BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – What about those now notorious coloring books that the city’s Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit Administration (HART) has been distributing to Oahu’s children to promote the Honolulu rail project?
Former Gov. Ben Cayetano, who is running for Honolulu Mayor, said yesterday during a press conference that in his 28 years in public office, he “has never seen anything like it.”
“This is unprecedented,” Cayetano said, noting hats, shirts, lanyards, pens and pencils promoting the rail project have been handed out at various city events courtesy of Oahu taxpayers.
“Why is no one trying to put a stop to this abuse of taxpayers money? This is an indication of how reckless the city is spending taxpayer money – spending for them is not a problem,” Cayetano said of HART. He said the agency, which also has rented prime office space in Downtown Honolulu at a cost of what will soon be $2 million a year, appears to have a “fountain of money” and is spending it “Willy Nilly.”
HART, the semi autonomous agency charged with constructing, maintaining and overseeing the city’s planned 20-mile $5.3 billion elevated steel on steel rail project, developed, printed and distributed the coloring books for $2,633, HART spokesman Scott Ishikawa told Hawaii Reporter last week.
The coloring book encourages children to “connect the rail stations” for the first 21 stations on the initial part of the 10-mile route in a “connect the dots” kind of format, offers a word search related to rail and suggests children log onto an interactive youth web site – http://www.movingusforward – that promotes the rail.
The cost for designing the brochure and for other promotional items and the web site creation, hosting and maintenance has not yet been disclosed.
Honolulu Council Member Tom Berg earlier expressed his concern during two recent city budget hearings about the coloring books distributed to Oahu youth and web site – he called them “propaganda.”
HART maintains the coloring books are educational. “The children activity sheets distributed at public events are meant to engage the keiki so they can learn more about the rail project,” Ishikawa said.
Berg countered that many of the statements in the coloring book and on the kids rail web site are not factual.