Archive for May, 2017

Bob McDermott: Pass The GET Surcharge And Finish Rail 15 We can’t afford to be distracted by raising the hotel tax or by giving up and stopping the line at Middle Street.

May 24, 2017

It’s time for Hawaii’s political leadership to face reality: we need to finish building our rail system. It’s past time for Gov. David Ige to demonstrate leadership by calling the Legislature into a special session — immediately — so we can pass an extension of the GET surcharge and get the rail completed.

If we fail to act now to provide stable funding, this project is going to cost all of us more money—a lot more. We need a special session now. Not to debate rail, not to consider other taxes, not for more talk about other transit options, but to take action: pass the extension now, and complete the project.

The numbers are compelling. In construction, like any business, time is money. For every month that passes while we fail to act, the rail project’s price tag inflates by ten to fifteen million dollars. Why? Because it delays everything—bids are not tendered, land is not acquired, and contracts are not signed.

 

We have only 4 miles to go. The obstructionists still think they can kill the rail project with a thousand paper cuts, but they need to face the stark reality of our situation. We have already finished 16 miles, and if we don’t finish those last 4 miles, Honolulu will have to pay the federal government over $800 million. Honolulu will forfeit another $700 million in transit funding on top of that.

We can’t afford to be distracted by schemes like raising the hotel tax by a whopping 30 percent (and killing numerous jobs in the process). Or by giving up and stopping the line at Middle Street. Or the fanciful panacea of running the line at grade. Any changes to the planned route require a new EIS, and that means a new round of lawsuits, more delays, and ultimately more costs.

Nobody in the Legislature dislikes taxes and fees more than I do. But I support finishing this project, and the best option is to extend the GET surcharge. We’re already paying it, and the sky isn’t falling. We need to reduce the skim to the state to 1 percent and continue the GET surcharge for a minimum of 10 years.

Without an extension, Honolulu may have to raise property taxes to meet its obligations. Ironically, if that happens, the anti-railers living in wealthy enclaves will end up paying even more.

HART-Rail-Salt-Lake-Boulevard-Aloha-Stadium-Kamehameha-Hwy1-640x427

By failing to act, we risk losing the bountiful harvest of economic and environmental benefits that the rail project will bring. It’s not just for West Oahu — every community will be served by a fast, efficient system. Entire communities will be revitalized and grow, with shops, restaurants and condominiums springing up along the line. The rail should be built from Kapolei to Ala Moana, and ultimately to UH Manoa so we can maximize our investments in transportation and education.

We have the ability to get it done and we have a funding mechanism to pay for it. The only thing we lack is the necessary political courage to lead the way. It’s past time for the Governor and the Legislature to do the right thing. Extend the GET surcharge now.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.com.

About the Author

  • Bob McDermott
    Rep. Bob McDermott represents House District 40 — Ewa, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry and Iroquois Point.
    Civil Beat May 24, 2017

A Word With Ward – Rep. Ward Addresses Drones – May 2017

May 18, 2017

Representative Gene Ward (H District 17Hawaii Kai, Kalama Valley) addresses Drones with Ted Ralston, Director of Unmanned Aerial Systems- the Hawaii component of Pan Pacific UAS Test Range Complex (PPUTRC), which is a unique blending of environmental and testing capabilities for UAS in Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, Mississippi, and Kansas – the Extreme Climate states, in the eye of the FAA.

Ted Ralston and Rep. WardContact: repward@capitol.hawaii.gov

Bring The Honolulu Rail Project Back To Planet Earth

May 9, 2017

No, Mayor Caldwell, raising taxes is not the only way to address the spiraling costs of the biggest public works project in Hawaii history.

headshot dec 2011By Cynthia Thielen  – Community Voice 

This legislative session, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell lobbied hard for extending the general excise tax another decade to fund rail, already the most expensive public works project in state history.

Had the Legislature buckled to that pressure, we would have converted a disappointment into a disaster. After burning through a generous $1 billion contingency fund, the mayor offered no honest accounting for past mistakes, no serious pledge to reduce expenses and no reasonable concessions to economic reality.

Instead, he pinched the “too-big-to-fail” argument from Wall Street bankers and demanded yet another bailout from Hawaii taxpayers.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell inside the rail project’s first train car.

Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Last year, the Federal Transit Administration urged the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to consider “a smaller project of independent utility” within current budget constraints. It conditioned federal funds on cost containment, interim terminus or deferral of certain stations, or new investment. With characteristic obstinacy, Caldwell pursued only the last option by only a single means: raising taxes.

I support bringing the city center segment from Middle Street to Ala Moana down to street level. This sensible alternative would save about $4 billion and four years of construction, while sparing Honolulu’s waterfront from permanent visual blight. By running the trains sooner, we can also use passenger fares to defray some expenses.

Building a street-level portion would imaginatively and prudently combine the measures requested by the federal government. The city has always reserved this as a contingency option should cost overruns doom the original plan for elevated rail. We have now reached that juncture.

Tax increases in any form will only subsidize Caldwell’s reckless hubris and aggressive incompetence.

Saving taxpayer money is not simply a matter of expediency, but of fairness and principle. Extending the general excise surcharge shifts the burden to our poorest residents, who will pay more for groceries and other necessities. Increasing the hotel and accommodation taxes hobbles our state’s primary economic engine. Raising property taxes further inflates housing costs, while devastating seniors and middle-class families, whose homes are often their most significant investment.

Worst of all, tax increases in any form will only subsidize Caldwell’s reckless hubris and aggressive incompetence. No one has supervised this boondoggle longer than he has. Before running for mayor, Caldwell served as the city managing director from 2008 to 2010, the self-proclaimed “primary point person” for rail. On his watch, bloated red tape, numerous design changes and haphazard contract modifications drove costs skyward.

By January 2010, the FTA had already publicly questioned whether Honolulu could afford a $5 billion rail project. Following that report, Gov. Linda Lingle, an early supporter of elevated rail, warned that the city should revise its financing and construction plans to anticipate a federal funding shortfall.

“I don’t know another project except this one that has made no adjustment from a pre-recession to a post-recession proposal,” Lingle said at the time. But rather than return to the drawing board, Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Caldwell pressed heedlessly forward.

When launching his mayoral campaign two years later, Caldwell again dismissed legitimate concerns about cost and funding.

“The current $5.2 billion budget includes a very large contingency and adequate reserves for short-term financing,” he blithely claimed. “Reports that it will cost $7 billion or more are only scare tactics unsupported by anyone except tea party-style rail critics.”

Today, HART’s own cost estimates for the project stand at $10 billion. We can only expect this figure to increase. Construction has not even reached the halfway mark, and the costliest segment through the dense downtown corridor still lies ahead. On current trajectory, rail will probably wind up costing $13-15 billion.

Mile for mile, that’s roughly the cost of the Channel Tunnel connecting England and France (adjusting for inflation). But the “Chunnel” was among the most complicated engineering feats of the last century — 20 miles undersea — and running high-speed trains that could load cars onboard. Moreover, at Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s insistence, private shareholders funded the whole project.

By contrast, under the best case scenario, we will receive a slightly fancier version of the Pearlridge monorail at ruinous cost to ordinary taxpayers. Nor does this include the price for continuous maintenance and repair. Because HART acquired substandard material at premium rates, we have already seen cracked guideways and broken shims before the first train has left its station. Unless we correct course now, these problems will only accumulate and compound.

Enough is enough. Honolulu deserves responsibility, accountability and fairness. Let’s bring this project back down to Earth.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.com.

About the Author

Rep. Cynthia Thielen is a member of House committees on Judiciary; Energy and Environmental Protection; Water and Land; and Ocean, Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs. She is also a member of the Women’s, Keiki, and Kupuna caucuses.

Civil Beat Link to article

Rep. Tupola Addresses Health; Vaccines; Pharmacists; Training

May 3, 2017

Representative Andria Tupola (H District 43 Ewa Villages, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Nanakai Gardens, Ko Olina, Kahe Point, Nanakuli, Lualualei, Maili) addresses Health; Vaccines; Pharmacists; Training SB514 SD1 HD1 CD1  The bill Authorizes pharmacists to administer the human papillomavirus, Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis), meningococcal, or influenza vaccine to persons between eleven and seventeen years of age. Specifies requirements pharmacists must meet prior to administering the human papillomavirus, Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis), meningococcal, or influenza vaccine. (CD1)

On May 02, 2017, the bill passed Final Reading as amended in CD 1 with none voting aye with reservations; Representative(s) Cachola, Har, Kong, McDermott, Oshiro, Tupola voting no (6) and none excused (0).

Contact: reptupola@capitol.hawaii.gov   Excerpt from Capitol TV

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhkdB_4M7Ic

Reps. Tupola, McDermott and Ward Address Technical Schools Licensing Fees

May 3, 2017

Representative Andria Tupola (H District 43 Ewa Villages, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Nanakai Gardens, Ko Olina, Kahe Point, Nanakuli, Lualualei, Maili) Representative Bob McDermott (H District 40 Ewa, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Iroquois Point) and Representative Gene Ward (H District 17Hawaii Kai, Kalama Valley) address Private Trade, Vocational, and Technical Schools; Licensing; Licensing Fee; Appropriation. SB1286 SD2 HD2 CD1

On May 02, 2017, the bill passed Final Reading as amended in CD 1 with none voting aye with reservations; Representative(s) Matsumoto, McDermott, Thielen, Tupola, Ward voting no (5) and Representative(s) Ichiyama excused (1).

Contact:  reptupola@capitol.hawaii.gov  or   repmcdermott@capitol.hawaii.gov or repward@capitol.hawaii.gov Excerpt from Capitol TV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reps. Tupola and Ward Address Drug Paraphernalia; Possession; Delivery; Civil Violations

May 3, 2017

Representative Andria Tupola (H District 43 Ewa Villages, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Nanakai Gardens, Ko Olina, Kahe Point, Nanakuli, Lualualei, Maili) and Representative Gene Ward (H District 17Hawaii Kai, Kalama Valley)  addressDrug Paraphernalia; Possession; Delivery; Civil Violations HB1501 HD2 SD1 CD1 The bill reclassifies drug paraphernalia possession and delivery offenses from felonies to violations subject to a fine of no more than $500. (HB1501 CD1)

On May 02, 2017, the bill passed Final Reading as amended in CD 1 with Representative(s) Aquino, Cullen, Say, Yamane voting aye with reservations; Representative(s) Choy, Har, Kong, Matsumoto, McDermott, Ohno, Oshiro, Tupola, Ward voting no (9) and none excused (0).

Contact: reptupola@capitol.hawaii.gov   Excerpt from Capitol TV

Contact: repward@capitol.hawaii.gov   Excerpt from Capitol TV

 

 

 

Rep. Gene Ward Questions Roll Call Vote on Rail

May 3, 2017

Reps. Ward, Thielen and Tupola Address Rail Floor Amendments

Representative Gene Ward (H District 17Hawaii Kai, Kalama Valley), Representative Cynthia Thielen (H District 50 Kailua, Kaneohe Bay) and Representative Andria Tupola (H District 43 Ewa Villages, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Nanakai Gardens, Ko Olina, Kahe Point, Nanakuli, Lualualei, Maili) address floor amendments on rail in relationship to SB1183 SD2 HD2 CD1

Contact: repward@capitol.hawaii.gov – repthielen@capitol.hawaii.gov and reptupola@capitol.hawaii.gov

Excerpt from Capitol TV

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGPc2hBMZYI&feature=youtu.be

Reps. Thielen and Tokioka Address Rail Floor Amendments

Representative Cynthia Thielen (H District 50 Kailua, Kaneohe Bay) and Representative James Tokioka (H District 15 Wailua Homesteads, Hanamaulu, Lihue, Puhi, Old Koloa Town, Omao) address floor amendments on rail in relationship to SB1183 SD2 HD2 CD1.  Representative Gene Ward (H District 17Hawaii Kai, Kalama Valley) asks the question “How can we have a voice vote on a billion dollar proration?”

Contact: repward@capitol.hawaii.gov – repthielen@capitol.hawaii.gov and reptokioka@capitol.hawaii.gov

Excerpt from Capitol TV

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HXQ0UPA_AY&t=35s

Rep. Gene Ward Questions Roll Call Vote on Rail

Representative Gene Ward (H District 17Hawaii Kai, Kalama Valley) asks the question “How can we have a voice vote on a billion dollar proration?”

Contact: repward@capitol.hawaii.gov

Excerpt from Capitol TV

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wwpdZdIflg&feature=youtu.be