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Friday, October 24, 2014         

VOLCANIC ASH


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New developments show rail project way off track

By David Shapiro

POSTED:



Just when you think you can’t lose any more confidence in how the city is running the $5.5 billion rail project, new reasons abound. Some troubling recent developments:

» The city has granted $1.6 billion in contracts for construction and rail cars with only $600 million in the bank, no commitment on federal funding, the Legislature threatening to raid the rail fund for the state deficit and no updated financial plan telling how the city will pay for inevitable shortfalls.

» The Italian company Ansaldo, given the $574 million contract to provide 80 rail cars, has a history of troubles in other cities and seems to have been selected because it structured its bid to low-ball upfront design/build costs while making it up with high maintenance costs on the back end.

» City Council Chairman Nestor Garcia, who cast deciding votes on several 5-4 tallies to move rail forward and was criticized for cutting off testimony from rail critics, turns out to be receiving $60,000 a year for a part-time job with the strongly pro-rail Kapolei Chamber of Commerce.

» The Carlisle administration is straining to restrict Council oversight — and thus public oversight — of spending by the city’s new rail authority.

» A nationally respected environmental attorney is preparing a federal lawsuit claiming the city failed its legal obligation to give fair consideration to transportation alternatives other than rail.

» While the Council has made noises about getting back the 10 percent state skim from the rail excise tax for nonexistent administrative costs, which unnecessarily runs up the cost to Oahu taxpayers, Mayor Peter Carlisle wimpishly assured lawmakers that he wouldn’t try to recover the money.

» Carlisle campaigned as a rail supporter, but Oahuans uneasy about the way former Mayor Mufi Hannemann had personalized and politicized the project hoped the new mayor would at least undertake fresh due diligence and run the project more transparently.

Instead, Carlisle adopted the Hannemann script verbatim, kept on the former administration’s functionaries who were responsible for low public confidence and added nothing new to the mix.

Now he’s set to profit from it; having announced he’ll seek not one, but two new terms, he’s turned the usually nonpolitical mayor’s ball into a fundraiser that will likely start the rail donations rolling in.

Several of the four new Council members have made responsible attempts to do their own due diligence on rail but have felt stonewalled by the administration.

They, along with holdover members who know the feeling, don’t have to take the nose-thumbing.

With the power to turn off the source of rail funding, the Council has leverage to force the administration to become more forthcoming and transparent — or else — and they owe their constituents the backbone to provide the sorely needed check.

David Shapiro can be reached at volcanicash@gmail.com or blog.volcanicash.net.






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