David Shapiro: $350M Aloha Stadium plan has flies on it already
Common Cause and the League of Women Voters last week awarded the 2019 Legislature its “Rusty Scalpel” award for using the deceitful gut-and-replace tactic to provide $350 million for a new stadium.
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With a new Aloha Stadium looming as Hawaii’s first major public works project after the rail fiasco, you’d hope the state would take special care that every move is above board.
But lawmakers couldn’t even get past the first step without major corner-cutting, shaking public confidence from the start.
Common Cause and the League of Women Voters last week awarded the 2019 Legislature its “Rusty Scalpel” award for using the deceitful gut-and-replace tactic to provide $350 million for a new stadium in a deal that could result in massive private development of hotels, condos, shops and restaurants on the Halawa site.
Under the bill ultimately signed by Gov. David Ige, control of the stadium rebuild went to the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which was responsible for the Kakaako redevelopment that’s resulted in mostly luxury condos sold mostly to outside speculators on one side of Ala Moana Boulevard and homeless encampments on the other side.
After failing to pass a stadium bill through the regular order of public hearings and three votes in each house, legislators late in the session gutted an unrelated bill on the environment and inserted language authorizing and funding the stadium redevelopment.
The bill then passed the two houses with restricted public hearings and readings.
Sandy Ma of Common Cause Hawaii said, “The Legislature should have fully and seriously considered HB 1586 and allowed the public to weigh in on the measure, given the major financial effects on the state.”
The two groups are challenging the legality of gut-and-replace in a case now before the state appeals court.
Legislators say the public will have opportunity to comment as the process moves along, but the bill pretty much closes the door on a site other than Halawa, a lead agency other than HCDA or a funding mechanism other than a public-private partnership.
Sounds a lot like rail: You can comment as much as you like as long as it’s steel wheels on elevated steel tracks going from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center with ample giveaways to private developers along the way.
HCDA earned a reputation for riding roughshod over public input while handing out variances to developers like Halloween candy in its Kakaako redevelopment, which was originally intended for workforce housing to help solve Oahu’s acute shortage of affordable units, not luxury condos.
The beautiful Kakaako Waterfront Park and Kakaako Gateway Park that were developed to bring much-needed open space to the urban waterfront turned into vandalized eyesores under HCDA’s stewardship.
In one memorable exchange with the public,
HCDA’s director answered complaints about reeking sewers by claiming the smell was caused by not enough caca running through the pipes.
The Legislature kicked off the new Aloha Stadium with the stink upfront.
Reach David Shapiro at firstname.lastname@example.org.