Honolulutraffic.com News: What Really Happened at the Yoshioka Confirmation

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Wayne Yoshioka

BY HONOLULUTRAFFIC.COM – Absolutely no one in the media, from blogs, online news sources, TV stations to the Star-Advertiser, covered the confirmation of the City’s DOT director, Wayne Yoshioka, adequately. For example, no one covered the “misrepresentations” of which Yoshioka was accused, No one asked Cliff Slater why he was saying he was slandered and what he would have said had he been allowed to talk. Accordingly we write the account that at least one of the media should have written:


HONOLULU, Hawaii. At a hearing of the City Council Transportation Committee on February 9, the main item on the Agenda was the confirmation of Wayne Y. Yoshioka as Director of Transportation Services. Seven people testified as to his worthiness and as many found he was not sufficiently transparent with the Council and the public concerning the rail transit project.

Cliff Slater, Chair of Honolulutraffic.com, testified that Yoshioka had misled the Council and the public on many occasions and had four examples which he presented.

First, was the Council meeting on June 9, 2009, when Yoshioka under intense questioning by Councilmember Cachola repeatedly denied the City had a revised financial plan from that contained in the Draft EIS and that when one was ready he would present it to the Council. He also had repeatedly said that while the � percent GE Tax collections were a little slow now, they predicted a pickup that would make up the shortfall in future years.

In reality, Yoshioka had already submitted a new financial plan to the FTA as part of a submittal to request entry in the Preliminary Engineering phase. Yoshioka later claimed that the new plan was actually a draft plan. Slater claims it was not and that a Freedom of Information Act request revealed an internal FTA discussion document that clearly showed it was a plan and not a draft. Secondly, in that plan, the City forecast a $700 million shortfall in tax collections.

As his second examples, Slater claimed that Yoshioka was fully aware that ”traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than what it is today without rail.” But over the years he fought off saying that explicitly. Instead he said that, �rail would relieve traffic congestion,� when, in fact, what he should have said was that rail would relieve traffic congestion in the future with rail from what it would be without rail, but that congestion would still be worse than what it is today.

Slater says it was only in June of 2010, in response to Honolulutraffic.com’s comments on the Draft EIS that Yoshioka wrote plainly, “You are correct in pointing out that traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than what it is today without rail.” Slater claimed that Yoshioka buried it in the middle of the 3,200 page Appendix A. If Yoshioka had wanted to be transparent it should have been in plain view in the Executive Summary so that the public and elected officials could fully understand that there was no traffic relief in sight.

Third, Yoshioka hid from the Council the FTA’s assessment of the high probabilities of the rail transit project�s chances of cost overruns. Slater said that the fact that, in FTA�s view, there is considerable risk of cost overruns, and how they should be evaluated, should have been made clear to the City Council. Instead, Yoshioka failed to warn the Council of the dangers of cost overruns. Slater says that when the FTA revealed their risk analysis of the New Jersey tunnel to Gov. Christie, he cancelled the tunnel project as having cost overruns too risky for his taxpayers to bear.

There was intense questioning of Slater by Councilmembers Kobayashi and Cachola and none by the other three Councilmembers Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo, Ernest Martin, and Nestor Garcia. Councilmember Cachola asked Slater if he would present his documents to the City Councilmembers and he agreed.

At the end of the hearing the vote to confirm was 3-2, with Councilmembers Kobayashi and Cachola in opposition.

A few days later Slater presented his documentation to the Councilmembers.

Two weeks on February 23, the full Council met to consider to confirmation of Yoshioka. The testimony given was virtually the same as that of the Transportation Committee except that at the end Yoshioka accused Slater of lying and mentioned the 20 misrepresentations by Slater that he had presented to the City Council. At this point Slater was on his feet demanding to answer this slander but with Council Chair Garcia screaming that he was out of order, Slater stood down.

The vote to confirm was 6-3 with Tom Berg added in opposition.

We later asked Slater what he would have said had he had an opportunity. He said that one of the “misrepresentations” listed was Slater saying that “traffic congestion in the future with rail would be worse than it is today,” which, Slater said, was exactly the same words that Yoshioka had buried in the Final EIS. The other nineteen, he said, were nearly as ridiculous.