Thursday, April 07, 2011
City to throw party for State legislature while State threatens City funds in tight budget year
by Larry Geller
The controversy over SB671, the now-dead bill contrived to provide legislators and state workers with essentially endless free meals, should result in increased scrutiny over the numerous invitations that arrive at the State Capitol each session.
Here’s an odd one—an invitation originating in Honolulu’s Office of Economic Development, Office of Mayor Peter Carlisle. One of the emails listed in the attractive invitation flyer is that of Ann Chung, the director of that office. Of course, the City has important matters pending at the Legislature just now, great time for a party.
This is just what the controversy over SB671 was about.
Download City Invite 20110408
The City of Honolulu has a lot at stake right now. The Legislature is struggling with a huge budget gap. Not millions, but over a billion bucks. Lawmakers are looking for spare change under every seat cushion. They could tap the Transient Accommodations Tax, cutting into City revenue. They could take some of the excise tax surcharge earmarked to fund The Train. These options and others have already appeared in the newspaper as possibilities.
So what better time to throw a party. for the lege.
I did ask Ms. Chung about this event. She replied
This is not an “official” event - imply something a group of us are putting together as individuals. OED is NOT funding this event.
I don’t doubt that. But the resources of her office (certainly including taxpayer-funded City email) were used, and it’s still not clear who is paying, or what the value of the event will be to those attending. Will it fit under the $25 limit? There could be a gray area involved with figuring that out. If few legislators or staff attend, does the entire cost of the food have to be divided by the number of attendees? Sushi can be expensive.
The invite itself suggests the computer that produced it. Was that Mac owned by the City Council? If so, that would further nail down the party as a City-sponsored event.
In the end, there will presumably have to be a report filed explaining where the funds came from. The report comes in later, so we’ll see if the system is working and how a City-sponsored event can possibly be not an “official” event or how that matters.
It’s a good looking flyer, isn’t it? And it could be a fun event, but since the Legislature is in session with weighty tax matters before it affecting the City, the timing could not have been more suspect.