City Council Holds Big Tax Money Giveaway.

Schnitzer Steel lobbyist, Rene Mansho, is presented with a ceremonial check by the Honolulu City Council.

Yesterday, the Honolulu City Council “Schnitzer Six” awarded millions in tax money to a profitable, giant mainland corporation.  By overriding Mayor Carlisle’s veto of Bill 36, the Council reinstated the lucrative subsidy to auto recycler Schnitzer Steel.

According to Council Member Ann Kobayashi, “Schnitzer has gotten over $19 million from us since 1998, they are used to getting this money, it would be terribly unfair to just cut them off all of a sudden. When their PR people and lawyers openly cry in our offices, it impresses me that they aren’t afraid to show their feelings.”

“We have to take care of our large corporate contributors, er, I mean partners, who are doing so much for the community, said another Councilman, who refused to be identified.

“Yes, without this subsidy, Schinitzer Steel might have to dip into their own profits, and that wouldn’t be fair to their shareholders,now would it? Hawaii has an anti-business reputation, but we can help fix that by giving big corporations our tax dollars to show that we want them to be happy.  Our citizens are so greedy and selfish when they whine about potholes, and lack of city services…without a thought for these poor struggling corporations and how they feel when their profits slip. Well, they are actually going way up in the case of metal recyclers, but they might go down someday, so the tax money we give them, makes them feel more secure.  And they create jobs for Hawaii’s people…just look at all the trouble Rene Mansho has gone to, to fill up this whole row, and dress them all in the same blue shirts and line them up like that.  If that doesn’t make you feel better about paying higher taxes and fees you just don’t have any feelings.”

Council member Ann Kobayashi criticized some of the testifiers as “negative” and engaging in “personal attacks.”  Kobayashi said, ” who do these people think they are coming in here and trying to tell us what we should do?”  She continued, “Some of them actually said they were taxpayers and voters, but they really didn’t offer any proof of that, so they could be anybody, it really makes me confused.  People should think before they interfere with our government processes, we know what’s best for them and when we want their input we’ll ask for it.”

Councilman Ikaika Anderson, who wore a bag on his head for most of the hearings, provided the pivotal sixth vote for the override. He did say he had “reservations,” but he would get over them.  He was interviewed  after the council meeting, but the bag made it impossible to hear what he was saying.

(Note: For those new to political parody, mocking satirical dialog is shown in italics)

Recycling Tax Money and Politicians

Bill 47 was passed unanimously by the City Council and signed into law by Mayor Carlisle. It removed a long-standing “subsidy” for island automobile recyclers. The big tipping fee discount for ASR, or automotive shredder residue dumped into the landfill, had netted Hawaii’s largest metal recycler, Schnitzer Steel, around $19 million since 1998. Schnitzer, pocketed $1.9 in taxpayer largesse last year alone. They don’t really need it as they are very profitable (netting about $1 a month in Hawaii). Perhaps they shouldn’t be dumping ASR at any price since the toxic content of their recyling waste, much of which originates on the Neighbor Islands is under fire by environmentalists. When asked to show any actual need for this subsidy, Schitzer curtly informed the City Council that they had no right to see their books. But, they still wanted the money back to pad their bottom line and, due to our malleable city council, might actually get it. After a monumental lobbying effort by Schnitzer, the Council is now trying its best to put this corporate welfare back.

The full Council passed their new Bill 36 (7 to 2), to reestablish the Schnitzer pay off, only three days after their Bill 47 (removing it) was signed into law. Only Tom Berg and Breene Harimoto were not “persauded” by Schnitzer’s back room shenanigans.

In his daily blog, Ian Lind listed a partial roster of Schnitzer’s army of lobbyists:

‘Then there’s Schnitzer Steel Hawaii with an unusual number of big guns, including “Red” Morris and John Radcliffe, PR exec Cindy McMillan, John Sabas (married to Jennifer Goto Sabas, Sen. Dan Inouye’s chief of staff), Travis Taylor (former communications advisor to Duke Aiona), and former city council member (remember her?) Rene Mansho.”

In fact, you won’t find anyone who testified on behalf of Schnitzer’s “entitlement” that was not on their payroll. Ex-City Council person, Rene Mansho has been employed by Schnitzer for years as their “community relations” specialist. Her job description also seems to involve lobbying her old colleagues. She often attends council hearings with a gaggle of blue-shirted Schnitzer employees in tow, Rene sings the praises of her employer while she lines up her conscripts for photo ops. The origin of the lucrative recycling “subsidy” that they all share dates back to Rene’s active city council days, and according to Schitzer insiders, her job depends on her holding it all together.

Mayor Carlisle will most likely veto this “unbudgeted” pay off to a profitable mainland corporation. It remains to be seen, however,  whether Schitzer’s investment in cultivating “loyalty” among their seven council members will hold together enough for an override. Judging by the growing voter backlash, controversial environmental liabilities and general stink of the political downside; it’s anybody’s call.

When asked over and over, why this was being done, and what possible benefit the taxpayer’s would get from this unjustifiable give-away of their money, the Schnitzer Seven have offered little convincing logic. Every taxpayer in Honolulu should press for the answer to that question before we let them pull this scam off.