue.
The council passed the bill 8-1, with Council Member Joey Manahan in opposition.
Photo via Flickr courtesy of jdnx.
The Honolulu City Council is looking to kill a $142 million business deal that would transfer 12 affordable housing complexes to the private sector.
City Council members approved the sale of the complexes last year after nearly a decade of trying to unload the property.
Now a new resolution that was introduced Friday aims to rescind that deal.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is planning a press conference for 2:30 p.m. to announce and explain his opposition to the resolution.
The administration is not only worried that the introduction of the measure will put the sale in jeopardy in the first place, but that it could hinder Honolulu’s ability to combat homelessness.
Proceeds from the sale were expected to go to certain housing programs that aimed to get people off the streets.
Photo of Honolulu Hale via Flickr courtesy of cliff1066.
The price of doing business with the City and County of Honolulu could be going up
Recently, the Department of Planning and Permitting submitted a bill to the Honolulu City Council that seeks to raise various permitting fees, such as those related to zoning, development plans and environmental impacts statements.
According to DPP Director George Atta, many of these fees have remained stagnant for more than 10 years. He said that with the inflation and the increasing cost of government that a change was “necessary.”
"While there are many proposed changes, the total projected revenues from these amendments are not high," Atta said in a statement. "We believe the proposed changes will not have a significant impact on smaller projects because the increases will be modest."
The city anticipates DPP can generate between $500,000 and $1 million new revenues if the new bill is passed.
All the changes are laid out in the text of Bill 70, which you can find here. The new fees are those that are underlined.
Photo via Flickr courtesy of coconut wireless.
Tensions have been running high between the Caldwell administration and the Honolulu Ethics Commission over the past several months due to concern that city attorneys are trying to undermine the agency’s authority.
Serious questions have also been raised about top executives interfering with ongoing ethics investigations by refusing to release certain information, causing the commission to consider legal action against the city and its employees.
But Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, the man who could likely ease the tension between his cabinet members and the commission, has remained silent.
At least, until now.
Caldwell recently told KITV4 that he supports a recent directive from Corporation Counsel Donna Leong that said city employees can now seek ethics advice from her office instead of the Ethics Commission.
This concerns the commission and its staff because it could lead to conflicting ethics advice for city employees.
But in an interview with KITV, Caldwell quickly dismissed this notion, saying that the city’s attorneys are quite familiar with ethics rules and well qualified to provide advice.
"The city corporation counsel is someone you go to get advice from. I do. We do on all the different issues we undertake," Caldwell told KITV. "They review. It’s something that’s proper to do."
What this means long-term at the city’s program remains to be seen.
But right now it’s clear the mayor and Ethics Commission don’t seem to be on the same page.
You can find the entire KITV report here.
Photo: Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell talking to KITV4. (Screen shot from KITV)
Hawaii has a ban on billboards, but that’s not stopping Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell from wanting to plaster advertising on the side of city buses.
The hope is that the ads could bring in $8 million a year that would go toward supplementing the cost of bus operations.
But there are a few caveats. The ads can’t be for elected officials or candidates for office. They also can’t depict ethnic prejudice or obscene photos or gestures.
Caldwell introduced Bill 69 late Tuesday, which lays out his plan in more detail.
The front page of the Honolulu-Star-Advertiser also had a story about it today. Check out the story here. (Subscription required.)
Photo: A Honolulu city bus in Chinatown. (Nick Grube/Honolulu Civil Beat)
Janice “Lokelani” Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele can now get a Hawaii driver’s license or state ID card that will fit her full name.
The state system had capped the characters at 35, which meant dropping off the last letter of Lokelani’s surname. She took offense to this for a number of reasons, not the least of which is her last name carries Hawaiian meanings and remains a strong connection to her late husband.
Lokelani complained to her elected officials and told a local TV news station about the problem. KHON2 ran a story in early September and within two days the state Department of Transportation said it was changing its policy.
A blog post on the DOT website last month says the state has since worked with the county Departments of Motor Vehicles to expand the character limits to a total of 120 characters (40 last name, 40 first name, 35 middle name, five suffix). That’s almost a full Tweet in length.
There’s no mention of Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele in the DOT announcement. Only a blurb about how the state’s “enhanced requirements” for driver’s licenses and ID cards were deemed fully compliant with the Real ID Act of 2005 after a federal review.
The change took effect in early November.
— Nathan Eagle
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is getting techie on Dec. 9.
From noon to 1 p.m., Caldwell will be hosting a Twitter town hall where people on the social networking site can pepper him and his cabinet with questions.
According to Caldwell’s spokesman, Jesse Broder Van Dyke, this is the first time the mayor has held such an event.
The timing seems appropriate since he’s pretty much blanketed the rest of the island with town hall meetings.
Save the date and participate. Caldwell’s Twitter handle is: @MayorKirkHNL.
Photo via Flickr courtesy of Rosaura Ochoa.
The city of Honolulu is looking to give away millions of dollars to local nonprofits through its new grants-in-aid program, but charities have to meet a Dec. 19 to apply.
It’s the second year of funding through the program, which was approved by voters in Nov. 2012 election as a means to set aside a 0.5 percent of the city’s general fund revenues for nonprofits and charities.
But over the past year, the grants-in-aid fund and other earmarks for nonprofits were the subject of much fighting between Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and the City Council.
City Council members wanted to give nearly $8 million more to nonprofits of their choosing than what was in the grants-in-aid fund, which was about $5 million in general fund dollars.
Caldwell balked at this idea and told the members he would withhold the money from the additional earmarks.
The City Council, however, was undeterred.
They approved shifting some of the grants-in-aid money — which is supposed to be allocated by an independent commission — to other nonprofits as a way of sharing the wealth.
This, of course, did not sit well with the mayor, who believed it was the commission that should be in charge of vetting the applications.
Whether the fighting will continue into the new year will remain to be seen.
Information about making a grant proposal to the city can be found here. Mandatory information meetings will also take place Nov. 25-27 and Dec. 2, 3 and 9.
Photo via Flickr courtesy of ota_photos.
As Civil Beat reporter Nathan Eagle wrote yesterday, the app is useful when wanting to visualize campaign spending data. But it also helps to streamline analysis.
So here we go…
Caldwell isn’t up for election until 2016, but he’s already raking in the campaign dough.
Since being elected he’s raised about $617,500, mostly from individual donors who have given more than $1,000.
But he also received some big donations from businesses and unions, including Alexander & Baldwin, United Public Workers, First Hawaiian Bank and Castle & Cooke.
As far as the size of the contributions made to Caldwell, 81 percent were greater than $1,000.
Fifteen percent of Caldwell’s contributions, or $93,000, came from out of state donors, the largest share of whom were in California.
But when looking at his local contributors the largest share are in the 96821 zip code, which includes Niu Valley and Aina Haina. Caldwell’s next largest segment of contributors come from the Kaimuki area.
Caldwell has only spent about $68,000 so far, with the largest chunk (about $25,000) going to food and beverages.
He’s also dropped over $15,000 with Olomana Loomis ISC, a strategy firm that includes Gov. Neil Abercrombie as one its clients.
The best part about all of this? It took less than 10 minutes to cobble this stuff together.
Just enter a name and the information is culled together and visualized for you.
The data can also be exported into a spreadsheet for those who want to dig a little deeper.
Photo: Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell after winning the Nov. 2012 election. (John Hook/Honolulu Civil Beat)
The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation is in the market for a new engineering firm to help oversee the city’s $5.26 billion rail project.
Up until now that company has been Parsons Brinckerhoff, which has $468.7 million worth of contracts on the project.
Parsons Brinckerhoff could still add to that tally should it win the latest bid for engineering services, but nothing is certain at this point.
On Thursday, HART Executive Director and CEO Dan Grabauskas said he couldn’t talk about the specifics of ongoing procurement matters until a new contract is awarded.
He did say that a decision could be made on the new “general engineering consultant” contract as soon as next week and that the price range is expected to be around $50 million.
Should HART select a new firm to take over for Parson Brinckerhoff, Grabauskas said there shouldn’t be any problems with the transition to a new team of engineers.
"They’re all professionals," Grabauskas said of the firms that have submitted bids.
Parsons Brinckerhoff’s involvement on rail has shrunk over the years from needing hundreds of workers to just around 50, Grabuaskas said. That’s because most of the previous work Parsons Brinckerhoff did can now be done by HART staffers.
"The general engineering consultant really acted as a proxy for our organization before there was an organization," Grabauskas said, referring to the fact that HART was formed in 2010 and Parsons Brinckerhoff had been working on the project well before then.
"The process I’ve been undertaking is to try to bring some of those tasks (the company has been doing) in house," he said. "It should save us money because we’re taking things in house."
Photo: Artist rendering of the inside of a rail station.
It’s official. Honolulu City Council Chair Ernie Martin is running for reelection.
This might not be a big surprise considering Martin, who represents the North Shore and Wahiawa, is nearing the end of his first term.
But his name had been bandied about as a possible candidate for Congress. He also hasn’t given up on his aspirations to one day become mayor.
On Tuesday, though, Martin held a press conference to announce that he was being endorsed by the Hawaii Building & Construction Trades Council, which has 15,000 members in 12 unions.
(Civil Beat was the only media outlet to attend.)
It’s pretty early to start announcing endorsements in council races, particularly considering no one has said they will run against Martin.
But as the council chair noted at the press conference, his last opponent in the 2010 election received most of the union backing early on in the race.
Martin’s opponent at the time was John White, who is now the current executive director of the Pacific Resource Partnership, a consortium made up of construction contractors and the Hawaii Carpenters Union.
Photo: Honolulu City Council Chair Ernie Martin announcing his endorsement by the Hawaii Building & Construction Trades Council. (Nick Grube/Honolulu Civil Beat)
The Hawaii Fire Fighters Association union has received a tentative deal on a new collective bargaining agreement.
According to HFFA President Bobby Lee, a draft arbitration award is now making the rounds throughout the islands.
Lee didn’t want to disclose any details of the award until his membership has seen it, but if it’s anything like previous arbitration decisions Hawaii’s firefighters can expect to see some pay raises.
The HFFA’s contract expired in 2011. Similar to the state’s other major public safety union — the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers — arbitration was needed to come to a deal.
Once a final award is completed, Lee said the four counties and the Legislature will have to approve the funding.
Photo via Flickr courtesy of warriorwoman531.