Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Good Way to Spend Five Billion in Honolulu

Someone asked me this: If you save Oahu the five plus billion dollars that rail would cost in local taxes, how would you spend it? Here is my response.

Five Billion Dollars is a mighty sum and lots of good things can be done with it. Recall that five billion is 5,000 million. Also recall that Charlotte, North Carolina built its light rail with 450 million dollars. Less than $100 million of the rail system's cost burdened the city’s taxpayers; the rest was contibuted from state and federal resources.

Honolulu plans to do the same for a cost of over 6,400 million dollars for 30 miles of rail, with five billion dollars of tax burden for Oahu’s 400,000 taxpayers. The city recently announced at a City Council session that there will be budget shortfalls for both construction and maintenance. They said that budget shortfalls will be covered by increased property taxes.

I estimate that property taxes need to increase by at least 40% to cover construction and operation shortfalls as soon as the GET 4.5% sunsets to 4.0% in 2022.

I do not plan to increase any taxes in four years. My budget plan for investing five billion dollars of local taxes on local infrastructure is as follows:

  1. Assuming that the already expended $0.5 billion has been spent on good and necessary work, then $1.0 billion to bring our sewers to a B+ state.
  2. About $1 billion for two trash factories that will allow us to close Waimanalo Gulch landfill and generate valuable recyclables with only 2% if trash being actual waste. We can actually afford to ship this little residual waste to mainland landfills. This billion also includes monies to convert the WG landfill into a methane and photovoltaic energy producing unit.
  3. About $1.5 billion to bring city pavements to a C+ condition. Right now we are at a solid F, since Honolulu ranks 3rd bottom out of 67 cities with a population of 500,000 or more in road quality.
  4. About $0.5 billion for traffic operations quick (but effective) fixes such as traffic light synchrolization, underpasses, spot lane additions and other localized bottleneck fixes.
  5. About $0.5 billion on general community welfare including fixes to parks, beaches, athletic complexes, libraries, pools, and playgrounds.
  6. And $0.5 billion matched by a federal and private partnership to form a $1.0 billion financing block to build 10-12 miles of reversible high occupancy express lanes from the H-1 and H-2 freeway merge to Airport, Kalihi and Iwilei which will solve the supermajority of the congestion issues on the Leeward corridor.

For more details and interesting movies and posts about my ideas and 21st century solutions, please visit my main campaign site at panosforprogress.com and its HQ (digital headquarters) section.