Monday, May 10, 2010

Honolulu's Mismanagement

Contrary to rhetoric that Honolulu is doing well under the current administration, the facts paint a different picture. Let’s look at just four examples.

First, Honolulu has the fifth highest debt per capita of America’s larger cities (See list below). Note that this debt does not include our inevitable shortfall in rail taxes, the $1.2 billion liability for secondary sewage treatment (the city lost both the suit and the appeal to EPA) or the funds needed for our roads which are some of the worst in the nation and will require billions for restoration (as opposed to the wasteful two inch overlays currently done in a hurry in order to “buy votes”).

Here’s Business Insider’s list of “America's Most Bankrupt Cities.” Honolulu is 5th worst in the nation.

1. Harrisburg PA Mayor Linda Thompson – per capita debt $1500
2. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing – per capita debt $780
3. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom – per capita debt $600
4. NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg – per capita debt $590
5. Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann – per capita debt $370
6. Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone – per capita debt $300
7. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake – per capita debt $190
8. Chicago Mayor Richard Daily – per capita debt $180
8. Reno Mayor Bob Cashell – per capita debt $180
8. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa – per capita debt $180
11. Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon – per capita debt $150
12. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman – per capita debt $140
13. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed – per capita debt $120
14. Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim – per capita debt $110
15. San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders – per capita debt $20

Second is the mismanagement of the rail project. For starters, the City and its multimillion dollar consultants failed to design a system that provides the required distance from the airport runway. After public humiliation they hastily came up with a rerouting which involves much more expensive condemnation. (Note that the added cost of the rerouting has not been mentioned yet.) This will likely further delay the issuance of the EIS.

The rail appears to be the top priority of the Hannemann/Caldwell Administration and yet they have failed to meet their promises. Look at this September 2009 pompous article by Caldwell and the highlighted milestones for the rail project, none of which were met!

Third are the incessant exaggerations about the magical abilities of their rail.

(1) How can they claim job gains when they tax Oahu taxpayers over $3 billion for this "job creation"? The fact is that rail, if started, might create 1,000 local jobs and will likely eliminate 4,000 local jobs through excessive taxation. Each local rail job will cost approximately $2.6 million!

(2) How can federal funds for rail be of any benefit to Oahu when the purchase of rail materials and technology costs more than the federal funds that are expected? The fact is that the federal money will be spent on items from outside our State so none of the federal funds will ever create local jobs or benefit Oahu.

(3) Honolulu remains at the very bottom of cities in the nation for road quality and at the top for highest cost of car ownership. Congestion and high costs are degrading our quality of life and killing our economy. The Hannemann/Caldwell solution is a 19th century technology electric train, powered with oil and toxic garbage-burning electricity, which might carry 2% of the daily trips on Oahu.

(4) The City's own study says that today The Bus caries 5.6% of the trips made on Oahu. After rail is built, express buses are eliminated and most bus routes are chopped to a feeder status, the trips by bus and rail are projected increase to 6.6%. Where is the traffic relief?

(5) Voters favored rail in 2008 with a razor thin margin: 50.6% of the people checked YES to rail. True, but what did they favor? They favored light rail costing less than five billion and going through Salt Lake. The city is proposing an elevated heavy rail, costing more than five billion and going through the airport. How's that the same?

Note that Hannemann and Caldwell quote that rail was favored by 53% of the voters. Here is the official result:

Honolulu: Dept. of Transportation Services
Transit 212 of 212
YES 156,051 50.6%
NO 140,818 45.7%
Blank Votes: 11,456
Over Votes: 118 0.0%

It is both amusing and pathetic that the number of people who voted yes for rail in 2008 represent only 17% of Oahu’s population!

Fourth is the May 6, 2010 complaint by former Governor Cayetano that the City has grossly and repeatedly violated state procurement law and applied favoritism in contractor selection.

There is abundant evidence of mismanagement and lack of transparency and accountability.

In summary, the debts and obligations are mounting, yet Hannemann and Caldwell appear to be oblivious to reality and are engaged in legacy politicking, self preservation and servitude to the special interests that have bankrolled them.

Isn’t it time for honest, rational and fiscally responsible governance?