The message from Wednesday's marathon City Council hearing was clear: this nine-member body is decidedly pro-rail.
Members of the Council took three hours to discuss a bill allowing the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to utilize up to $450 million of taxpayer-backed commercial paper for the controversial $5.3 billion elevated rail project.
However, only Council members Tom Berg and Ann Kobayashi voted against the bill.
Berg and Kobayashi grilled HART Executive Director and CEO Dan Grabauskas and city Budget Director Michael Hansen on how the transit authority would pay back the money if it's ever used.
Grabauskas responded by saying HART would only use the city's line of credit in an emergency, and the extra liquidity is a new Federal Transit Administration requirement for transportation projects nationwide.
Council members Tulsi Gabbard and Romy Cachola had reservations about the so-called line-of-credit bill, but still voted "yes" along with five of their colleagues.
Meanwhile, the Council wasted little time passing operating and capital budgets for HART totaling $19 million and $491.58 million respectively.
Earlier, Council members passed operating and capital budgets for the city to the tune of $2.58 billion. All told, the four budgets add up to $3.09 billion. They take effect July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
Council members voted unanimously for the city's operating budget of $1.96 billion, which is only slightly more than the $1.95 billion the mayor requested in March.
The city's capital budget totaled $620 million, $42 million more than Carlisle's official request. The greatest disparity between the mayor and the Council came down to the sad state of city roads.
The mayor proposed spending $77 million for road repair and rehabilitation, but the Council set the level much higher at $100 million.
An amendment to the capital bill by Kobayashi restored $9.5 million of funding for a new sludge digester at the Sand Island Waste Water Treatment Plant.
The mayor requested $24 million for the Synagro led project, but the Council ultimately set funding at $21.5 million.
Kobayashi's amendment also includes a proviso that other technologies must be studied before a new digester at Sand Island can be built, for example, conversion of sludge to energy.
The city's operational and capital budgets now head to Carlisle's desk for his approval.