HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu City Council has appointed the replacement for Charles Djou. Lee Donohue is the new representative for District Four, in east Oahu. The former Honolulu police chief was the unanimous choice and says he does not intend to run for the office after his six month term. A short time after the swearing in he voted to approve the city's $1.8 billion budget.
"I'm comfortable I've been following the budget in the news and all the issues associated with it and it's like riding a bicycle you start looking at the numbers and you know what to look for," said Donohue.
One item the new councilmember did not vote on was a measure to raise property taxes. Donohue says he was not ready to vote on that bill when it came up, however his abstention still counted as a yes vote in the final tally.
Donohue also got a quick taste of the politics at Honolulu Hale. City Spokesman Bill Brennan testified as a homeowner in support of the property tax bill. For the first time it breaks the rates into a two tier system where non-occupant homeowners pay about 16 cents more per $1,000 of assessed property value than people who actually live in their home.
Opponents of the rate change think the increase will be passed on to tenants. Councilmember Romy Cachola criticized Brennan for living in Kahala and not looking out for renters in Kalihi.
"That's where you living in a rich place should go out to the poor places to understand," said Cachola.
"I'm only here to speak in support of the measure because I see it as a way to stabilize property tax bills for homeowners," said Brennan.
Because home values have dropped the budget committee chair says even with the increase people's next property tax bill should go down.
"An owner occupant family in a home valued at $600,000 this year would pay $160 less," said Nestor Garcia, Honolulu Budget Committee Chair.
In the end the council voted in favor of the property tax hike by a vote of 6-3. It also voted in unanimous support for the $1.8 billion dollar budget, which cuts about 800 jobs that are currently vacant saving more than $38 million.
"I believe we're operating about as lean as possible," said Kirk Caldwell, Honolulu Managing Director. "We are doing more with less."
"Fashioning this budget I believe we kept city services especially those that we consider a priority intact," said Garcia.
Another budget cut means most city workers will furloughed two days a month starting in July. The city is supposed to release the new schedule for public services next week.