“Cayetano cannot stop rail if elected, rivals charge,” proclaimed a front-page headline in the Star-Advertiser on July 18, the day after a televised mayoral debate. Cayetano told naysayers Peter Carlisle and Kirk Caldwell that, if $1.5 billion in federal funding does not materialize, rail will stop in its tracks. And if he wins, having pledged to stop rail, the state legislature and city council should follow the voters’ mandate, Cayetano pointed out. Certainly, as he told Honolulu magazine, the FTA would take notice; further, he would veto HART’s attempts to raise money with a bond.
The Weekly called the office of the Corporation Counsel for the City of Honolulu to ask whether the mayor-elect would be vetoing the city charter by stopping rail, as Mayor Carlisle alleged. What if the new mayor simply vetoed the budget for rail? Would any of this be illegal?
“I’d like to answer your questions, but we don’t provide legal advice to the public generally,” said Renee Sanobe-Hong, first administrative deputy corporation counsel. Hong did, however, direct us to Art. 5, Ch. 1of the revised charter of the City & County of Honolulu, which lists, among the mayor/chief executive’s powers, the ability to “veto ordinances [and] resolutions adopting or amending the general plan.” Hong also sent us to Art. 17, Ch. 6, regarding Honolulu authority for rapid transit (HART), where we found this line: “The office of the mayor
shall submit the authority’s line-item appropriation requests without alteration or amendment.”
How to interpret all this? City lawyers we’re not, but it does look as though HART has been given carte blanche to spend and contract with abandon, as it has been doing through buying property along the rail line, paying millions to p.r. consultants and more.
That said, the mayor is chief executive of the city, and, unlike HART and other appointed officials, he’s elected, so, no, we don’t think rail is unstoppable.
What looks more worrisome is runaway development and urban sprawl–which, ironically, Rail was allegedly supposed to reduce. At least the Sierra Club and Sen. Clayton Hee are appealing the Land Use Commission’s decision to reclassify productive farmlands at Hoopili (where the first rail pylons were planted) and Koa Ridge for housing development. And at least we can, if so inclined, cast a meaningful vote for Cayetano, who has opposed these developments, as well as Rail.