Friday, October 9, 2015         

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Council approves mayor's Cabinet picks

By B.J. Reyes


Five of Mayor Peter Carlisle's Cabinet appointees, including Managing Director Doug Chin, won unanimous approval of the City Council yesterday.

Only one, Planning and Permitting Director David Tanoue, received any testimony for or against his nomination, with the few dozen who showed up tilting slightly in his favor.

The Council also approved the reappointments of Environmental Services Director Tim Steinberger, Human Resources Director Noel Ono and Information Technology Director Gordon Bruce.

With the exception of Chin, yesterday's nominees are holdovers from the Mufi Hannemann administration.

Other Hannemann appointees have been asked to stay on temporarily until Jan. 31, at which time a decision will be made on permanently filling the posts.

Tanoue said he expected some opposition, noting that much of it reflected controversy surrounding recent projects and plans approved by the department under his watch.

"We're never going to reach consensus on a lot of these issues," he said after the vote. "We can expect that kind of controversy because this is what we've had in our community meetings.

"But we need to move these plans forward so they can be further vetted and, ultimately, adopted by the City Council, whichever way they choose to take it."

Opponents said they did not expect the Council to vote down Tanoue, but they hope future plans and projects are given closer scrutiny.

"We have nothing personal against Mr. Tanoue," said Tim Vandeveer of the Defend Oahu Coalition. "However, we feel that in his capacity as director of DPP, he's only done half of his job.

"He's done it very well. He's permitted very well. The planning is what we're very concerned with."

Objections centered primarily on the department's handling of a proposed development for the Koolauloa area north of Brigham Young University-Hawaii.

When THE "Envision Laie" plan was unveiled last month, members of the area's Planning Advisory Committee said Tanoue had met with them and said the plan was moving forward after he had met with representatives of BYUH and Hawaii Reserves Inc., which manages and owns property affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Opponents criticized the lack of transparency to the process.

"It gives the perception that there was dirty dealings behind closed doors," Vandeveer said. "To do so and then change the plan without advising the public of that change, I thought was very unfortunate, and I think that's wrong."

Tanoue said members of his staff routinely attend advisory committee meetings to solicit community input and report back to him. He said he meets regularly with interested parties on all projects, and noted that such meetings are not subject to public-notice requirements.

He had noted that the Laie community plan and others had not been updated in years prior to his appointment and that the department had taken on the overwhelming task of trying to bring them all up to date.

"There's a lot of time spent going through the process," Tanoue said. "We appreciate everyone coming out, but ultimately the department gathers all the information, and we try to approve the best plan that we can and then submit it for further vetting through the process."

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