David Shapiro: The stink of rail will follow Kirk Caldwell wherever he goes
It’s rich to see Mayor Kirk Caldwell posing as the voice of truth on Oahu’s floundering $9.2 billion rail project.
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It’s rich to see Mayor Kirk Caldwell posing as the voice of truth on
Oahu’s floundering $9.2 billion rail project.
He’s lately flogged directors of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation for over-promising on the start date for interim rail service between Kapolei and Aloha Stadium and foot-dragging on utilities relocation along the Dillingham Boulevard rail corridor.
Caldwell blamed his decision to drop his proposed $722 million Blaisdell Center renovation on possible future cost increases for rail construction and operations.
“If we don’t deliver on the promises made, what remaining trust we have is going to evaporate,” he lectured the HART board, as if he or HART have any remaining public trust.
It adds up to a cynical attempt to cleanse himself of rail’s stench and evade blame for further likely overruns as he finishes his remaining months as mayor and prepares to run for governor in 2022.
If Caldwell has problems with the work of HART’s board, he should complain to a mirror. As mayor he appoints four of the nine voting members, more than anybody else, and the board directly reflects his values and priorities.
In seven-plus years as mayor — and during his previous time as former Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s managing director and self-described “primary point person” on rail — he’s been a prince of big promises and nondelivery, a leading voice of the “on time and on budget” lie until it was exposed.
Elected in 2012 on a promise to “build rail better,” he declared, “The current $5.2 billion budget includes a very large contingency and adequate reserves for short-term financing. Reports that it will cost $7 billion or more are only scare tactics unsupported by anyone except tea party-style rail
On his watch, construction costs have nearly doubled to $9.2 billion, and he’s begged two bailouts from the Legislature while fighting state lawmakers’ efforts to hold the city and HART more accountable for surging costs.
His resistance to HART’s suggested October opening of Aloha Stadium service — or even the originally planned December opening — is self-serving.
The further into the next fiscal year he can push the opening, the less in first-year operating funds he’ll have to come up with in his final budget, leaving to the next mayor the question he’s shamefully ducked of where the city will get rail operating costs that could ultimately exceed $140 million a year.
His claim that he had to cancel the Blaisdell renovation because of rail costs comes after years of his misleading representations that the two had different funding sources and could both proceed.
The Blaisdell project more likely flopped because Caldwell couldn’t make good on his pledge to recruit a viable private partner before his term ends in December, and blaming HART was a convenient excuse.
Reach David Shapiro at email@example.com.