Rail debate causes conflict in key City appointment

Jamie Winpenny

HONOLULU—The Honolulu City Council moved yesterday in favor of the appointment of several City cabinet members. With the sole exception of the nomination of Wayne Yoshioka, which proved to be contentious and acrimonious among councilmembers and testifiers, the nominations were approved in an atmosphere of jocular consensus.

Yoshioka, who was serving as acting director of the Transportation Services Department, was approved by a 6-3 vote, with Councilmembers Tom Berg, Romy Cachola, and Ann Kobayashi voting against his appointment. Discussion gravitated toward the City’s rail project, with Cachola lamenting the fact that the planned route was changed to exclude his district of Salt Lake. Kobayashi complained about a lack of transparency and forthrightness about the project. Council Chair Nestor Garcia struggled to keep the discussion about the man and not the project.

Longtime rail opponent Cliff Slater testified against Yoshioka’s appointment, at one point saying he had been slandered in prior testimony.

Yoshioka’s appointment was the only snag in confirmation proceedings that were otherwise characterized by a jovial levity provided by Garcia, who cracked wise on several occasions.

Relating to the appointment of Denise Mahealani Cypher DeCosta to serve on the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, Garcia quipped that DeCosta has forgotten more about the BWS than anyone else could ever know.

Jeff Portnoy was confirmed to serve on the City Ethics Committee, and Cachola said that the appointment of Michael Lilly to the committee would be like a “double barreled shotgun.”

Several bills were also passed without discussion at the meeting. Bills relating to intergovernmental agreements, signage at community meetings, real property tax relief, homeowners associations, and the rezoning of lands in Mokuleia saw no debate before moving through the Council and into committee.

To see current Honolulu City Council bills, click here

Before the Council moved to approve the nomination of Gary B. Cabato as Director of Parks and Recreation, Councilmember Cachola said he would have to file a disclosure that the two may be related. Cachola said that he and Cabato have roots in the same small town in the Phillippines, and that it’s not unlikely that they are related.

Clarke Lance Kuhaupio was approved as Director of the Royal Hawaiian Band, with representatives from the Friends of the Royal Hawaiian Band, the Martin Luther King Coalition, and former band director Aaron Mahi all testifying in support of Kuhaupio’s nomination.

While the appointment of Wayne Yoshioka as Director of Transportation Services proved difficult, as more than two hours of testimony was heard on the matter, the rest of the appointments discussed provided some hope that the council and the mayor’s office will be able to work amicably and harmoniously in the future.

What do you think about the Honolulu Rail Transit Project? What would you like the Mayor and City planners to know? Please send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected] or leave a comment below.

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