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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 25, 2002

Council: City can pay for one sunset fest a month

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser City Hall Writer

The City Council's budget committee made it clear yesterday that the council had intended for the administration to find private donations to finance the popular Waikiki Sunset on the Beach program once a month, but not to use the money to justify sponsoring the program more often than that.

The committee officially commended Mayor Jeremy Harris for having the city pay for monthly Sunset on the Beach festivities and seeking private financing for additional shoreside movies. But members said they didn't appreciate having to publicly battle the mayor to limit the city movies to a "monthly basis" after putting that wording in the city budget.

Councilman Duke Bainum, who represents Waikiki, praised the Brunch on the Beach (now across the street at Kapi'olani Park and called Brunch in the Park) and the Sunset movie programs as creative ideas that have helped Waikiki merchants.

But Bainum also urged caution. "Just because this is a politically popular program does not necessarily make it a budget priority when we have these huge budget problems," he said. The council just came out of a bitter budget battle over the administration's spending priorities for this year.

Council members described the brunch and beach events as "nice to have" rather than core city services such as sewers, roads, police and parks.

Bainum said he believes the issue is an important one that rises above a political squabble. It needs to be debated because it involves basic government principles. "Does the council have control of the budget, oversight over the budget or not?"

City Council Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi again reminded city Managing Director Ben Lee that the council does not have a detailed account of what taxpayers spend on these events.

"We don't have the cost of how much is being spent, how much is being spent on overtime," Kobayashi said. And while the council likes these events, "we're worried about accountability to the taxpayers."

Lee said he provided the council with some of the costs, but assured the members that the administration intends to use city money to pay for the Sunset movies one weekend a month and will seek private financing for the other weekends. This weekend, ASTON Hotels and Resorts is sponsoring the food-entertainment-movie festival.

Jon Yoshimura, council Parks Committee chairman, this week called for an audit of the Brunch and Sunset programs to clear the air of the questions about them being asked by his colleagues.