Carlisle will defer to the new rail agency on possible lawsuits against the Council
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 28, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 2:36 a.m. HST, Jun 28, 2011
Mayor Peter Carlisle plans to wait until the new semiautonomous rail transit authority takes office this week before deciding whether to take the City Council to court over who controls the authority's purse strings.
The city's Rapid Transit Division will become the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, or HART, on Friday, run by an appointed board of directors to oversee construction and planning of the $5.4 billion rail system.
Carlisle contends that language in a charter amendment voters approved last year sets up the authority as an independent body with the ability to make its own spending decisions.
The Council, in passing operating and construction project budgets for HART, retained for itself final approval on spending decisions, saying the Council never intended to relinquish spending decisions.
The mayor vetoed those budget bills last week, but the Council voted unanimously Monday to override him.
In all the Council overrode four of Carlisle's vetoes during a special session. The others involved a bill authorizing reimbursement of the general and highway funds from the transit fund for money spent on rail before 2007, when the transit fund was established, and one non-transit-related measure, a bill reinstating a discount on tipping fees charged to companies that recycle waste and deliver the nonrecyclable residue to Waimanalo Gulch landfill.
The Council also unanimously approved a resolution nominating member Ernie Martin as its new chairman. Martin succeeds Nestor Garcia, who previously announced he would step down from leadership.
Most of the meeting's focus was on rail and the next steps in the process. While HART will take office and be able to operate as scheduled, what ultimately remains undecided is who has control over its spending.
Carlisle previously said he was ready to go to court over the matter, but said Monday he would defer to the HART board to see how it wishes to proceed.
"I'm going to sit there and see what HART does," Carlisle said in a news conference in his office after the Council's override votes. "Then I will evaluate what I do after all of those cards have played out. Let's see what they do first and then see whether it's appropriate for me to defer to them or to look towards other legal avenues."
Council members said they were willing to work with the mayor on a compromise, but stood firm on their position of retaining final approval on HART spending.
"I'm very hopeful that a lawsuit can be avoided," said Councilman Ikaika Anderson, among the main authors of the budget bills. "The Council is here exercising the authority over appropriations for HART that the voters gave to the Council. We're here protecting the taxpayers, and I would ask that the mayor respect the Council's protecting the taxpayers of Honolulu."
On other matters, there was little debate on the override of Bill 35, authorizing the reimbursement.
On the recycling subsidy, the overridden bill reverses a move the Council made earlier this year that Carlisle approved to eliminate an 80 percent tipping fee discount. The new bill reinstates the discount at 50 percent and reduces it to 20 percent over two years, with a report required at that time to determine whether it should continue.