Wow, Mufi And Linda Agree!

Larry Price
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Wednesday - April 05, 2006
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There is a pleasant surprise in store for taxpayers who strongly believe that the time is right for our politicians to take responsibility and some decisive action to plan for a mass transportation infrastructure for the Island of Oahu.

The last we heard about the topic was a verbal confrontation between Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Gov. Linda Lingle. It now seems that the confrontation was unnecessary.

The confrontation all started when Gov. Lingle said she would veto a bill that would allow the Legislature to impose a 0.5 percent increase on the GET tax, which would be used for planning and construction of some kind of mass transit system for Leeward Oahu.

The governor, after listening to pleas from her constituents, decided she would let the bill become law (HB 1309) without her signature based almost solely on a pledge from state Sen. Robert Bunda, the president of the state Senate, and state Rep. Calvin Say, the Speaker of the House. The pledge was transmitted in writing to the governor on July 11, 2005. Most Republicans argued that she should not trust the pledge. Or as some Republicans were saying, “It’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”

The pledge from the two political leaders asked counties that intended to impose the surcharge to take immediate and deliberate steps to develop the collection and disbursement systems that would need to be in place by Jan. 1, 2007.

The mayor testified in favor of the bill. And while it is true the governor did not testify in person, her director of Budget and Finance, Georgina Kawamura, did on several occasions. Unfortunately for the public awareness, the bill in its original form did not pass. The good news is that the purpose of the bill was resurrected and attached to another bill that is alive and well at the Legislature.

I say “unfortunately” because it is one of the most pleasant, non-partisan acts of cooperation between contentious parties. It appears now that the confrontation between the governor and mayor was unwarranted. What it does point out is when they have to, they can cooperate and produce results even if they don’t trust each other completely. Without too much trouble, it appears the handling of the money from the tax will be by a third party that has the expertise to collect the revenue and distribute is according to the law.

It’s interesting to note that there may be another issue to contend with before the mass transit system comes to pass in 2012. It seems certain at this point in time that the unions involved with building and operating the transportation will be allied. It appears at this time that the National Railway Workers and the Teamsters will be involved in some way. It makes sense, since the AFL-CIO is busy trying to contend with its membership over a variety of issues. The alliance between the Teamsters and Railway Workers Union would be a formidable negotiating challenge to elected officials trying to meet strict construction and operational deadlines.

What does this all mean? There is a good possibility that the appropriate government agency should already be contemplating a negotiating strategy to handle union demands that are sure to surface once construction begins.

The public can rest assured that Mel Kahele, president of the Teamsters, is not going to miss out on the opportunity to participate in the building of the rail system for Oahu.

He’s the one they should start talking with first and foremost.

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