HART Board Shielding Politicians, Rail Critic Said

Rail opponent Cliff Slater has authored an editorial in Hawaii Reporter attacking a recent claim that the newly formed Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board is made up of “apolitical leadership.”

“How can you have an ‘apolitical leadership’ when the ‘leaders’ are all appointed by politicians?” Slater asked. “Eight of the ten-person ‘apolitical’ HART board consists of six current and former City employees and two union officials. The minority two are businesspeople. This is apolitical?”

The claim was made in a recent Star Advertiser report, he said.  Slater also criticized the paper for contending that “most boards in other cities are run by politicians,” when that does not appear to be the case.

“Reviewing the boards of the six largest transit agencies reveals that only Los Angeles MTA is run by politicians, whereas Chicago CTA, New York MTA, Boston MBTA, Philadelphia SEPTA, and Atlanta MARTA, are not,” Slater said.

Honolulu may well be the only city in the U.S. that has its own transit authority, Slater said. “We cannot find another transit authority that runs transit in only one city or county. Transit authorities generally run transit for multiple cities or counties since the needed political coordination between them requires it.”

He said even worse, HART does not run TheBus, even though a common fare structure with rail is promised and bus schedules will have to be coordinated with rail. “That alone tells you that something strange is going on,” Slater said.

Slater and the pro-transportation, anti-rail group he operates via Honolulutraffic.com, lobbied against the formation of HART.

“We have consistently asked at Council hearings the rationale for establishing a transit authority for rail alone, and in a single jurisdiction, and have not received an intelligent response,” Slater said. “The only reason that makes sense to us is that it is done to shield elected officials from the harsh criticisms that will well up from voters when the cost overruns and ridership shortfalls occur and consequent increases in property taxes are needed. Then the mostly anonymous HART appointees will take the flak.”

HonoluluTraffic.com and several plaintiffs filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s approval of the city’s Environmental Impact Statement.

That lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, challenges whether the federal government should have approved the city’s Environmental Impact Statement that said heavy steel on steel rail is the best choice for Oahu.
The group argues that rail is the most expensive, least environmentally friendly and least culturally sensitive option.
The plaintiffs include HonoluluTraffic.com, former Gov. Ben Cayetano, Retired Judge Walter Heen, University of Hawaii Law Professor Randall Roth, Sen. Sam Slom’s Small Business Hawaii Foundation, Hawaii’s Thousand Friends and Dr. Michael Uechi.
The League of Women Voters and the Life of the Land are expected to join the lawsuit.

Kauai Independent Food Bank Under Fire for Mismanagement

Bob Jones has an interesting column in Midweek about the Kauai Independent Food Bank allegedly misusing $779,000 in federal grant money.

Jones notes that the Hawaii Foodbank used to contract with the Kauai Independent Food Bank until June of last year, but cut off the relationship when questions about mismanagement arose.

Jones writes: “According to documents provided to the state and federal governments by Hawaii FoodBank, and reviewed by MidWeek, the Kauai agency misused $779,000 in federal grant money (and thus was forced to pay it back), refused to submit to an audit and inspection in July of 2009, wrongfully distributed food to an unqualified local paddling club, was found to not be monitoring chiller temperatures properly and was distributing out-of-date foodstuffs. … Incidentally, the returned $779,000 was money that would have been spent for needy seniors on Kauai.”

“Hawaii FoodBank also raised questions about the Kauai bank using grant money not to directly buy food from suppliers but through Kauai Fresh, a food business owned and operated by members of the Kauai Independent Food Bank. In other words, a forprofit subsidiary of that food bank was using grant money to make a profit on food it sold to its owners.”

The story is timely because the Hawaii Foodbank opened its new Kauai warehouse in Puhi Industrial Park last week Thursday.

As Jones notes, the news may lead to a federal and state investigation because federal grant monies and a state non-profit are involved.


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