Rail Lies, Deceptions and Increasing Costs May Bankrupt Honolulu.

COST Commentary: City of Austin and Cap Metro executives are presenting the CAMPO Transit Working Group (TWG) a continuing series of shallow, unsupported, distorted, deceptive and false statements, comments and presentations regarding their clearly pre-determined recommendations for an urban rail system in Austin. CAMPO has engaged “consultants” such as Cambridge Systematics which has a long history in Austin of “telling the customer what they wish to hear.” Their consulting work in Austin, over many years and numerous engagements, has been very questionable and has almost always supported the customers’ known or perceived desires with biased conclusions which are not supported by sound engineering and analytical evaluations.

The only way the TWG can be expected to make sound, informed judgments regarding this vital, largest in history, urban rail project is to provide the TWG with comprehensive and unbiased information from competent, professional sources who do not have the array of conflicts which prevail in the current process. This will cost a minuscule amount compared to the magnitude of this project and can substantially reduce the risks of wastefully spending up to billions of taxpayer dollars.

The articles below are regarding Hawaii but the story is similar to what is developing in Austin. If Austin stays on its current track with urban rail, the story could well develop in a similar way as described in this paragraph from the first article below, written by a citizen: “The Hawaii public is increasingly angry about the soaring cost of the heavy elevated rail which could cost up to $400 Million per mile and likely bankrupt the city. The increasing public awareness of the outright lies and deceptions based upon original 2008 routes and costs is also driving the unprecedented bi-partisan, liberal/conservation Democrat/Republican support for Governor Cayetano’s run for Mayor of Honolulu.”

The second article was recently published in the Hawaii Reporter
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The following was written by a knowledgable citizen, April 2012.

The Hawaii Legislature Today KILLED Major Pro-Rail Bill 2927 As Heavy Rail Opposition Increasingly Grows

FTA Internal Rail Emails Warned Of Coming Honolulu Rail Fiasco, Lawsuits…(see below)

Aloha,

The Hawaii State Legislature ended it’s 2012 Session and killed pro-rail Bill 2927…Public opinion polls in Hawaii are increasingly against the soaring multi-billion dollar heavy elevated rail costs and debt
liabilities…

The controversial bill that would promote development around rail transit stations has been effectively killed for this session. It was also a rebuff to the agenda of Sen. Inouye, who has been behind the scenes pushing every political and government button to move his beloved personal rail monument
forward.

Senate President Shan Tsutsui moved to recommit Senate Bill 2927 to conference committee, and with today being the last day of the session, the bill is dead. The House also moved to kill the bill as well.
Bill 2927 would have also hired more positions that would be funded by theHonolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation. HART is increasingly unpopular for the enormously high salaries and redundant positions it has for an organization that already gets major City funding as other critical Honolulu City services, staff positions and infrastructure funds are increasingly cut back, including the popular City bus system.

Rail is still 7-10 years from even being operational so the Honolulu public is increasingly concerned as to why HART is so over larded with salaries and positions. HART does little more than hold meetings and advocate for more public money devoted to rail, while also passing out key-chains, coloring books and other special gifts and prizes.

Public opinion polls, blogs, phone calls and the popularity of Gov. Cayetano’s campaign for Honolulu Mayor as well as the general growing anger against soaring Honolulu rail costs and future liabilities significantly influenced legislators to kill the bill in both houses.

Opposition to Bill 2927 was opposed by a wide spectrum of liberal and conservative organizations opposed to the ballooning construction and maintenance costs of Honolulu Rail which could run as high as $8 Billion dollars, or $400 Million dollars PER MILE, significantly increasing many different taxes and fees on already overburdened Oahu residents. This includes an already required City wide $5 Billion EPA project which Sen. Inouye had previously stated would “bankrupt the city.”

The Hawaii public is increasingly angry about the soaring cost of the heavy elevated rail which could cost up to $400 Million per mile and likely bankrupt the city. The increasing public awareness of the outright lies and deceptions based upon original 2008 routes and costs is also driving the unprecedented bi-partisan, liberal/conservation Democrat/Republican support for Governor Cayetano’s run for Mayor of Honolulu.

The public also doesn’t believe Senator Inouye is justified in pushing local officials to start rail before a Full Funding Agreement for $1.5 Billion has been secured and verified in writing. Inouye was hoping that by starting rail construction, even without FTA funding approval and before the 2012 mayoral election and pending major rail lawsuit, that he could make it “impossible to stop.” Inouye has also vowed that “only WW-III” can stop him and rail from being constructed. He and Mayor Carlisle have characterized rail opponents as “the enemy to be defeated.”

A Civil Beat – The February 2012 CB poll of likely Oahu voters found 34 percent in favor and 55 percent opposed to Rail. That hasn’t shifted in the latest poll just out, with Oahu voters in the CB April poll at 36 percent in favor and 55 percent opposed.
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The Honolulu Star Advertiser — Daily Q Poll

Do you agree with the city’s decision to begin rail construction before securing full federal funding approval?

Yes. – 33% (464 votes)
No. – 65% (930 votes)
Undecided. – 2% (30 votes)
Total Votes: 1,424

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Honolulu Star Advertiser Feb 12, 2012

“The new Honolulu Star-Advertiser/Hawaii News Now poll shows that 53 percent of Honolulu residents do not think the city should continue the project. In one year there has been an 8-percentage point shift. Last year, a similar poll had 49 percent supporting and 45 percent saying stop. That is a big swing in one year.”

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The following emails were obtained through Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests:

Subject: FTA Internal Rail Emails Warn Of Coming Honolulu Rail Fiasco, Lawsuits

AR00138475 Ossi, Joseph To: Barr, James ; Matley, Ted Sent: 4/21/2009 10:28:29 AM

“As you know, the EPA has recently submitted a letter questioning why alternatives to an elevated rail line, such as light rail at street level and bus rapid transit, weren’t evaluated in the project’s environmental impact study. Would EPA’s questioning of the EIS process possibly impact the timeline of the project?

Unless we have good justification in the public NEPA record for eliminating the EPA alternative from consideration, we would be extremely vulnerable in a NEPA suit, and there are numerous potential litigants. If we do not have good justification in the public NEPA record for eliminating the EPA alternative from consideration, then we should supplement the NEPA record. That will take time, but not as much time as litigation.” [Note that the “bus rapid transit” in the EPA letter was “bus rapid transit on a busway.”]

AR00150118 From: Ryan, James Sent: Thursday, October 12, 2006 8:42 AM
To: Sukys, Raymond Cc: Libberton, Sean ; Fisher, Ronald

“We seem to be proceeding in the hallowed tradition of Honolulu rapid transit studies: never enough time to do it right, but lots of time to do it over.”

AR00150071 Ossi, Joseph Sent: Tuesday, November 14, 2006 2:10 PM To:
Ryan, James ; Sukys, Raymond Cc: Turchie, Donna ; Marler,
Renee

“This isn’t an FTA issue. Let the city deal with it. They have produced 3 failed projects and are well on their way to a fourth, so why is FTA wasting time on the City’s problems?”

Response From: Sukys, Raymond To: Ossi, Joseph ; Ryan, James
CC: Turchie, Donna ; Marler, Renee Sent: 11/14/2006 1:03:25
PM

“This is different. This time they have a huge cash flow which will build something. It seems likely that we will get involved in litigation again especially since we have an erroneous NOI out there. I do not think the FTA should be associated with their lousy practices of public manipulation and we should call them on it.”

151187 From: Sukys, Raymond (TRO-09) To: Ossi, Joseph (TPE) Sent: 1/4/2006
7:52:16 AM Subject: FW: FYI – Complaint on Honolulu’s public process

“Toru, again, has aggravated a lot of people. He was recently named in a suit over a procurement issue and during scoping indicated that one of the alternatives (hot lanes) stated in the NOI would be dropped from evaluation since FTA would not fund it, despite our notice that we would evaluate it.”
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This article was published in the Hawaii Reporter, April 16, 2012

Big Business Leaders Align to Save City’s Planned $5.3 Billion Honolulu Rail Project As Its Popularity Declines

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN

With growing public cynicism and skepticism about the city’s planned $5.3 billion elevated steel on steel rail project, a number of stakeholders are stepping up their public relations efforts to ensure the 20-mile project is actually completed.

About 30 powerful big business leaders formed a group, Move Oahu Forward, in February, with the backing of Hawaii’s Senior Senator Daniel Inouye, and announced their organization members today. They hope to convince the public the rail will improve Oahu.

While they have money, power and connections on their side, rail critics say they have truth on theirs. They note the project has lost support because it has changed so drastically since the public voted to approve the controversial project by a narrow margin in 2008, and because of deception by those in charge.

As Honolulu City Council Budget Chair Ann Kobayashi points out, voters believed in 2008 that the rail would cost $3.7 billion and be several miles longer, extending to the Salt Lake and the University of Hawaii’s Manoa Campus. Now the rail has ballooned in cost by about $1.6 billion and will skip Salt Lake and stop at the Ala Moana Center, far short of the University.

Former Gov. Ben Cayetano, a rail critic running for Honolulu mayor in part to stop the project, said before the 2008 rail vote, the city administration under then Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann spent $5 million on advertising the rail, and hired 10 public relations firms to gain public support – all on the taxpayer dime.

As more information is released about the project via Cayetano’s mayoral campaign, and discovery in a federal lawsuit challenging the validity of the city’s environmental impact statement selecting rail as the best alternative, public support has further diminished.

Recent polls show just over 30 percent of the public now favors the project. And city council members, who with few exceptions, blindly supported the project, are now asking more probing questions about finances, funding, management and construction impact.

The stakes are high. Billions of dollars will go to contractors and their vendors – and in some cases, back to the politicians who support the deal. And Hawaii’s big business leaders, many who benefit financially from the project, don’t want it stopped.

Connie Lau, who also heads Oahu’s monopoly energy company, Hawaiian Electric Industries, and is co-chair of the group Move Oahu Forward, said: “We have a rare opportunity to vastly improve our transportation system on Oahu and secure a better quality of life for many in our community. The recent accident that shut down a big part of the H-1 freeway magnified the need for a comprehensive, integrated transportation solution that should include rail transit, in addition to our buses and highways.”

Richard Dahl, Move Oahu Forward co-chair and head of Campbell Estate, one of the state’s largest landowners, said: “This is a critical time for the rail transit project. We lost the opportunity before and we cannot afford to lose it again. We have confidence in the Federal Transit Authority’s (FTA) review process and believe that Honolulu has a very viable project with a sound financial plan. We are pleased to hear that the project has already collected more than $800 million in General Excise and Use Tax (GET) revenue, which is ahead of projections and in addition the cost of the project is below the estimated cost. ”

Cayetano, who in addition to being a candidate for mayor is a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit challenging the rail project, said these companies “want at least $5.27 billion of our tax dollars spent on an obsolete rail system that wouldn’t reduce traffic congestion and would slash a 20-mile concrete scar from Kapolei to Ala Moana.”

“If these wealthy executives think rail is such a good deal, all 30 of their companies should chip in $180 million each and buy the thing,” Cayetano said.

Kobayashi said she was surprised the businesses are spending so much money to promote the rail project, when it is already underway. “I could not understand why the business group is getting money together to spend money to convince people. I mean is there a vote? I just could not understand the reasoning. I would rather see that money go to something like the Cancer Society or the Domestic Violence Action Line or more affordable housing. There are a lot of groups that could use the money,” she said.

University of Hawaii Law Professor Randall Roth, who has been a whistleblower for public and private corruption during his well regarded career, said: “Billions of dollars will draw a crowd whether you spend it on a railroad or throw it from the top of a tall building. And then there are CEOs with business reasons not to say no when Sen. Inouye asks a favor.”

Roth, who is another of seven plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit, said: “Those on the list who claim to favor rail on the merits will hopefully agree to participate in a public debate in which participants are allowed to question each other. The public would surely prefer that to another wave of slick, pro-rail propaganda.”

This is not the first group pro-rail advocates have formed. Go Rail Go and the Pacific Resource Partnership have also run campaigns to promote the project.

University of Hawaii Engineering Professor Panos Prevedouros, one of Hawaii’s best-known rail critics, said “There are hundreds of large companies and thousands of small businesses on Oahu. But now the usual pro-rail suspects* got together and gave another name to the old and tired Go Rail Go which morphed into a construction unions operative.”

In terms of those in the Move Oahu Forward group, he said Hawaiian Electric Company, headed by Move Oahu Forward co Chair Connie Lau, alone has given Oahu the nightmare of 77% oil dependency for power generation and power rates 300% higher than mainland, and climbing.

“Instead of cutting down, it wants to sign up the 40 MW electric rail customer. How greedy and irresponsible!” Prevedouros said. “Move Oahu Forward? “Move Oahu Toward Us” … for our sustained profiteering, is more apt.”

One of Hawaii’s largest landowners, Campbell Estate, also is supporting the project, and the rail’s pilings are being housed there.

Prevedouros said the estate should be “credited” for giving Oahu mainland suburban sprawl (where transit has no chance to succeed,) instead of diversified agriculture.

“If they are so proud of their second city why do they need a $5 billion dollar tether to the first city for it?” Prevedouros asked.

The group does include a few surprises, Prevedouros said, such as Hawaiian Airlines and Outrigger Hotels.

“Business dealings and obligations to bankers and other creditors are partly at play here. Don’t forget that Aloun Farms has agreed to be obliterated by B.R.Horton’s Hoopili development in Ewa.”

He noted former Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who pushed through the project in 2008, manages the Hawaii Hotel Association.

In addition, Sen. Inouye, the project’s biggest cheerleader, can facilitate for foreign landing slots for Hawaiian Air, or intervene to protect HA stronghold markets, Prevedouros said.

“All kinds of interactions are at play. The rail is the tip of the collusion and interdependency iceberg. Overall, however, it is becoming clearer who the political puppet master is in the Honolulu rail affair.”

As Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle said last week at a rally for the rail project with construction workers and U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye by his side, this is a key time for the rail project’s future.

While technically the project is on track, and construction has already begun in recent weeks, a number of factors could derail it include the lawsuit, the mayor’s election, council action and $1.55 billion in federal funding now pending.

City Council members are trying to determine whether they will approve an additional $1.9 billion in bond authorizations for the project, when the rail was sold to the public on the promise that no money would be borrowed. The council approved the proposal in the Budget committee last week via Bill 33 over the objections of the council chair, but could be killed in a future vote.

In addition, the city administration and Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) – wants another $100 million authorized for the project – for a total of $450 million from the city taxpayers.

HART also wants to reserve the right to take $244 million in funding from the city’s Handivan and TheBus maintenance funds. That has further outraged the public, and the council, because bus riders now coping with cuts to The Bus and Handivan service, and the delayed maintenance may further impact services, Kobayashi said.

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