City council to hold final vote on several tax, fee increases

Along with the need to approve the city’s budget for the upcoming year, there are many fee-increasing measures that the City Council will be holding a final vote on Wednesday.

Some of them introduced by the mayor would be used to help fund operations and maintenance of the Honolulu rail project, according to city spokesperson.

First, is a proposed increase in the vehicle weight tax. The tax would go from 5 cents per pound to 6 cents in 2018, and 7 cents in 2019. Councilmember Ann Kobayashi says she’s voting against this. “The vehicle weight tax is a problem especially for those who live in the west side or far distances a lot of them have trucks that they use for work and for their family so they are going to be paying a lot more for their vehicle weight tax.”

The next increase would have to do with parking meters. Fees in Waikiki, Chinatown, and downtown Honolulu would double. This would take the hourly rate from the current $1.50 an hour, and bump it up to $3 per hour, $1.50 for 30 minutes instead to 75 cents and $0.50 for 10 minutes, up from $0.25.

The latest amended bill that’s up for final reading on Wednesday would affect the interior of Waikiki, excluding meters at Kapiolani Park, as well as the Honolulu civic area and parts of Chinatown.

Changes to parking enforcement hours are also part of the proposal. In Waikiki, the proposed hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and in the downtown area, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., with holidays and Sundays excluded.

The mayor says the parking fee increase could raise around $4 million to help fund the rail project.

Kobayashi worries about the impact on businesses. “People from Chinatown especially have been calling because there are a lot of small businesses and they’re worried about losing customers or having that kind of increase because people who shop in Chinatown small businesses depend on them.”

Another proposal on the table on Wednesday is a bill to combat distracted walking. According to the bill’s text, it would ban pedestrians from using a mobile electronic device while crossing a street or highway, which means just simply looking at the direction of the screen could lead to a violation.

The bill states that those calling or texting 911 or emergency responders using a device to full fulfill their duties would be exempt from this.

Any of the bills that are up for their readings pass the city council, they will then head to the mayor’s desk for signing if approved.

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