Testifier Blade Walsh is escorted from Council room.
Image: karleanne matthews

In its last meeting of the year, on Dec. 5, the City Council approved the receipt of $1.55 billion in federal funds for the rail project, with Tom Berg casting the lone vote against it. Some community members questioned the financial soundness of the entire project and expressed concerns that devoting funding to rail would harm the bus system. Proponents argued that passing the resolution was simply a way to ensure funding for a projectthat voters had approved.

The Council also agreed to remove a park symbol in Nanakuli from a public map, despite testimony from many community members who decried the lack of park space on the Waiʻanae Coast and the disparity in facilities compared with Hawaiʻi Kai or Kailua. Councilmember Breene Harimoto, who voted in favor, argued that while there ought to be more parks in that area, the issue at hand was if this particular park symbol should remain. Councilmember Ernie Martin said that since this parcel was extremely unlikely to be developed into a park, the county should find a different parcel.

A resolution allowing the Honolulu Police Department to accept a gift of $75,000 from the Waikiki Business Improvement District Association drew fire from citizens concerned that these gifts amounted to bribes.

Kaitlyn McKee, a farmer, asked that one item not on the agenda–a resolution on GMO labeling–be discussed. When Blade Walsh brought up GMO labeling, he was asked to limit his testimony to agenda items, but he continued until he was escorted out by police. Michael Daly also testified about GMOs and was made to step down. Outside, a group of protestors held signs and sang.