Friday, July 23, 2010

Oahu Statistics: City, State and Federal Employees

The graph below shows City, State and Federal employment counts on Oahu from 1990 to 2010.

City jobs have been above 10,000 employees and over time they grew by almost 30% while at the same time population grew by less than 10%.

Federal jobs were at an all time high from January 1990 to September 1993 and retrenched to below 30,000 due to the combined effects of Hurricane Iniki, the Gulf War and the burst of the economic bubble in Asia. Despite the recent prolonged recession, federal job count has increased to over 30,000 again since 2007.

The number of state jobs fluctuates greatly from month to month. September almost always has the lowest number of employees followed by a sudden spike of a few thousand in October. This pattern clearly depicts the seasonal effect of 9-month public school teachers (state DOE.)

Soon after the 2008 recession the total State employment on Oahu surpassed 60,000 people for the first time but the count receded in 2010. In the 19 years from 1990 to 2009 state employee count on Oahu increased by 10,000 or +20% whereas population grew by less than 10%.

In other words, between 1990 and 2009, the state government on Oahu added an entire Honolulu city government onto itself!

Two more observations. Bloated government comes at a high cost to the taxpayer. According to a recent article in The San Francisco Chronicle, Hawaii tops the list in total state taxes among all states in the union. That's a very pricey distinction.

Oahu state government added a lot more people as soon as Information Technology (IT, that is computer automation of bureaucracies) took hold. It appears that the powers in charge (government, legislature and unions) kept thousands in the dark ages and hired 5,000 new government workers for the new ages.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rail Lessons from Greece

  • Losses at Hellenic Railways continue to mount — at the rate of $3.8 million, a day. Its total debt has increased to $13 billion, or about 5% of Greece’s gross domestic product.
In comparison, the proposed rail for Oahu is 400% the annual amount of Oahu's CIP budget.
  • Some have argued that Hellenic Railways should shut down the majority of its routes; trains manned by drivers being paid as much as $130,000 a year frequently run empty.
Outside multimillion population cities in the U.S., metro rail systems run basically empty except for a couple of hours around the AM and PM commute times. Typical U.S. Transit Authority managers are paid $250,000 to $400,000 annual salaries.
  • The general secretary for the Greek Transport Ministry, contends that the government’s plan to close at least 35 loss-making routes and cut 2,500 jobs will make Hellenic Railways attractive to foreign investors.
But the former transportation minister responded: "I said I was not going to privatize Hellenic Railways because I knew I couldn’t find an investor silly enough to invest in a company with so much debt.”

How many investors have "Mufi Hannemann and the Pro-Railers" found?

Zero investors but thousands of payers! The 400,000 Oahu taxpayers!

Source: All bullets excerpted from New York Times' Greek Rail System’s Debt Adds to Economic Woes.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Desperate Statements for a Failed Rail Project

Honolulu's sewers ate Mayor Hannemann's rail. See

Sewer settlement will cost Honolulu $4.7 billion over 25 years

Recall that in 2008 when we voted for rail and 50.6% said yes, the cost of the rail was $4.6 Billion. Now sewers alone are costing us $4.5 Billion.

Now compare items (1) and (2) below to get a sense of the mayor's desperation.


(Wed., July 14, 2010)—Mayor Mufi Hannemann today said he is very pleased that Congressman Jim Oberstar, chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, yesterday publicly referred to Honolulu’s rail project “the premier transit project in the entire country.”


We are listed in Preliminary Engineering for 2011

No money for Honolulu this year

Read Page 139 BARELY passable overall MEDIUM rating.

Capital Costs gets a Low rating

Operating Costs etc. gets a Medium-Low rating

Capital Cost Estimates, Planning Assumptions, and Financial Capacity: Low

· Assumptions regarding growth in GET revenues and Section 5309 bus discretionary funds are

optimistic compared to historical experience. Financing costs appear to be understated.

· The capital cost estimate is considered reasonable.

· The financial plan show the City has little ability to address funding shortfalls or cost increases.

The GET surcharge revenues that will be applied to project-related debt service provide very slim Operating Cost Estimates, Planning Assumptions, and Financial Capacity: Medium-Low

· Assumptions regarding state operating subsidies and growth in rail unit operating costs and bus and paratransit operating costs are optimistic compared to historical experience.

· The operating cash flow assumes a balanced budget, with no accrual of an operating surplus or reserve.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Abandoned, Unfinished, Elevated Rail ... For the Children

When all arguments in favor of a six billion dollar elevated rail boondoggle on Oahu prove to be myths, then proponents say, "we need rail for the sake of our children."

Unfortunately, they fail to realize that the six billion rail is heavily mortgaged and payments will be heavy and permanent "for the children."

Here is how an abandoned, unfinished, elevated rail can be turned into an asset for the children.

This story has two lessons:
(1) Elevated rail can be stopped and abandoned long after construction has started.
(2) A playground is a far better and far more affordable quality-of-life addition than ugly elevated rail.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

America's Energy Policy...

... managed by politicians.

A brilliant 7-minute summary by Jon Stewart.

Politicians anyone?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Why Cities Are Broke or, There is Something Tragic About a Train...

Nick Gillespie is editor in chief of and He asks... "Why cities are broke or, there is something tragic about a train or a light rail system or a streetcar boondoggle that just makes people (well, pols and their civilian enablers) wet their pants over the prospect of tossing 19th-century technology and 21st century debt obligations at cities and states and countries that are already dead broke." It's a great brief that you can read HERE.