Council adds $23.5 million to budget
By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser City Hall Writer
The Honolulu City Council has added $23.5 million to the construction budget proposed by Mayor Jeremy Harris, bringing the total to $521.8 million.
Council Budget Chairman Steve Holmes said he is comfortable that the latest version of the budget is fiscally sound. He said various proposed changes from council members and the administration could have increased the budget by as much as $39 million.
A majority of council members are preparing for life after city hall. Seven of the nine council members are prevented by term limits from running again and several of them are considering running for other offices. They include: Duke Bainum who is running for mayor; Jon Yoshimura and John DeSoto considering a run for lieutenant governor.
Mayor Jeremy Harris is running for governor.
Holmes said he knows that the upcoming budget is crucial to those who hope to do some ribbon-cutting ceremonies for projects they initiated before leaving office. "This is the most critical year for anybody who has plans for higher office."
Holmes said he believes the job was made easier because the budget Harris sent over proposed no tax or fee increases.
He said that the city is taking advantage of low interest rates and some unique opportunities to purchase land, such as that surrounding the Luana Hills Golf Course in Maunawili.
Included in the budget is $4.2 million toward purchase of the land surrounding the existing golf course and clubhouse.
Holmes said he hopes that the city can acquire the entire 1,084 tract, even though he knows that the Weinberg Foundation recently purchased the 190 acres of the active golf course and clubhouse for $12 million. The city would like to establish a greenbelt of parks all around O'ahu.
Holmes said he thinks the land purchases are affordable for the city to operate and maintain because many of them were bought as a land bank and won't incur operation and maintenance costs in the near future.
The council will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the City Council chambers at Honolulu Hale to find out what people think of the latest version of the budget, which is expected to be up for final passage in May.