By Sam Slom, 9/19/2008 10:49:14 AM
One of Mayor Mufi Hannemann's numerous campaign spokespeople, in this case, A.J. Halagao, wrote that the Mr. Hannemannn is "already fixing Oahu: Traffic, Trash and Taxes." ("We Are Already Fixing Oahu's Traffic, Trash and Taxes" Hawaii Reporter 9/18/08).
While acknowledging Mr. Hannemann's newly found support for the community issues so clearly enunciated for months by mayoral candidate Dr. Panos Prevedouros - traffic, trash and taxes - Mr. Halagao apparently doesn't get out much.
If the "Three Ts" had in fact been adequately addressed and fixed during the past four years of the current administration, there would be no Panos the engineer (or Council member Ann Kobayashi) campaigning on these issues and gaining substantial community support.
That has been clear in the KGMB-TV debate, numerous Neighborhood Board meetings and community candidate forums-as well as the recent Honolulu Advertiser poll.
Additionally, Mr. Hannemann would be cruising to a $3 million-plus, Primary Election victory Saturday without experienced opposition. But he's not.
Obviously, there is a difference of opinion as to what constitutes "fixing" and the degree to which basic infrastructure problems have been addressed.
We can all agree that the Mr. Hannemann inherited some major problems and revenue redirection from former Mayor Jeremy Harris.
But many of us waited for Mr. Hannemann to take decisive and reasonable action to then go about fixing these problems as he promised during the campaign.
For many people, the four years have not provided the leadership, solutions and fix for these lingering problems.
In fact, many problems have gotten worse - such as potholes, lack of traffic light synchronization, no clear traffic congestion options, and nearly daily water main and sewer pipe breaks. To patch or temporarily address these problems is not to fix them and the fix is what the community desperately wants and needs.
True, Mr. Hannemann did move "quickly" to press for a $6 billion-plus controversial steel heavy rail transit system-which the voters never had a chance to vote on-and Hawaii's largest tax increase to help fund it, but he did so at the expense of not fixing the other basic, and less glamorous, issues.
Mr. Halagao asserts that, "Studies over the years have shown and continue to show that there'll be less traffic congestion with a rail system than without it, and less traffic congestion with rail than with any other alternative studied, including HOT lanes."
Mr. Hannemann has consistently avoided telling Oahu's citizens the fundamental truth about rail and congestion. It is this: Traffic congestion with rail in the future will be far worse than it is today.
He dodged that question in the Honolulu Advertiser/KGMB TV debates and every opportunity he has had. It is insanity to risk these billions of dollars on a system that results in worse traffic congestion.
Mr. Halagao is correct that the city’s The Boat and The Bus offer options to driving a car and spending $4 per gallon for gas. However, The Boat is probably not a good example because it is heavily subsidized by the Federal Government and used more by a very limited number of residents, tourists and sightseers than by employees. That is when it is not broken down. The truth is TheBoat is a huge money-wasting endeavor.
The City’s Department of Transportation Services Director Wayne Yoshioka said in the September 3 meeting of the Council's Executive Matters Committee that the operating costs of TheBoat was $42 per passenger ride. At $2 fare per ride, that is a subsidy of $40 a ride, or $20,000 per commuter annually plus the cost of the buses that service TheBoat. Are these people out of their minds? Do they think that taxpayer funds are a bottomless pit? Don't answer that.
The Bus is favored by more people-including those like Dr. Prevedouros who support the HOT lanes with express bus and BRT alternative. We still subsidize the Bus each year by about $125 million, but it is flexible, well used and it works. People who must drive their cars have already made changes in their patterns to help combat the increased fuel costs.
As for the rail - let the people decide-but as more information emerges, we find environmental problems, visual blight, noise and no traffic congestion reduction. And oh yes, the subsidy here, on top of the others, is estimated at $150 million a year. Why not fix the other traffic problems and try innovative options first before embarking on the costly train to nowhere?
And why is Panos Prevedouros the only real supporter of HOT lanes instead of heavy rail, while the Mayor diminishes the impact HOT lanes will have?
The Federal Government has already shown its preference for HOT lanes and the public-private partnerships they provide, as indicated by a few of the following studies and reports.
Perhaps Mr. Hannemann and Mr. Halagao haven't seen these, but they are readily available (also see references at end of article):
* Innovation Wave: An Update on the Burgeoning Private Sector Role ...
USDOT study, 7/18/08
* Virginia starts on Capital Beltway HOT lanes, 7/19/08
* Mayor Investment Study for the I.H. 635 (LBJ Freeway)Corridor
* San Fran Bay Area to toll 79 miles of HOV lanes, build another 27...
Toll Roads News, 7/31/08
* Nation's Top Highway Official Says New SR 167 HOT Lanes in Washin...
FHWA Administrator Jim Ray (Nancy Singer), 5/02/08
* U.S. Secretary of Transportation Announced $213 Million Grant to ...
Mr. Halagao next moved to the issue of trash and lauded the Mr. Hannemann for his progress on curbside recycling. Again, we all support this as we did as far back as the Mayor Frank Fasi days. Hawaii Kai and Mililani got a pilot project last year and other select areas will be included this year, but a fix would be island-wide curbside recycling now and an end to the state recycling tax.
Then there is the Waimanalo Gulch landfill in Waianae. During the campaign four years ago, Mr. Hannemann went on record that he supported closing the landfill as had been previously promised to the area residents. That would have been a fix.
Unfortunately, he changed his mind and has supported expanding the landfill, offering monetary favors in the form of projects to the residents instead.
They have said loud and clear, they want the landfill closed. Panos Prevedouros concurs.
Additionally, there has been no creativity or imagination for newer technologies for the H-Power Plant and other ways of dealing with trash. Panos Prevedouros has expressed those ideas but the Administration has not.
Finally, Mr. Halagao on behalf of his boss says, "Today, the city budget is about where it should be."
Everyone else-residents and small business have been forced to cut back, but not the City.
In addition to presiding over the largest tax increase in Hawaii's history (the most regressive General Excise Tax), City spending has increased 46% during the past four years.
Obviously, some of those increases were justified for fire, police and emergency personnel, but the size and scope of the City spending, real property tax increases, along with many City fee increases (water, sewer, motor vehicle) have far outpaced residents' ability to pay.
The bottom line: Do residents feel that these very basic problems have in fact been fixed, and can now be dismissed?
Do residents feel they are better off today than they were four years ago?
Do voters believe that the politicians who got Oahu into this mess are the same ones who can get us out of it?
I believe its time for a change of leadership.
I believe Panos Prevedouros, an engineer with incredible expertise and with international experience and international connections, is the one who can fix Oahu.
I plan to vote for Panos Prevedouros in the Saturday, September 20th election, and I hope you will too.
Sam Slom, a volunteer with the campaign of Dr. Panos Prevedouros for Mayor, is a University of Hawaii Manoa graduate, a professional consulting economist and president and executive director of Small Business Hawaii. He is also a Republican State Senator from the 8th district Oahu, Hawaii Kai to Diamond Head. Reach him via email at mailto:SBH@lava.net
Selected references on HOT lanes and transportation alternatives:
Transportation Public-Private Partnerships Soar to Record Levels,
USDOT Secretary Mary Peters by Ian Grossman, 7/22/08
Private Activity Bonds - Public Private Partnerships
Total $3.28 billion in PAB allocations for total five projects includes: Virginia I-495 Capital Beltway HOT Lanes $800,000; TxDOT IH 635 (LBJ Freeway)$288,000
Metro Reveals Their Priorities for HOT lanes Funding
Congestion Reduction Demonstrations
- Congestion Initiative