Council Budget Chair Ann Kobayashi

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Honolulu City Council Budget Chair Ann Kobayashi (District 5) is questioning why the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit board launched a city taxpayer sponsored radio blitz promoting the planned $5.3 billion elevated steel on steel Honolulu rail project.

In a February 6 letter to Kenneth Toru Hamayasu, the Interim Executive Director for Honolulu Authority For Rapid Transportation, Kobayashi said she has received calls from residents about the commercials asking “to what is the basis behind the radio advertisements at this point in time.”

Her letter reads:

“Prior to the 2008 Honolulu general elections, the City spent over $5 million on lobbying and a public information campaign for the project.  From June 30, 2008, to July 31, 2009, the city spent nearly $1.97 million on community outreach efforts, which included speaker’s bureaus, workshops, a public television show, and community events.  Over $700,000 was also spent on printed material related to the project.  The campaign successfully advocated the proposed rail system to the general public and elected officials, as 53% of voters voted in favor of the charter amendment establishing a steel wheel on steel rail transit system.  Nevertheless, at the time of the vote, voters were under the impression that the rail project was to cost only $3 billion.  Nearly four years later, the project is now estimated to cost $5.3 billion.

“Moreover, the 2008 vote was also based on the original minimum operable segment (MOS), which included a route along Salt Lake Boulevard.  As approximately 50,000 residents reside in the Salt Lake, many voters from the area voted in favor of the charter amendment believing that rail would provide an alternative mode of transportation and much needed traffic relief.  In January 2009, the MOS was amended to replace the Salt Lake Route with a route serving Pearl Harbor and the Airport.  The previous City Administration supported this change even though the Airport Route was estimated to cost approximately $200 million more than the Salt Lake Route.

“Therefore, with substantial changes to the cost and dynamics of the rail project since 2008, I must echo the sentiments of area residents and inquire as to why there are radio advertisements endorsing the project.  Furthermore, I respectfully ask for you to provide me with the estimated cost to air such advertisements.”

Hawaii Reporter also queried the HART department on the cost and purpose of the commercials. In a February 2 email, Scott Ishikawa, spokesperson for the Honolulu Rail Transit Project’s Public Involvement Team, told Hawaii Reporter:

“Construction of the foundation and pillars for the rail guideway is about to begin. We need to be proactive and do everything we can in letting the public know in advance about the work, so they can adjust their commute or make detours to avoid the construction areas. The radio spots also advise the public to watch for our construction crews on the road and to drive safely around them.”

Ishikawa said the cost for the radio spots, including production and airtime is $145,000.

 

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Malia Zimmerman is the editor and co-founder of Hawaii Reporter. She has worked as a consultant and contributor to several dozen media outlets including ABC 20/20, FOX News, MSNBC, the Wall Street Journal, UPI and the Washington Times. Malia has been listed as one of the nation’s top "Web Proficients, Virtuosi, and Masters" and "Hawaii's new media thought leader" by http://www.thewebstersdictionary.com Reach her at Malia@hawaiireporter.com