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Saturday, March 29, 2014
Caldwell Refuses to Veto Food Truck Bill, Signs Bill Hiking Special Use Permit Fees
By News Release @ 4:12 PM :: 3319 Views :: Honolulu County

Mayor Caldwell acts on five bills

News Release from Office of the Mayor March 28, 2014

Honolulu – Mayor Kirk Caldwell acted today on five bills passed by the Honolulu City Council earlier this month, signing three into law and returning two without his signature.

Mayor Caldwell signed the following three bills into law:

  • Bill 60 (2013), CD1, FD1, relating to publication dispensing racks (in Waikiki).
  • Bill 66 (2013), CD1, relating to alarm systems.
  • Bill 70 (2013), CD2, relating to fees for certain permits and services administered by the Department of Planning and Permitting (please see DPP release for more information)

Mayor Caldwell returned two bills unsigned without his approval and included letters expressing his concerns (text below).  By taking this action, the bills become law without his approval.

“The power to veto legislation should be used sparingly,” said Mayor Caldwell.  “Though I have concerns about these bills, they are concerns we can deal with administratively or with legislation therefore I am returning them unsigned.”

  • Bill 1, CD2, FD1, relating to parking (food trucks), was returned unsigned and without mayor’s approval.

“The response from the food truck community after the passage of the bill has been strongly in opposition,” said Mayor Caldwell.  “Numerous food truck owners have written to say that if this bill were to become law, they would not be able to operate within the capital special district.  Given the reaction, I have asked the Department of Transportation Services to conduct public hearings to address the complaints and determine whether the issues can be resolved via rulemaking.  If they cannot, DTS will request a repeal of or amendment to the ordinance.  I also point out to the Council that this pilot project was passed as an unfunded mandate, with no additional funding for staffing.  I believe it is premature to implement this pilot project without getting more input from the businesses that will be impacted.”

  • Bill 4, relating to the use of indigenous and Polynesian introduced plants in public landscaping, was returned unsigned without mayor’s approval.

“Though I fully support the good intentions behind this bill, and I love planting native Hawaiian plants in my own yard, I believe that this bill poses unnecessary restrictions on city landscape staff,” said Mayor Caldwell.  “Our urban forestry experts must use their best judgment to determine which plants are suitable for a location based on soil, climate, cost, availability, intended use, water usage, and public safety.  I am informed that there are no native grasses suitable for 80 percent of the city's landscaping needs, because many of our parks and lawns require turf grass that can be mowed to a 2 inch height.  Further this law would discourage use of the city's official tree, the stunning rainbow shower tree, as well as the beautiful canopy of the much loved monkey pod tree.  Under this law, only two indigenous Oahu trees could be used, the Lonomea and Alahee.  Both of these trees may be feasible for use in some situations, but they pose public safety hazards for street use and do not create a shade canopy like the rainbow shower tree and monkey pod tree.”

All five bills were passed by the Honolulu City Council on Wednesday, March 12, and transmitted by the city clerk the following day.  According to the city charter, the mayor has ten city business days to return the bills; with the Kûhiô Day holiday the deadline was today, March 28.



March 28, 2014

Dear Chair Martin and Councilmembers:

I am returning, without my signature, Bill 1, (2014), Relating to Parking.

Bill 1 , Relating to Parking, proposes a pilot project to grant operating permits to mobile food units, or food trucks, within the Hawaii Capital Special District, as defined in ROH, Section 21 -9.30.2. The Director of Transportation Services (DTS) would authorize mobile food unit stalls as appropriate within the special district and within the designated reserved hours between 1 0:30 a.m. and 1 :30 p.m. The Director of Enterprise Services (DES) would award the permits; the highest and best bid would determine the amount of the permit fee.

The proposed ordinance states that “except for mobile food units with valid permits operating from mobile food unit parking stalls, no mobile food unit may conduct business on any street or highway in the Hawaii capital special district during the reserved hours.”

Bill 1 , (2014) is returned, unsigned, for the following reasons.

The administration initially supported the bill as a means to attract more food trucks to the area, serving more people within the capital district. We also wanted to provide a more structured, fair and competitive business environment for food trucks to operate within while using city parking stalls. While the administration is prepared to implement this pilot project and testified in support of the measure, the response from the food truck community after the passage of the bill has been strongly in opposition.

Numerous food truck owners have written to say that if this bill were to become law, they would not be able to operate within the capital special district, that “mom and pop” operations would not be able to compete in a system where permits are given to the highest and best bid, and that the bidding system itself is prohibitively expensive for most food truck small businesses.

Given the reaction, I have asked the Department of Transportation Services (DTS) to conduct public hearings, as part of the rulemaking process, to address the complaints and determine whether the issues can be resolved via rulemaking. If they cannot, DTS will report back to the Council that the issues cannot be resolved through rulemaking and request a repeal of or amendment to the ordinance.

I also point out to the Council that this pilot project was passed as an unfunded mandate, with no additional funding for staffing.

I believe it is premature to implement this pilot project without getting more input from the businesses that will be impacted. It is clear that the bill may result in the lack of lunch truck service to the many customers in the capital special district who patronize these small businesses. The status quo is to let the marketplace dictate the number of food trucks that choose to operate within the capital special district. This is preferable to essentially driving business away from the district. However, in order to grow this activity, I urge the food truck industry to work with the City Administration and the City Council to review the issue and to collaborate on a new system that supports small business and brings more dining choices for the community, especially during the lunch hour.

For the reasons I state above, I am returning this Bill without my signature of approval, in lieu of any other action available to me on this Bill.


Kirk Caldwell




March 28, 2014

Dear Chair Martin and Councilmembers:

I am returning, unsigned, Bill 4 (2014) relating to Indigenous Plants to you for the reasons discussed below.

Bill 4 (2014) proposes to add a new article to Chapter 14, Revised Ordinances of Honolulu 1 990 (ROH), to require indigenous and Polynesian introduced plants (also referred to as “canoe plants”) whenever and wherever feasible in plans and designs of new or renovated landscaping at City owned facilities where public funds are used. Bill 4 also states that whenever and wherever feasible plants indigenous to Oahu should be used. Indigenous is defined as a land plant growing or living naturally in Hawaii without being brought by humans. Polynesian introduced plants mean any plant species brought to Hawaii before European contact, such as noni, coconut, and kukui.

Bill 4 is patterned after language contained in the Hawaii Public Procurement Code, HRS Section 1 03D-408 which governs all procurement done by the City for landscaping services. Therefore, any contracts awarded under the State Procurement Code will be governed by state law relating to the use of indigenous and canoe plants and preempts City ordinance. To that extent, Bill 4 is unnecessary to establish a policy for use of indigenous and canoe plants.

As a matter of policy, I support the use of indigenous and canoe plants. My own yard is dominated by my favorite tree, the Kukui (candlenut) and other native plants. However, I am concerned that every planting decision made by contractors and City personnel will be subject to challenge under a vague standard that requires the use of indigenous and canoe plants “whenever and wherever feasible.” The term “feasible” has several definitions, one of which is simply “capable of being done.” Another definition is “capable of being successfully done.” Under either definition, any plant can be inserted in the ground and is thus capable of being planted successfully. However, the use of certain plants for landscaping of city parks, streets, and facilities requires other considerations, such as of cost, availability, suitability, ease of maintenance, soil and climate conditions in which the plant can thrive, the intended purpose for the plant, aesthetics, and most importantly, public safety. These and other factors should control the decision rather than the simple notion of “feasibility.”

Two examples where City staff will be challenged to implement the ordinance when deciding what plants are appropriate and suitable are turf grass and street trees.

I am informed that about 80% of the City’s landscaping applications are turf grass. Turf grass should be of a fine texture, high density, green color, insect and disease resistance, require minimal fertilization, be pleasant to sit or lay on, drought tolerant and thrive being mowed at a 2-inch height. Beach applications and nonpotable water applications of turf grass should have salt tolerance. Sports field turf grass should have superior wear resistance. Shady areas should use turf grass that is shade tolerant. Based on these factors, there are no native turf grass that are appropriate for these types of applications.

Finding a suitable native street tree that is indigenous to Oahu will be exceptionally challenging. The official Honolulu tree is the rainbow shower tree (declared by Mayor Blaisdell in 1965), a species that is neither indigenous nor a canoe tree. Imagine how Honolulu would look without these stunning trees lining our streets for tourists and residents to enjoy. The same is true of the much admired monkeypod trees, also a nonnative tree. Both these trees share the feature of having lovely, broad canopies. Canopy size is highly regarded as conveying environmental benefits in the urban core because it lessens impacts caused by stormwater runoff, reduces energy consumption and heat and air pollutants. In contrast, the small canopy native trees such as Kou, Lonomea, Kamani, Manele, Kukui, Milo and Coconut all have hard nuts that fall on sidewalks, making it difficult to walk and causing injuries. Finally, only two trees indigenous to Oahu exist, the Alahee and Lonomea. Both trees pose public safety hazards. The Lonomea has hard nuts which fall on sidewalks and could cause injury to pedestrians. The Alahee is a small tree that would not meet the eight foot height standard for overhang on a street.

In summary, Bill 4 while well-intentioned, poses implementation difficulties for the City. The City has already demonstrated its commitment to cultivating and promoting native plants through transforming the Queen Kapiolani Garden at Kapiolani Park to showcase native plants. There are 75+ different native species represented, with more to be added in future plantings. Queen Kapiolani Garden has become the best location in urban Honolulu to see native species. This type of effort better serves our residents to promote the use of native and canoe plants.

For all the reasons stated above, I am returning Bill 4 (2014) unsigned and without my approval, in lieu of any other action available to me on these bills.


Kirk Caldwell




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