comscore Charter is clear on Council's authority over HART
Editorial | Island Voices

Charter is clear on Council’s authority over HART

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As a former legislator and chairman of the Honolulu City Council, I take serious issue with your editorial views that the Council should "Allow rail authority to do its job" (Star-Advertiser, Our View, May 23), and "Don’t dilute HART’s authority" (Star-Advertiser, Our View, June 23).

Your reliance on the charter amendment, the referendum on rail, and decisions of the past City Council are ill-advised, at best.

First off, I have remarked before and repeat here: Referendum results are not written in stone. I believe all will agree that such results are merely snapshots of public thought at a particular time. The mayor has also weighed in, touting the charter amendment vote and his more recent poll as bases for removing politics from the issue of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s authority. I will touch on the charter amendment shortly; for now, I merely point out that polls taken by the mayor are not independent.

Moreover, I am aware of a recent poll taken by Pacific Business News that shows a majority opposing the rail. I’m willing to bet that a truly independent referendum conducted now would show majority opposition to the rail system.

Finally, with regard to the mayor’s column ("The whole point of HART is to have it be independent of politics," Star-Advertiser, Island Voices, June 26), I point out that everything is politics, and politics is everything. The members of HART are, in law and in fact, political appointees, and some are staunch political supporters of the mayor.

Your reference to the decisions of previous Councils is not supported by the reality — and legality — of government. Like all other legislative bodies, this Council has complete authority to overturn any and all decisions made by previous Councils.

The charter amendment unquestionably sets the overall policy — that there shall be a Transit Authority with broad powers to establish and operate a rail transportation system for Honolulu. However, the amendment’s language clearly undermines your position that the Council lacks any authority over the HART operations.

First, the charter question was "Shall the Revised City Charter be amended to create a semi-autonomous public transit authority?" (emphasis added). Simply put, the amendment never intended for HART to enjoy complete autonomy. The Council maintains authority over the HART operations as it does over the operations of every city agency. That is simply fundamental government.

Second, the amendment provides that bond issues by HART must be approved by the Council. That comports with Council oversight and control over the city’s fiscal operations and finances.

Finally, the charter requires HART to submit "a line-item appropriation request for each of its proposed operating and capital budgets for the ensuing year to the Council … and the Council shall, with or without amendments, approve the authority’s appropriation requests." That provides further support for the Council’s ultimate control over HART operations.

Council members Ernie Martin and Ikaika Anderson are on firm ground in maintaining that they have the authority to approve the HART budget. In fact, they would have been derelict if they had not challenged the mayor’s contention that they have no budgetary oversight in this matter.

The rise of Martin into the Council chairmanship proclaims, loudly and clearly, the end of the city administration’s attempt to dominate the Council in matters regarding the Honolulu transit authority. It should be clear that the Council will adhere to the advice of the esteemed Nadao Yoshinaga: "Legislators must not be like dumb, driven cattle!"

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