By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser City Hall Writer
City officials are gearing up for demonstrators expected to be drawn to the high-powered meeting of world leaders in Honolulu for the Asian Development Bank conference in May.
As part of preparations for the meeting, the Honolulu City Council is rushing through a transfer of $750,000 from a police salary account to help pay for equipment that police believe they will need to have security in place.
Conference organizers expect about 3,000 people to fill the Hawaii Convention Center on May 7-11. President Bush may attend.
Honolulu officials are clearly mindful of the turmoil that disrupted Seattle in December 1999 when the World Trade Organizations meeting was cut short by thousands of protesters who marched through downtown streets and clashed with police.
Protesters have disrupted previous Asian Development Bank meetings with many of the same kinds of complaints voiced in Seattle.
Officials of the banks 59 member nations have been criticized for approving loans that protesters say damage the environment, exploit the poor and fail to benefit the majority of people in developing Asian countries.
Yesterday, the City Councils Budget and Economic Development Committee approved the transfer of the $750,000 to be used to purchase equipment that the police want, ranging from protective gear for officers to other security equipment to help safeguard the community.
Police Maj. Paul Putzulu declined to be more specific about the equipment the department plans to buy, citing security concerns.
Several council members questioned why city taxpayers should pay the bill for a conference that the state arranged.
Council member Romy Cachola asked: "Why is it that we have to use our money?"
Councilman John DeSoto said the safety of local residents should always be the priority and that police resources should not be eroded by an international conference.
"How can we make sure you get the funding?" DeSoto asked Putzulu, adding: "Thats whats scaring me."
Councilman John Henry Felix questioned whether moving money out of a police salary account is good policy.
"We need some assurance in writing," Felix said, that the state is planning reimbursement.
Council budget chairwoman Rene Mansho assured committee members that a written commitment would be available by the Feb. 21 meeting, when the transfer is up for final vote by the council.
Hawaii Tourism Authority chief executive officer Robert Fishman said planning for the Honolulu conference is going smoothly and professionally among federal, state and county officials.
"The security planning for the ADB conference is being handled on a multi-government level," Fishman said. He noted that the federal government has reimbursed other cities for conference-related expenses in the past and said he was optimistic that will also happen in Honolulu.
He said officials are hopeful but must responsibly plan for "the most egregious to the least disruptive" situation.
Putzulu said state officials have told the police that more than $500,000 of the expenses will be reimbursed.
Fishman said he does not yet know specifics on how the security budget will be handled.
"The decisions havent been made yet as to who will end up paying for what," he said.
Established in 1966, the Asian Development Bank was designed to foster economic and social development in Asia and the Pacific. It is based in Manila and owned by its 59 members, of which the United States and Japan are the biggest shareholders.
Another sign the council is planning for the conference has been a package of bills introduced designed to address riot-related violence and disruptions. They include a bill to outlaw putting glass "or other injurious substances" on a highway and another to prohibit wearing of masks or other disguises in connection with a crime.
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