Honolulu Rail Project Can Be Stopped in Its Tracks This Wednesday

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BY HONOLULU CITY COUNCIL MEMBER TOM BERG – Two days from now, you can count on my no vote to Bills 31, 32, 33, and now add Bill 37 to the mix for the following reason (click here to read agenda and get link to bills):

The financial plan for rail is not sound.


The voters in 2008 did not vote for a rail scheme that borrows, fronts, credits, and takes from other necessities to thrive.

Please read my comments (article published past Saturday) in the Hawaii Reporter – click here.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find an elected official from within Council District One who agrees with me. Not one will come forward and help me defeat Bills 31, 32, 33, and 37. Representative Kymberly Pine and Sharon Har are the most outspoken in favor of rail with Senator Will Espero and support the tax increases to keep rail going no matter how harmful to the taxpayer the financial plan for rail has become.

It will cost on average, just to construct the rail as being marketed to us, not factoring in operations and maintenance costs, roughly $27,000.00 in additional taxes paid per family of four above and beyond all other taxes being levied on Oahu.

The rail tax is blind to the poor and their plight and the economically challenged in general. They pay the rail tax when they buy bread, buy medicine- and cannot escape the regressive tax no matter how much they save or what they must consume to live.

All of us have paid dearly for attorneys to defend Ansaldo to charge us over $241 million more than necessary to build the rail cars in California; almost $2 million to defend an inadequate and flawed Environmental Impact Statement; and more monies to defend the right to plow over, under, and right through known iwi/burial sites before we know what is at stake; forked over $15 million to just one contractor – wasted on a contract awarded before it could be legally executed; threw away good for bad on over $30 million in change orders thus far tallied; and then after the public school teachers took a pay cut, furloughs took rise, and now there is no money to even fund school buses anymore, HART turns around and awards an outrageous salary for one person alone to run the train at $322k a year . . .

In my analysis, the financial plan for rail has more than run afoul, run amok, but is reckless at best. Yet, that won’t stop Council District One constituents like Alex Santiago who stated on television at my town hall meeting-

“The concerns of the costs and the concerns that we cannot afford this really needs to be answered with ‘we cannot afford not to do this at this point.'” Click here to see the actual broadcast.

Yes, that is what pro-railers are saying – that, “We cannot afford not to do this.” Tell that to the hundreds living in shelters, the families evicted from Kea`au Beach park last week, or the school kids who could be riding city buses that we do not have room for, money for, and bus routes possibly being cut. Tell that to the family paying 70% more in their water bill, the billions needed for sewer repairs, the roads falling apart, need I say more? We charge now to camp at city parks, and maybe installing parking meters at parks or charging end users just to use a park are coming next. Don’t believe me? Check out Bill 60 on the agenda.

There are many other mechanisms available to us that we could deploy that are superior on all fronts to rail that stand to resolve our traffic congestion crisis and do not involve massive tax increases. More buses with its front door service beats rail hands down just for beginners.

If I am to take heed to constituents like Alex Santiago, Kymberly Pine, Sharon Har and Will Espero who want this rail plan to advance at all costs, I would vote yes this Wednesday if I thought their positions were reflective of the majority.

In contrast, in my own door-to-door conversations, my own survey results, at my own town hall meetings, through my attendance at neighborhood board meetings, and run-ins with constituents at the stores, in addition to every poll of late by media outlets, the vast majority have conveyed that they want this rail to stop. The ones who want this rail, are getting donations to support it, or making something off of it, or actually think people who drive now will forfeit their cars to stand in a rail car. The old belief that “Others will ride it so there will be more room for me on the roads” theory is too, out there fueling the fallacies of rail.

The vote in 2008 was a bait and switch, a loss leader to sell us something that could not be executed as pitched and sold. We were had. The people want out, want another vote, a chance to swim instead of sink.

Please come testify this Wednesday at 2pm at Kapolei Hale and let the City Council hear what you have to say. The paid, pro-rail union leaders will be there in force advocating rail must be funded. Do you agree with that?

Rail has gone bad and it is my duty to stop the madness.