Councilwoman wants more transparency in 2 Honolulu rail programs
Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi on Monday linked concerns over the city’s rail project to frustrations that have led to mass arrests at Mauna Kea, Waimanalo’s Sherwood Forest and the Kahuku wind farm.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi on Monday linked concerns over the city’s rail project to frustrations that have led to mass arrests at Mauna Kea, Waimanalo’s Sherwood
Forest and the Kahuku wind farm.
“The people really don’t feel their voices are being heard,” said Tsuneyoshi, who represents Oahu’s North Shore down to
So Tsuneyoshi has introduced two resolutions she hopes will bring greater transparency to two programs related to Honolulu’s rail project if the resolutions are adopted by the Council today.
Resolution 19-256 urges the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to
assure the City Council that the contract for a public-
private partnership to complete the last four miles
of the rail project will be provided to the Council
before it’s executed.
Resolution 19-257 urges the U.S. Department of Interior to postpone approval of a land exchange between the state and the city over a nearly 56-acre parcel that already is being used by the rail project for maintenance and storage.
Both resolutions are up for action at a meeting of the Council’s Committee
on Executive Matters and Legal Affairs scheduled for
1 p.m. today.
HART spokesman Bill Brennan said rail officials are reviewing both resolutions, and had no further comment.
Tsuneyoshi said taxpayers deserve more transparency about the state’s largest public works project.
Both of her resolutions “relate to a lack of transparency that we’re dealing with right now,” she said.
Tsuneyoshi acknowledged that her call for Council members to see HART’s so-called “P3”
public-private partnership agreement for the last four miles of rail line through the urban core could run afoul of state procurement rules designed to keep
distance between elected officials and contractors seeking government business.
But she said taxpayers deserve assurances before proceeding with the next and last phase of the rail construction, which will
obligate taxpayers for a subsequent 30 years once construction is complete.
“We really should be able to know what we’re signing onto before that happens,” Tsuneyoshi said. “This is
really to address concerns that the general public has had, and continues to have, about the cost of this project. … Residents have asked over and over again, and the Council has asked over and over again, What is the true cost to taxpayers?”
Resolution 19-257 particularly addresses concerns of Hawaiians who are entitled to Hawaiian home lands. The state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands intends to give a nearly 56-acre parcel in Waipahu to the city for more than 50 acres of city land in Kapolei.
Even though the land swap has not been approved by the U.S. Department of Interior, a HART maintenance and storage facility already has been erected on the Waipahu parcel.
And there is great discrepancy in the value of both properties.
The DHHL parcel, which is zoned for residential use, has an assessed value of more than $21 million. The city parcel, which is zoned for agricultural use, is valued at less than $5 million, according to city property tax data.
With a $16 million discrepancy in the value of the two properties, Tsuneyoshi asked Monday, “What is
the true asset to the beneficiaries” of Hawaiian home lands?
But overall, when it comes to the rail project, Tsuneyoshi said, “we need to do a better job … to do our due diligence in a more robust and open way.”