Monthly Archives: April 2023

The City Council 64% Pay Raise will go into effect on July 1, 2023 unless the City Council rejects it

Two city council members have introduced two Resolutions to reject the 2023 Salary Commission’s recommendations for the pay raises.

  1. Resolution 23-81 REJECTS the ENTIRE Salary Commission’s recommendation. This will freeze the salaries as is.

BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the City and County of Honolulu that this
body, by at least a three-quarters affirmative vote of its entire membership, rejects the
entire resolution of the 2023 Salary Commission
submitted to the City Council under
Council Communication 111(2023) and the salary and salary schedule increases
recommended therein; and
. . .”

2. Resolution 23-82 REJECTS IN PART Salary Commission’s recommendation.

WHEREAS, the Council wishes to express its appreciation for the work of the
2023 Salary Commission, but concludes that the salary increases and salary schedule
adjustments recommended by the 2023 Salary Commission for Fiscal Year 2023-24
should be rejected in part;

Some facts for clarifications:

  1. If the city council does not adopt a resolution to reject the pay raise now, the recommendations of the Salary Commission will automatically become in effect on July 1, 2023.
  2. Chair Tommy Waters has to put the above two resolutions in the Honolulu city Council Agenda pretty quickly. Will Waters promptly allow these two Resolutions or others to be on the Council agenda? Will he come up with his own resolution or let the clock run out?
  3. Chair Tommy Waters publicly states that he’s “totally open to that idea” for the public to determine whether the city council position is a full-time or part-time job through a Honolulu City Charter amendment. Chair Tommy Waters, Vice-Chair Esther Kia’aina, and Budget Chair Radiant Cordera have publicly determined their position as “full-time”.
  4. Through the decades, the position has always been respected as part-time and no council has asked for a huge salary raise based on the platform that it’s a “full-time” position. Former City Council member Ann Kobayashi, amongst others, has publicly said, “You run for public office, you know what the salary is, you know what the hours are, and you do the best you can and the public service. The point is not to get in there and try to change the salary.”
  5. The public participation opportunity to approve the increase salary to “full-time” scale or not is obviously backward.
  6. The City Charter amendment procedure as to whether the Council deserves “full-time” salary cannot be decided before the default date of July 1, 2023. The earliest the city charter amendment process can happen is at next year’s 2024 election ballot. Keep in mind again that this suggested amendment action is separate from #1 timeline.
  7. It has always been the expectation that the city council position is a part-time salary. The council members have health benefits and other benefits. Each council member has 5 full-time staff, the Council Services, and the city departments to assist upon request.

The most recent confirmation of Rebecca Soon to the Honolulu Salary Commission can be viewed at the 4:03 video mark during the Council Hearing on January 25, 2023. The video shows the interactions between the council members and the nominee Soon about pay raises.

Rebecca aka Becky Soon has a lot of experience with Honolulu Hale as the latest addition to the Salary commission. Her father Ray Soon was Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s Chief of Staff. Her mother Cheryl Soon held many positions, including Director of Department of Transportation Services and member of the 2018 Honolulu City Charter Review Commission.

The Honolulu Salary Commission:

The current Honolulu Salary Commission Chair is Malia Espinda. The Salary Commission is made up of commissioners nominated by the Mayor and the City Council in this arrangement: 3 members appointed by mayor, 3 members appointed by council, 1 member appointed by mayor & confirmed by council.

This acrobatic tragedy reminds me of a childhood experience in Singapore

The husband-and-wife acrobatic team somehow disconnected during their performance in Suzhou, China. The plunge led to her death.

According to the Straits Times,

” Authorities are investigating the death of an acrobat, who fell while performing with her husband during a live flying-trapeze performance in Suzhou, China, last Saturday.

Videos of the graphic incident posted on social media showed that the couple was pulled high into the air from the ground by what appears to be a crane.

In the videos, the woman was later seen falling from reportedly more than 9m high, after her husband failed to catch her with his legs during the performance.”

This incident brought back childhood memories of a circus coming to Holland Village in Singapore. I was probably around 7 or 8 years old. We were living in a farm. I remember my lorry-driver father telling us that there was a tent circus coming. We obviously wanted to go but had no money to buy tickets for our big family of ten children.

Later, I remember my father coming home one night with the news that a girl acrobat had fallen to her death from a trapeze.

That news had a powerful imprint on me.

I can’t explain why I was so unequivocal about it. But I decided right there and then that it was not right for people with money to put others in dangerous situations just to entertain themselves.

City Employee expresses his personal views against windowless units as a private citizen in Bill 21

Bill 21, authored by City Councilman Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, asks for changes to the City County Housing Code to be consistent with the International Building Code (IBC) that allows windowless (no natural light and ventilation) housing units.

Santos-Tam, a construction industry lobbyist, said that the county needs to build 25,000 housing units and thus “optionality” is necessary in housing development. The statement begs many questions as to who these units are for and do we want Oahu to follow other countries’ values and standards. Is this about helping developers or is this about meeting the needs of our local residents?

Below is an excellent example of a local government worker with lots of expertise and experience standing up for the public good, rather than developers. Michael O Silva, speaking as a private citizen, should be commended for speaking up. His testimony is free from self-interests but filled with common sense and aloha for the ordinary local residents. Read the testimonies here.

Listen to Bill 21 here. It starts around the 1:46 mark.

State Legislature wants to repeal the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)

The State Legislature wants to repeal the existing HTA and create a new Office of Destination Management within the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBET).

This action appears to be a knee-jerk and punitive legislating. It reminds me of the nationwide movement to “Defund The Police” based on the actions of a few bad cops. Some states who defunded the police had to reverse their actions and fund the police. While justice and rule of law is paramount to our democracy, public policy-making must be intelligently and deliberately vetted.

What is interesting is also the punitive language that is attached to Bill 1375 and Bill SB 1522

SECTION l. The legislature finds that the Hawaii tourism
authority has failed to effectively execute its duties to manage
the tourism marketing plan for the State.

The Legislature is wielding a quick sword at HTA because it “has failed” in its duty. However, residents of Hawaii does not have the same swift opportunity to treat the Legislature job performance. Public efforts to adopt Term Limits for the State Legislature failed again this 2023 session.

Besides HTA is not the only entity that is contributing to the unhappiness of our residents in Hawaii relating to tourism issues. The Governor, Lt. Governor, Mayors, State and City Transportation departments and so forth are all responsible too.

Note the punitive language.

HB 1381 is a more deliberate and informed legislation to adopt a public policy. But it died very quickly.