Ben Cayetano / http://farm3.static.flickr.com

Ben Cayetano / http://farm3.static.flickr.com

BY HAWAII REPORTER

FORMER GOVERNOR CAYETANO ON GARCIA’S RAIL ADVOCACY PAY OFF

Honolulu City Council Chair Nestor Garcia recently admitted to KITV News to receiving $5,000 a month or $60,000 a year from a part time job with the Kapolei Chamber of Commerce, an organization funded largely by Honolulu rail advocates. That is more than the $58,596 he receives as a city council chair.

As the council transportation chair when the rail issue was being debated, Garcia never admitted to a possible conflict of interest. Critics say it was a sweetheart deal that Garcia received for pushing the $5.5 billion project through, however Garcia told KITV that he supported rail long before he took this job in 2008.

But former Gov. Benjamin Cayetano on Tuesday said many people who testified against the rail project at city hall said Garcia, who ran the meetings, had been unfair to them, limiting their comments to 1 minute and not allowing their many concerns about Oahu’s largest ever construction to be heard.

Cayetano, who opposes the rail, said that consciously or unconsciously, Garcia’s decisions to move the project forward had to be impacted by his receiving $5,000 a month from rail advocates.

In addition to his city council salary, and funding from the Kapolei chamber, Garcia told KITV that he receives $30,000 from Dura Construction for his work as a safety officer, for a total annual salary of nearly $150,000.

CARLISLE DISAPPOINTING AS HONOLULU MAYOR, CAYETANO SAID

Former Governor Benjamin Cayetano, who is a plaintiff in a lawsuit that will be filed by HonoluluTraffic.com against the Federal Transit Authority over the rail project, also had words Tuesday for Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle.

“I know Peter. I made the mistake of supporting him in the election in which I will not do again.  He sounds like the little boy whistling in the dark,” Cayetano said. “I’m disappointed that Mayor Carlisle has not been more careful, more judicious. Maybe it’s his experience, he spent 20 years throwing people in jail, and he never analyzed a project like this by himself.”

Cayetano noted that the city has several infrastructure problems that are already increasing property taxes, and will continue to do so, including the $7 billion Oahu sewer system upgrade mandated by the federal government. “We cannot afford this rail project,” Cayetano said.

ABERCROMBIE STRIKES BACK

New York Real estate mogul Donald Trump hasn’t been shy in the last few days his questions over the existence of President Barack Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate and whether or not Obama is serving as America’s president legitimately. Trump, who may be a candidate for President in 2012, started a firestorm when on ABC’s The View he brought up the subject.

Just days later, on Fox and Friends, he also took on Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie: “If you’re not born in the United States, you cannot be president and there’s a real question. And if this birth certificate exists, you know what, I get a kick out of the governor of Hawaii says I remember when he was born 50 years ago, I doubt it. I think this guy should be investigated.”

Abercrombie ignited the birth certificate issue once again this December when he promised while Obama was vacationing in Hawaii to prove once and for all that Obama is born in the United States. His claims received worldwide media attention until he retracted his pledge weeks later.

Tuesday, Abercrombie responded to Trump calling him out by dealing his own low blow by bringing up Trump’s three bankruptcies: “I suppose if he can take time out from trying to explain the various bankruptcies that he’s had perhaps we can get into that,” Abercrombie told KHON TV 2. “I imagine we got a lot more to do than to let Donald Trump make a fool of himself any more than he usually does.”

GOVERNOR ABERCROMBIE TO ANNOUNCE HIS PICKS FOR BOARD OF EDUCATION

Gov. Neil Abercrombie said that today he will announce his appointments to the 9-member Board of Education at a 10:30 a.m. press conference on Wednesday at the Hawaii State Capitol. The nominees must be confirmed by the majority of the 25 State Senators.

Currently, Board of Education members are elected, however, voters supported an amendment to the constitution in November 2010 to change from an elected to an appointed school board.

The Hawaii legislature and the governor fast tracked the plan, giving the governor the power to appoint the members without an advisory council. However, appointees are subject to confirmation by the Senate.

The constitutional change won support from the voters because parents and taxpayers were concerned about the Board of Education’s lack of accountability and willingness to reform the public education system.

FORBES: HAWAII MOST EXPENSIVE PLACE TO VACATION

Honolulu is the second most expensive place to vacation, Forbes magazine reports.  The only location to beat Hawaii is New York, with Boston, Santa Barbara and Washington, D.C. all in the top five. The ranking is based on hotel room rates.

“Hotel prices in most of North America’s most expensive cities–New York, Honolulu, Boston, and Chicago, among others–declined by an average of 2% in 2010, according to the latest Hotel Price Index from hotels.com. A soft year, but a big improvement from 2009, when prices in most of the same cities fell 10% or more from 2008,” the report said.

“A peek at 2011 shows an early surge in demand and prices. According to Expedia.com, average prices during January, February and early March were up from last year, as much as 20% or so in Honolulu, Boston, Miami and Washington, D.C..”

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Hawaii Reporter is an award-winning, independent Hawaii-based news and opinion journal founded in 2001 and launched in February 2002. The journal's staff have won a number of top awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including the top investigative news reporting awards, business reporting awards, government reporting awards, and online news reporting awards. Hawaii Reporter has a weekly television news show, News Behind the News, which airs on Mondays at 1:30 p.m. and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.