BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Hawaii Reporter has obtained the cost of the coloring books created and distributed by the city’s Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit Authority to Oahu’s children.
The 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, according to Scott Ishikawa, spokesperson for HART.
“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. “The one-page activity sheets were designed and printed in-house on 11X17 paper for about 87 cents a sheet, or a total cost of $2,633.”
The coloring book encourages children to log onto an interactive youth web site that promotes the rail.
Yesterday at a council hearing on the rail, Honolulu City Council Member Tom Berg called the coloring books “propaganda” and said many of the statements in the coloring book and on the kids rail web site are not factual.
Berg, who represents West Oahu on the 9-member council, was irked by the many promotional materials HART created at taxpayers’ expense and he released a video report on the issue.
He said in addition to coloring books and web site, HART is spending taxpayer money on key chains, banners, signs, pencils and pens to promote the rail project. Several of these items have been distributed at community events, including the Christmas parade in Kapolei, and in schools, he said.
In a recent hearing, HART’s acting executive director Toru Hamayasu told Berg the agency considers the items “educational” and funding came from the rail capital budget.
The rail’s entire $5.3 billion construction budget and millions more dollars in operations and maintenance, are paid for by Oahu residents and visitors through a 0.5 percent addition to the state’s General Excise Tax on Oahu.
Berg said instead of coloring books and key chains, money should instead go to a community he represents – Nanikuli – where construction debris from condemned properties and the rail project will be dumped. “It’s called Environmental Justice,” Berg said.
Berg is not the only one outraged by the coloring book and other materials aimed at Oahu’s children.
KHVH News Radio’s morning talk show host Rick Hamada said as polls show, public support for the rail project is declining, and the city administration has become desperate enough to targeted children and their parents with “propaganda.”
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 and offers a word search related to rail.
Children are encouraged to log onto a city web site – https://www.movingusforward.net – that promotes the rail through graphics and an interactive map.
Children are told rail is “poised to become the state’s most powerful economic stimulus” and “More local jobs and new businesses will generate much-needed revenue for the city and state.”
Colorful graphics and text on the web site say “Rail transit will serve Hawaii for generations” adding “Our rail transit system will use established, steel-wheel technology, which is highly cost-effective and boasts proven, long-term operating performance. That means rail will be an integral part of Hawaii’s quality of life, for generations.”
The web site also tells children “Rail transit will help protect our air quality and ocean waters” adding “vehicles are among the largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions. Rail transit will remove more than 40,000 cars and trucks off our highways and roads by 2030, reducing our island’s carbon footprint.”
Most if not all of the facts on the rail web site are disputed by some of the nation’s top transportation experts. But Hamayasu defended the materials as popular and educational.