City Delay Tactics Increase Cost of Lawsuit Challenging Honolulu Rail
It isn’t cheap to challenge the city’s $5.3 billion rail project.
Just ask HonoluluTraffic.com supporters, who have raised about a quarter of a million dollars from private donors to fund a lawsuit challenging the validity of the rail’s Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the city and approved by the federal government – and they are still trying to raise more.
The plaintiffs, which include Honolulutraffic.com founder Cliff Slater, former Gov. Benjamin J. Cayetano, the Small Business Hawaii Entrepreneurial Education Foundation, Retired Judge and former City Council Chair Walter Heen, Dr. Michael Uechi, Hawaii’s Thousand Friends, and University of Hawaii Law Professor Randal Roth, believe the city did not consider other options as required before approving the 20-mile elevated steel on steel rail project.
Specifically, their Complaint outlines three statutes they say the city violated related to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Historic Properties Act (NHPA), and the U.S. Transportation Act of 1966. Those include the failure to consider all reasonable alternatives, analyze the environmental consequences of alternatives, identify and evaluate use of native hawaiian burials and traditional cultural properties and the effects on historic properties.
The local alliance teamed up with nationally renowned environmental attorney Nicolas Yost, partner in San Francisco based SNRDenton firm.
Yost, who charges $800 an hour, is considered one of the top – if not the top – environmental lawyer in the country. He is the recipient of the American Bar Association’s 2010 Award for Distinguished Achievement in Environmental Law and Policy. Chambers USA ranked him as one of the leading American lawyers for business in the field of Native American Law. His experiences over decades includes acting as general counsel of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality and drafting the federal government’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. He’s tackled airport expansions, gas pipelines, Native American Indian burials and gaming sites, power plants, highways, bridges, and rail projects. He represented a host of Native American groups.
Taxpayers also are being hit with expenses to defend the city against the lawsuit. The Honolulu City Council on November 2 authorized the city administration to spend as much as $600,000 on legal costs.
Slater’s reaction: “it is not their money so they are not going to worry about what it costs” and “they are just delaying the case as much as they can.”
He maintains that the city’s case “is so weak it will take all that and more to overcome their glaring legal deficiencies.”
But Slater and others funding the private lawsuit say it is aggravating for citizens to have to pay for both sides of this lawsuit.
The first official court battle will take place November 30, 2011, in U.S. District Court before Judge A. Wallace Tashima when the city will challenge whether some of the plaintiffs have standing. Tashima is from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals but was assigned to the case after U.S. District Court Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway announced that “All of the judges in the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii having recused themselves from this case.”
Legal Challenge to Governor’s Secrecy is Victorious but May Not Have Been Necessary
As Jim Dooley reports, The Honolulu Star Advertiser won a lawsuit this week that will force Gov. Neil Abercrombie to release the names of judicial nominees that the state Judicial Selection Commission sends to him.
This is the list that the governor must use that list when selecting judges for the Hawaii Supreme and Circuit Courts. Previous governors have released the list but Abercrombie has refused.
But now the public has learned that the lawsuit may not have been necessary.
The Judicial Selection Commission has been studying the issue of secrecy for the last six months.
Commission chairwoman Susan Ichinose told Hawaii Reporter that the commission already voted on November 15 to release the names because commissioners want transparency.
Lingle Backs Law that Eases Visa Process for Chinese and Canadian Visitors
Gov. Linda Lingle, who hopes to be Hawaii’s next U.S. Senator, wrote a letter to Hawaii’s current U.S. Senators, Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye, this week to congratulate them on introducing the APEC Business Travel Act of 2011.
The legislation passed Congress on November 4 and was signed into law by President Barack Obama while he was in Hawaii this weekend for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference.
The law will provide 19 participating countries access to expedited visa interviews and fast track immigration lanes.
Lingle also encouraged the Senators to support Senate Bill 1746, which would expedite visas for both Chinese and Canadian visitors.
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