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Friday, April 18, 2014         

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Raising user fees on Council agenda

About 150 attend the swearing-in ceremony of four new members

By Rosemarie Bernardo

POSTED:


Charging the public for parking at city-owned lots was among the revenue-generating notions raised yesterday after a swearing-in ceremony for new Council members at Honolulu Hale.

During the ceremony, Council Chairman Nestor Garcia said it is a good time to revisit "user fees" to generate revenue. And Mayor Peter Carlisle said afterward that an option open to discussion is expanding parking fee systems, similar to the one at the Honolulu Zoo, to other city-owned lots, "perhaps at Magic Island."

"You get people to pay a reasonable amount for preferred parking," said Carlisle, noting that such charges are necessary to maintain parks, roadways and other functions of government.

About 150 people attended the ceremony for Council members Stanley Chang, Breene Harimoto, Ernest Martin and Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo.

Chang, an attorney, replaced former Councilman Charles Djou for the District 4 seat. Djou resigned to run for a U.S. House seat. Harimoto, Martin and Tamayo replaced Gary Okino, Donovan Dela Cruz and Rod Tam, respectively, after they reached term limits. The new Council members were sworn in by Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald.

Carlisle said charging fees to those who use city parks to conduct business as well as requiring payments from city employees who have free parking will also be considered. Charging for parking can both encourage employees to use public transportation and raise funds to build additional parking structures that will increase revenue, Carlisle said.

After the ceremony, some new Council members had mixed reactions to user fees, particularly parking fees.

Tamayo said it will affect residents' pocketbooks at a time of economic constraints. Vice Chairman Harimoto said he supports such fees to address the budget crisis.

"We need to look at every opportunity to generate more revenue," he said. "But on the flip side, we need to be very careful about fully understanding what the impacts are to those user fees."

Martin, chairman of the Council's Budget Committee, said the Council needs to look at traditional revenue resources like golf courses and the Neal Blaisdell Center to determine whether the city is getting a sufficient return on its investment.

"It's something as budget chair that I'll be taking a critical look at," said Martin, a former city administrator. "The time has come for us to take a serious look at user fees."

Harimoto, chairman of the Transportation and Transit Planning Committee, said he will devote the first committee meeting, scheduled for next week, to addressing the rail report by Infrastructure Management Group Inc. and CB Richard Ellis that predicted an additional $1.7 billion in costs to the $5.5 billion price tag. Carlisle had criticized the report, saying there might be a serious flaw with its methodology.

A transit supporter, Harimoto said, "We have five new Council members. I really believe that the Council needs to give the report a fair hearing." State transportation officials and consultants from IMG were asked to brief the Council on the report.

Tom Berg, who recently won the District 1 seat in a special election, will be sworn in Jan. 26 during a ceremony at City Hall. Berg replaces Todd Apo, who resigned after he accepted a position as public affairs manager for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts at Ko Olina.





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