THE BIG QUESTION:
SHALL OAHU VOTERS DEMAND
ANOTHER VOTE ON RAIL ??
This is an
that HIRA will address below as we request your valuable input.
First, what a rollercoaster ride the past few weeks have been. Every single day, more bad news is revealed about Oahu's rail project:
- The City's own audit of HART reveals the rail agency to be a complete disaster.
- The new pricetag keeps going up, up, and up again -- $10.79 billion and counting.
- The desire of politicians and their puppetmasters in the construction industry to keep soaking taxpayers for more money is nearly universal.
- The most recent and very deliberate election-year manipulation of voters features the illusion of 'stopping at Middle Street'.
- Politicians reassure their partners in the Rail Syndicate that they'll be back for higher taxes next year to 'get the funds' to 'finish the entire job' including 'expansions in three or four directions'.
- The realization that politicians from both political parties helped to push rail, created HART, provide the blank check, and dig us into this hole.
- The even worse realization that the pro-rail syndicate led by PRP (which now has three times the money in their pockets to spend on manipulating elections thanks to the tripling of the cost of rail) can afford to select which politicians will win and which will lose. [Just ask Ben Cayetano.]
TURNING BACK THE CLOCK?
To understand what we can do about this fiasco, you need to appreciate several key moments in local political history that helped to shape the outrageous current events listed above.
10 years ago, Honolulu's City Council and then-mayor Muliufi "Mufi" Hannemann made a very expensive decision which put taxpayers on the hook for the biggest public works fiasco in Hawaii history: They selected the ENTIRE route for the "full" rail system -- the expanded one desired by the pro-rail consortium of special interest groups which form the Rail Syndicate. At the time, the promised pricetag was $3 billion for the whole enchilada . . . NOT just from Kroc Center to Ala Moana Center, but the entire line with several extensions. It seemed like such a sweet deal!!
Since the greedy groups that make up the Rail Cartel and their politician puppets wanted to get their hands on Federal dollars in addition to local tax dollars, they designated the full route as Honolulu's "
Locally Preferred Alternative
" or LPA, in keeping with the lingo of the Federal Transit Authority (FTA).
That "LPA" includes the Rail Syndicate's East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center route (the dark blue lines), PLUS all of the super-expensive extensions to Waikiki, UH Manoa, the HNL airport, and West Kapolei, near Target and close to the Ko Olina/Disney resort area (the faded blue lines). All told, based on everything we've learned in the past few weeks, it's likely that this "
" will cost an untold tens of billions more than three times of the initial amount for construction and untold hundreds of millions per year for taxpayers to subsidize operations and maintenance. More about that later.
Next, in 2007, the City Council and Mayor Hannemann pushed ahead to approve a 'starter route' known in FTA lingo as the "Minimum Operable Segment" or "MOS". This is the initial 20-mile, 21-station route between East Kapolei and Ala Moana Center for which the City would ask the Federal government for grant funds to help subsidize construction while also using an increase in the General Excise Tax or GET to soak local taxpayers along with a few tourists. [This "Minimum Operable Segment" is also the same "MOS" which has completely run out of money now that the City and HART are only expected to collect a grand total of $6.8 billion (from the GET tax and the Fed $$) for a project which will cost nearly $11 billion and counting. This is the reason why the City and HART are talking about shortening the MOS to Middle Street only and then coming back to taxpayers and the Feds for EVEN MORE MONEY next year -- billion$ more.]
VOTING ON RAIL AT THE BALLOT BOX
It was never the idea of politicians or the rail consortium to let voters decide whether or not to go forward with the rail project. A coalition of rail skeptics, conservatives, liberals, libertarians and independents joined forces as "
Stop Rail Now
" to put the rail issue on the ballot in 2008 after it became obvious that state and local politicians were controlled by special interest money. The anti-rail group formed specifically to put rail on the ballot because, by 2008, it was extremely obvious that elected politicians bought off by the Rail Syndicate simply didn't care that the rail project would strain the small population of taxpayers on Oahu with eventual cost explosions. These politicians also didn't care that virtually everywhere else in the country that the Rail Cartel has pushed for tax increases to finance construction of a local rail transit system, massive cost overruns and disappointing ridership and worsening traffic congestion were the typical results.
Even the City's own barely-publicized studies revealed in early 2008 that
traffic congestion would be a whopping 57% worse
, not better, WITH RAIL. So the #1 benefit from rail sought by Oahu residents was nonexistent. But after hearing Mufi Hannemann along with pro-rail advocates in City government and elsewhere repeating the mantra that "rail would reduce traffic congestion", a single day's newspaper headline barely made a dent in the public's manipulated perception that 'Rail = Traffic Relief' for motorists on H-1 and elsewhere.
And so, in 2008, activists and voters knew they needed to take things into their own hands. They started collecting the tens of thousands of signatures from registered voters needed to put the question of rail on the ballot. Little did they realize that the 2008 General Election would arguably become the most manipulated outcome in Hawaii political history.
AN UNHOLY ALLIANCE
Throughout 2008, the City and the news media and the Rail Syndicate (with multiple pro-rail SuperPAC's funded by unions and rail contractors running endless TV and radio ads) relentlessly pummeled voters with false information designed to mislead voters. The deception campaign was formulated on two central yet little-known truths.
First, it was known from the City's studies that the tiny ridership of public transportation on Oahu (TheBus) of merely 6.1% would possibly increase to 7.4% of all commuters after billions are spent for rail, according to the City's November 2006 Alternatives Analysis report by city consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff. So, the pro-railers knew that most voters in 2008 would be expecting 'someone else' to give up their car to ride bus/rail to and from work each day, since most voters fully intended to keep driving their vehicles once rail was operational.
Second, the media regularly surveyed voters in 2008 and found that the only reason most people would consider voting FOR the rail project (and the $3.9 billions in taxes) is IF traffic congestion would definitely be reduced by a significant amount. Based on these truths, pro-rail 'opinion engineers' knew that Oahu voters could be made to support rail if they were led to believe that enough other commuters would give up their cars for rail.
In late July of 2008, Ward Research Inc. conducted
"The Hawai'i Poll" for The Honolulu Advertiser and KGMB9
validated the pro-rail strategy of targeting commuters with a message of traffic congestion relief. After all the pro-rail propaganda selling "congestion relief", the poll found that residents were likely to vote in favor of rail transit by a nearly two-to-one margin.
Rebecca Ward, president of Ward Research, knew exactly how to interpret the results: "People are so frustrated with traffic and this is the solution that they see." According to the poll, 65 percent of those supporting the project said rail is needed because there's too much traffic or a need for traffic relief.
Never mind the inconvenient fact that the rail project would surely disappoint commuters by not preventing traffic from worsening in the future; an estimated 57 percent more traffic on H-1 during morning rush hour in 2030 than in 2003.
As rail opponent Cliff Slater pointed out
, "If 65 percent of the people who favor believe it's going to reduce traffic congestion, that's an educational problem. They're not talking from a factual basis. They're not going to get any traffic relief. The city has totally misled them." But the inconvenient truth about the congestion issue which mattered most to Oahu voters in 2008 merely needed to be glossed over and even lied about. Simply put, this was a public relations challenge that the pro-railers had the financial resources to finesse.
So what did the unholy alliance of City, the news media and the Rail Cartel do for months leading up to Election Day 2008?? They lied. Over and over. Repeatedly. The City
broadcast taxpayer funded commercials
assuring voters that rail will reduce Oahu's traffic congestion. Also, the Hannemann administration
distributed a pre-election press release
from Mufi's and now HART's spokesman
promising a rail pricetag of $3.9 billion ($2.9 billion plus a $1 billion contingency fund) along with 23% traffic congestion relief. The news media dutifully promoted the bogus story that rail would reduce traffic congestion -- including a tabloid headline just days before the election
promising 23% traffic relief
. And the Rail Syndicate paid campaign canvassers to go door-to-door echoing these lies while their
ubiquitous TV commercials
spread the bogus "it will reduce traffic" pre-election propaganda.
That was the 'air game'. As for the 'ground game', right before the 2008 election Kirk Caldwell (then the Democrat majority leader in the State House) told "Go Rail Go" volunteers headed out to canvass Oahu neighborhoods such as Mililani that the City's pre-election claim of 23% traffic congestion relief is "proof that the system will only help commuters."
Caldwell's associate Justin Fanslau, prorail coalition campaign manager, piled on the shibai
: "This proves everything you have been saying door to door. We've squished our opposition today. Everything we've told you is true. The fact remains traffic congestion will be reduced by 11 to 23 percent."
It really was the most manipulated election outcome in Hawaii political history
. . . with cover up aftershocks seen in PRP's sustained character assassination campaign against mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano four years later in 2012, plus Caldwell's "blame HART" strategy (swallowed hook and sinker by the media) of continuous price increases in 2014 all the way till today. Even the media ignores the fact that HART's enormous 'nonpolitical' bureaucracy and its board are comprised of flunkies from the Hannemann and Caldwell administrations along with other Democrats and aligned pro-rail groups. Heck, even Mufi's paid City spokesman is now the HART spokesman.
THE ROYAL SCAM
Back to 2008 and the rail vote, the City and the news media and the Rail Syndicate made voters the explicit promise of 23% reduction in traffic congestion for a $3.9 billion pricetag. It turns out they were all lying.
Fast forward to today. Now, instead we find that the promise has radically changed to 57% worse traffic congestion for nearly $11 billion and counting.
SOME IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT
Would the question of moving ahead with the rail project still have passed in 2008 by the very narrow majority of 50.6% of the vote if voters knew all the facts we know today?
How did the price triple and who personally financially benefits from the higher price?
Were the promises of "10,000 new jobs per year", a "temporary tax", "traffic relief" and "affordable housing galore" just lies to sucker us into paying higher taxes?
Have they been lying to us all along and can we trust them anymore?
Are these politicians and bureaucrats and developers and contractors and unions only pursuing their own interests at our expense?
Is this permanent increase in our cost of living worth it to increase public transportation ridership from 6% to 7% if all goes as planned?
How many of convenient and affordable Express BUS routes from West and Central Oahu are planned to be eliminated to feed the ridership of The Rail?
With 50% of Hawaii residents already overtaxed and living from paycheck to paycheck,knowing that Honolulu could easily become the next Detroit, why are we letting these greedy anti American ideologues do this to us and future generations of our children and Hawaii residents?
Since people did not vote YES for Hawaii Bankruptcy in a form of an $11 billion train costing $200 million annually to operate and which comes with a 57% increase in traffic congestion once the train is operational, do we deserve to take another vote?
Is it time to put rail affordability back on the ballot and put the people in charge?
Finally, it's clear that powerful state and local politicians from BOTH political parties have recently spoken in favor of squeezing even more money from taxpayers once this November's election is behind us. Governor Ige and the state legislature are talking about increasing taxes for decades to pay for the 'full buildout' of rail beyond the 20 mile route currently planned. Mayor Caldwell and members of the city council are saying the same thing. In fact,
the just passed City budget includes language added by Council members
requiring $12 million to be used for a study examining planned route extensions to downtown Kapolei and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The fix is in.
CELEBRATING MORE THAN EVER
The Rail Cartel gets $11 billion instead of just $3 billion
That's right, taxpayers. Nothing has changed. There's no "stopping at Middle Street". The Rail Syndicate and Hawaii's political machine will continue all the way until they've soaked you and your family for everything you've got. THEY WANT YOUR MONEY and THEIR FRIENDS WANT YOUR MONEY. Nothing will change, unless . . . Now comes the big decision from you. Has the time come for (and would you support) putting rail on the ballot again? Do you deserve another vote?
It can happen. But it will take action from YOU, not the politicians.
A voters' initiative creating a City ordinance (law) specifically limiting this boondoggle -- this runaway train -- could put you in charge. If your answer is YES and if you are mad as hell and won't take this arrogant abuse of common sense anymore, please click reply, write back to us, and LET HIRA ACTION KNOW SOON. It's your city. It's your government. You can take it back.
Central Oahu Resident
Leeward Oahu Resident
HIRA Vice President
2014 Congressional Candidate
HAWAII REPUBLICAN ASSEMBLY (HIRA)
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is the conservative standard-bearer of the Republican Party of Hawaii
and the leading advocate for conservative solutions in the islands.
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