Protestors fight to save Honolulu Parks and Recreation - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Protestors fight to save Honolulu Parks and Recreation

Bernadette Inouye Bernadette Inouye
Linda Liu Linda Liu
Craig Smallwood Craig Smallwood

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After 8 hours of testimony, Honolulu City Council members are still in disagreement over the city budget.

The proposed cut that drew the most opposition at Wednesday night's Honolulu City Council meeting was the $21 million dollars from the Department of Parks and Recreation budget.

If approved, 10,000 kids would have to say goodbye to the Summer Fun program and 1,250 jobs would be cut.

 

At the meeting, people came out in force to fight back..

The vote came down around 9:45 p.m.

 

But with two council members absent, there weren't enough votes to pass the proposed budget through the second reading.

At Makiki District Park Wednesday night, there was an empty tennis court, empty park, and empty swimming pool. The reason was the rain.

But a financial storm could soon be to blame for driving people away.

"It would be devastating for all the seniors. It's like amputating their legs and forcing them to be homebound," said Bernadette Inouye, a senior.

Seniors were among the protestors who took their concerns to the council.

Cutting the entire parks and recreation budget means 20 pools, more than 30 gyms, and numerous classes, like this judo class at Makiki District Park, would disappear.

And if the number of opponents who showed up wasn't enough, they brought in a handmade paper chain to drive their point.

"Each link represents one of the participants in the parks program so that's why they wanted to bring it here because this is the impact on our parks programs if the services are curtailed," said Linda Liu, a parks & recreation employee.

But critics say they don't actually believe the city will cut parks and recreation programs. They say this is just a political game the city is playing to threaten the state.

"Because the state threatened to take away the hotel room tax from the city so the city is answering them by saying we're going to have a $20 million budget deficit so we're going to resolve that by closing parks and recreations, we're going to layoff all those workers, we'll put them on employment, let {the state} pay for that bill, and then {the state} deal with all the problems," said Craig Smallwood, a protestor.

Political or not, the fate of the Parks and Recreation Department is at the mercy of a state budget decision which is expected this Friday.

In order to patch up Hawaii's budget crisis, state lawmakers are thinking of withholding the TAT - the transient accommodations tax.

That's the tax people pay when staying at a hotel room.

TAT revenue typically goes to the counties, and cutting Honolulu's parks and rec budget is one way the council is thinking of making up for the possible loss of TAT funding.

With the budget plan stuck, the Honolulu City Council will have to do the hearing all over again.

The council has decided to defer the issue to the next regularly scheduled meeting on May 12, to try and advance the budget plan again.

 

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