Councilmember Mike White made the following statement at the June 23 Council meeting on Mayor Alan Arakawa’s line-item vetoes. White made a general motion to override the line-item vetoes and was supported by the Council 9-0.
I would like to note that approval of this motion requires a two-thirds vote of the entire membership of the Council, pursuant to Section 4-3 of the Revised Charter of the County of Maui (1983), as amended.
Although this veto represents democracy in action, it is important for residents to understand what is at risk. The vetoes remove essential components of the budget specifically requested by the residents.
Your Budget and Finance Committee held 26 meetings in the Council Chamber and 8 meetings in every district, including Hana, Molokai and Lanai. Over 500 individuals provided testimony, 464 people mailed survey responses, and 308 people sent e-mails.
Through extensive public input, the community requested the Council to address specific needs in the budget. The people’s Council listened to the community by adopting a budget unanimously that will move the County forward not only for the upcoming year, but for generations to come.
I would like to address the specific concerns in the Mayor’s veto.
Kahului Community Center has served the community well over the years, but with a growing community comes the increased demand for community facilities. The Council strongly supported the community’s desire for a New Kahului Community Center by providing the funding to move this project forward. A Location has been both identified and secured. The Mayor is in a position to expedite the design process, but unfortunately, the choice was made to place the entire project on the chopping block.
The South Maui Community Park gymnasium is a laudable project that unfortunately will be delayed indefinitely or canceled due to the Mayor’s veto. This project supports proposed developments in South Maui and provides a sorely needed facility for one of the State’s fastest growing communities. The Council chose to expand the scope of the project to design for a multipurpose center in hopes of attracting larger sporting events and conferences to draw more economic activity to the island. South Maui has long been waiting for its fair share of County park facilities, and may now have to wait even longer.
An expansion of the Kula Agricultural Park would create additional farm lands and truly promotes local agriculture, but the project has also unfortunately been vetoed. The veto puts the County at risks losing the $5M in State funds appropriated for this project.
IMPORTANCE OF WATER
In regards to water, water availability for residents has been discussed prolifically, with promise after promise to deliver water meters. At a special pau hana meeting on the water rates and fees, Council members heard directly from the residents that action is needed and needed now! The Council responded by appropriating $12.6 million for Countywide Mainline and Infrastructure Improvements.
The funds will be used to deliver residents their water meters by offsetting the exorbitant cost of upgrading the County’s inadequate water system that homeowners are required to pay. Details on the implementation of this program will need to be finalized, but it represents a major step forward in solving the long-standing water meter issue. The Committee listened and delivered, but this is another community initiative now at-risk.
I would like to specially address the administrations comments regarding cutting landfill hours and holiday residential pick-ups.
County recycling drop boxes, along with all the County’s recycling programs were once again coming under attack by the actions of the Mayor. After the Budget bill passed out of committee, the Department of Environmental of Management began advising recycling contractors that they would only commit to a half year contract for Fiscal Year 2015.
Therefore, the Council simply secured the funding to maintain programs the community has been demanding. The Council felt that funds designated for Environmental Protection and Sustainability should be used for purposes of waste diversion and recycling in the manner it was budgeted. No more or less. The Council’s focus was to ensure that well-established recycling efforts will continue. In this 21st century, caring for our environment must be a top priority.
Solid Waste services, if managed properly, should not be impacted by any of the budget provisions or appropriations. The Department was given 99.1% of the amount included in the Mayor’s proposed budget, including an additional $337,000 more for landfill operations in this coming Fiscal Year.
Therefore, to characterize that landfill hours will be cut because of the Council’s actions is puzzling at best.
With the appropriations in the upcoming budget, the administration has the ability to continue all services as they have in the past. This is the second year in a row that the administration has focused on sacrificing important recycling programs to shift resources to the landfill operations.
I have full confidence in our county managers to carryout their budget as presented before the Council.
Concerns over the bond authorization are unfounded and have been discussed at length. The budget as passed by the Council is balanced and will not result in a short-fall. I have confidence in this Council and our staff to ensure that we have dotted our “I’s” and crossed our “T’s” to meet all of the charter’s legal requirements.
In fact, the authority to withhold bond authorization has been a long-standing practice of the Council. Past members of this Council have supported this practice.
I quote a past Councilmember, “I think the concept of allowing the exploration of projects without the actual bond float, the money to go with it, requiring the Administration to come back to us so that they can explain what the projects are before the actual money is allocated is a good policy.” This quote came from Councilmember Alan Arakawa, dated April 27, 2001. He made the motion to pass all the budget bills knowing that the there was no bond authorization for the West Maui Senior Center, the West Maui Resource Center and the Lanai Multi-purpose Center projects listed in the budget.
I agree with the sentiment of our Mayor, the practice of withholding bond authorization contributes toward greater public access to information and supports the Council’s responsibility to ensure that taxpayer dollars are well spent. Withholding bond authorization allows the project to remain as a placeholder in the budget while providing for additional oversight from the Council. Before taking out the loan to finance these projects, both the Council and public are given the opportunity to receive more detail and better understand how funds will be spent.
Following the passage of the budget out of Committee, the Department of the Corporation Counsel requested the General Budget Provisions be amended to expressly account for the withholding of authorization to issue general obligation bonds appropriated for certain projects.
To address this concern, a technical revision has been incorporated in the Budget bill. The new first sentence in Section 8 of the General Budget Provisions reads, “General obligation bonds appropriated in this ordinance need not be authorized contemporaneously with this ordinance to be included as estimated revenues.”
The Council decided to take a formal vote on the General Budget provisions and it was explicitly stated in the committee report that this provision was at the request of the Department of Corporation Counsel.
In closing, the mayor’s concerns are simply lacking in facts.
It is imperative that your government listens. Each us worked hard to craft a balanced budget based on what residents requested.
I have faith in the administration to carry these appropriations out as they requested in their presentations and discussions with us on the floor.
Actions speak louder than words and I believe all of these projects are crucial to the long-term progress of our County and vital for us to continue being, “Maui No Ka Oi.”