Grassroot Institute Obtains HART Check Register

Grassroot Institute Obtains HART Check Register

Transparency request represents important step in answering questions about Rail HONOLULU, HAWAII–June 29, 2015–While questions continue to be raised about funding and spending in the Honolulu Rail project, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has taken a step towards shining a light on the issue by obtaining the check register for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART). The records, which have been posted on OpenHawaii.org, the Grassroot Institute’s transparency website, provide an interesting overview of HART’s spending practices. A preliminary breakdown of the records obtained reveals that the vast majority of the expenses listed are related to construction, design, and land costs. That is consistent with expectations, and the high price of land acquisition and construction contracts are part of the runaway costs that many critics of the project have feared. Further examination of miscellaneous payments not related to construction, design, and land find administrative costs to be the most significant, followed by planning and insurance. “The state has a responsibility to the taxpayers to ensure that the Rail project is managed in a way that does not create an endless sinkhole of debt,” stated Dr. Keli’i Akina, President of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. “By releasing HART’s check register, we are taking an important step towards answering the many questions raised in the recent legislative session about HART’s spending and requests for further funding. Transparency is the heart of an informed electorate, and we urge all interested parties to visit the OpenHawaii.org website and review these records for themselves.” The HART check register can be viewed...

HART’s Job Estimates Are Wrong

by Panos Prevedouros Back in 2009, UHERO provided some rail jobs estimates that said employment will start with 300 jobs, and at the peak of construction, there may be 2,000 jobs, but at that time UHERO did not know that a $1.4 billion contract to build the rail cars would go to Ansaldo Breda in Italy.* However HART testified at City Council that the rail will create 4,000 to 17,000 jobs. These estimates are flat out wrong if people believe that these are Hawaii-based jobs. Here is why: Material costs are not jobs and most materials like steel, concrete and glass will be imported, thus those jobs are not local. Finance charges are not jobs. Equipment and outside purchases are not jobs in Hawaii. These will be a huge portion from trains, escalators and elevators to ticket machines, tickets, bolts and nails. Also many large and “linear” infrastructure projects like the rail are of a “copy-paste” nature, that is, the people who build the first mile will also build the second mile, etc. There are no 10 groups of workers building 10 separate miles. In sum, a very large portion of the $5.3 Billion pie is not labor related. The part that is labor is not very large for Hawaii because (1) a portion of the labor is outside Hawaii or imported expertise, and (2) Linear infrastructure does not need a large number of workers. Therefore UHERO’s estimate that the maximum likely number of jobs is around 2,000 is the best answer. This makes Rail smaller in terms of jobs than Hilton Hawaiian Village. Of course the Village is...

How Stimulus Spending Ruined Buffalo — Lessons for Honolulu

by Panos Prevedouros Recently Steven Manlanga of the Manhattan Institute authored “How Stimulus Spending Ruined Buffalo” in the Wall Street Journal. It describes that stimulus was the vehicle for ruining Buffalo, New York and at the core of this stimulus was none other but a light rail system: In his State of the State Address this month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced $1 billion in incentives to attract new investment. Too bad Mr. Cuomo ignores the factors that help keep areas like Buffalo inhospitable to new investment—namely steep tax rates and the high cost of government. Sometimes these schemes have done real harm. In the 1970s, the federal government decided to invest $530 million to build a 6.2-mile light-rail system through downtown Buffalo. It was supposed to further spur redevelopment. Opened in 1985 and anchored by a transit mall that banned cars, the rail line fell well below ridership projections—and downtown businesses suffered mightily from the lack of traffic. As Buffalo landlord Stephen P. Fitzmaurice wrote in 2009: “Walk down Main Street on the transit mall; aside from a few necessities like drug and cell phone stores, blight dominates.” Last month the city received a $15 million federal grant to restore traffic to Main Street. These massive investment subsidies failed partly because officials were ill-suited to select the right projects and often instead gave money to favored insiders. Even former Mayor Anthony Masiello described the federal government’s redevelopment funds as “a politically motivated system trying to please everybody.” Lesson 1: Factors that help keep areas like Honolulu inhospitable to new investment—namely steep tax rates and the high cost...

Letter to the Editor: “They Pick, You Pay”

by Dick Rowland An edited version of the following was printed in the January 18, 2012 edition of Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Page A15. “City rail plan on track, financially sound” proclaims the headline of the article authored by the members of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation in the 1/15/12 Honolulu Star-Advertiser. They make the case for the enormous project and its viability. What they fail to mention is that if the project fails, they have no skin in the game.  In other words, if the endeavor fails, they, the “responsible” will not be held accountable. That is to say, they will not pay the costs of failure ($5 to 10 Billion or some such). Who would pay? Look in the mirror. We the taxpayers will be the victims. And when we try to blame someone, the lines of responsibility are so cleverly clouded that they, HART, can point to the City Council, the Mayor and perhaps others and blame them. In summary, they pick; you and I pay. Do you trust their judgment, unhindered as it is by any genuine liability, or for that matter, any election, since they are appointed? Are you angry? If yes, it is recommended that you start practicing intolerance — immediately and...