Rooted in Reason: Nurturing the Seeds of Liberty


Hannemann’s Claims Don’t Match His Record by grassroothawaii
August 16, 2010, 9:29 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

By David Jaress

While a true debate between Hawaii’s gubernatorial hopefuls has yet to take place, a recent forum for candidates Neil Abercrombie and Mufi Hannemann gave the two men one of their first chances to directly question one another. Curiously enough, Hannemann trumpeted his spending record as Mayor of Honolulu as his “greatest accomplishment,” claiming that his administration left the city in a better financial situation than he found it in. “At the end of the day, it’s about watching your money,” Hannemann stated.
The actual numbers hardly match up with Mr. Hannemann’s glowing self-assessment, however. Indeed, the ex-Mayor’s bold assertions are particularly shocking given the recent emergency furloughs the city has enacted in order to make ends meet. At the end of the Harris Administration in 2004, the City and County of Honolulu’s operating budget totaled $1.178 billion with $1.251 billion in costs. After five years under Mayor Hannemann’s administration, however, City and County costs ballooned to over $1.8 billion with no surplus in revenues. Even after adjusting for inflation, this represents a whopping 31% increase in the cost of running Honolulu’s government under Mr. Hannemann.
Nor do these numbers account for the enormous spending projects the Hannemann administration delayed for the future. As the disastrous 2006 sewage spill into the Ala Wai Canal proved, Honolulu’s disintegrating sewer system has desperately required an overhaul for years; even after 48 million gallons of raw sewage were released into the waterway, however, Mayor Hannemann’s administration merely temporarily patched the problem and delayed much-needed repairs throughout its tenure, keeping these expenses off the city budget. In addition to the millions of dollars in fines the city will be forced to pay to the federal government for its negligence, these sewer repairs are estimated to cost $4.7 billion, almost two and and a half times the city’s current budget. A recent court settlement also found the city at fault for failing to upgrade its Sand Island waste treatment plant during Hanneman’s tenure, a project Hannemann himself stated will raise sewer fees as high as $300 for Honolulu residents, not including the additional fines being levied on the city for failing to comply with the Clean Water Act.
Hannemann’s bold claims to fiscal discipline are made even more outlandish when one considers the $5.3 billion light rail project championed by the ex-Mayor’s office. If the city is lucky enough to receive $1.55 billion in federal funding, this still leaves Honolulu a $3.7 billion bill should the project go through. Even after city workers suffered emergency furloughs in order to save Honolulu $18 million, Mayor Hannemann’s office raised over $145 million in excise taxes over the last year to fund this project, numbers which do not appear on the city’s budget.
Nor was the Hannemann administration able to control the city’s debt burden during his time as mayor. By the end of the Harris administration, the city was appropriating 16.76% of its annual revenue to debt service, while the end of Hannemann’s term saw this grow to 18.48% of this city’s significantly higher revenue. Ultimately, this represents an over $100 million increase in debt obligations by the City and County of Honolulu during Mayor Mufi’s time in office. In a time of financial troubles, former mayor Hannemann is right: Hawaii voters should be watching the spending practices of its potential governors. One look at Hannemann’s record as mayor will reveal a pattern of exploding costs, growing debt, and ever-increasing taxes.

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