Advocates For Consumer Rights

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February, 2019

screwedSMWELCOME TO AFCR!

Thanks to you, the informed Hawai`i consumer, AFCR is in our third decade advocating for the interests of Hawaii’s beleaguered consumer. Read our proud history HERE. Our work continues in the present with an understanding of the past and a keen eye towards the future. Please “like” our Facebook page and join our email list in the right column on your computer (or at the bottom of this page on a Smart phone).

Who Are We?

We are non-partisan, we raise no money and are all volunteers. Who are our “members”? Anyone who hears our message, who will take the time to educate themselves about the issue at hand and will actively participate in the democratic process to help effect positive change in important public policy. Mahalo for supporting our work through the years. — Scott Foster, Co-Founder & Communications Director.

NOTE: To view the list and details of our many past successes on a computer, hover your curser over “Our History” in the above menu bar. All are displayed if using a smart phone.

February 6, 2019

Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Wednesday, 6 February 2019
ISLAND VOICES

Robbins should pause rail transit at Middle Street, then take stock
By Scott Foster

If words were measured in ounces, there’s been more written about the Honolulu rail project than the combined weight of all of the concrete and steel used to bring it close to the Middle Street bus terminal. Through the years, those paying attention have observed a litany of questionable maneuverings by politicians, contractors and PR people.

To us, how we got to where we are today is perfectly understandable and the three recent critical audits have actually exceeded our original worst-case predictions. The Honolulu city audit put it in the most simple terms: “The rush to approve the project was for political reasons.”

When Andrew Robbins was hired as the executive director of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) in 2017, I researched his background and was somewhat relieved to see he’s an engineer with many years experience in building rail transit projects. Robbins had held various high positions with Bombardier, a large international company with much experience in large-scale rail projects.

An executive with such strong credentials and experience is a first at HART. Unfortunately, Robbins was not here in the beginning, and he should not be held accountable for the many past mistakes. My organization, Hawaii Advocates For Consumer Rights (AFCR), has been against this rail project from day one, believing that the all-elevated- steel-on-steel-thirdrail system we wound up with would indeed produce the massive construction costs and contract overruns we’ve been witnessing. Agreeing with the late Honolulu Councilman Duke Bainum, many of us believed that a rubber on concrete system that was elevated where necessary and “at grade” (on the ground) where possible was best, far less expensive and would also be much quieter than the “steel-on-steel” system that the voters approved after an unrelenting public disinformation campaign funded by the very companies, unions, individuals and consultants that would ultimately benefit the most financially via contracts and jobs.

In any event, Robbins may be the only person on Earth who can get the project built and operating. As AFCR recently testified at the City Council, we believe the best thing Robbins might do is to pause the project at Middle Street and get it operative — before a contract is signed on what has been acknowledged to be the most disruptive and expensive segment: Dillingham- downtown-Ala Moana.

If paused at Middle Street, HART could at least explore the feasibility of rerouting the project to the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Given what we now know about climate change and the rising sea level, hopefully the Federal Transit Administration would understand these dire climate change projections and not demand its money back.

The very idea of the system terminating at Ala Moana Center was an ill-conceived plan from the beginning — given the additional amount of vehicular traffic (bus and car) that would be generated in and around the already near-gridlock Ala Moana area.

If, as a growing number of local and international economists are predicting, the world is heading into another major recession, what happens then? Anyone living in Hawaii during the 1995 “Japanese investment bust” could tell you. Pausing rail at Middle Street and revisiting the original UH-Manoa route could save the entire project.

Whatever happens, I sincerely wish Mr. Robbins the best of luck. Like rail or not, at this point we all need to see him somehow successful.

Scott Foster is communications director for Hawaii Advocates For Consumer Rights. ORIGINAL HERE

October 28, 2018

OUR LAST CHANCE TO STOP THE HONOLULU RAIL PROJECT?

Aloha,
A “Special Meeting” of the Honolulu City Council is scheduled for next Tuesday to hear possibly THE MOST important and dangerous bills and resolutions to date regarding the “grossly over-budget” Honolulu Rail Project. Honolulu’s rail authority has been told by the feds “… to increase the budget for its elevated 20-mile rail project by another $134 million in order to satisfy federal concerns over the city’s ability to complete the project.” But that’s only part of the reason for this “Special Meeting.” Resolution 18-127 is “Authorizing the Director of Budget and Fiscal Services to issue and sell in one or more series not to exceed $450,000,000 principal amount of General Obligation Bonds of the City and County of Honolulu to finance capital costs of the Honolulu Rail Transit Project.”

This hearing may be our LAST CHANCE TO STOP THE MADNESS. The hearing agenda with descriptions of Bill 42 and the five proposed resolutions is HERE. Instructions for submitting testimony using the council’s online form are at the top of the agenda. You may also email your testimony directly to <jyamane1@honolulu.gov> or bring 14 copies with you to the hearing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018
9:00 AM
City Council Chamber 3rd floor
Honolulu Hale
530 South King Street
Honolulu, Hi 96813

IT’S OF VITAL IMPORTANCE THAT THE COMMUNITY SHOW UP!

We understand that 9 am on a Tuesday may be difficult for many but everyone can do something:

1) Phone YOUR Council Member at 808-768-5010 after 8 am on Monday, October 29 and politely ask them to vote “NO” on:
– Bill 42
– RESOLUTION 18-127
– PROPOSED CD1 TO RESOLUTION 18-127
– RESOLUTION 18-132
– RESOLUTION 18-237
– RESOLUTION 18-239

2) Write and send in testimony (see addressing and format below).

3) Come to the hearing to deliver your testimony.

4) Bring or send a supportive friend.

Your testimony can be as simple as “I am opposed to Bill 42 and Resolutions 18-127, 8-132, 18-237, and 18-239.” If you want to write more detailed testimony, see the talking points provided to us by Natalie Iwasa below the following sample testimony format.

If you are in favor of stopping the project at Middle Street, please include your own language such as: “Stop rail at Middle Street and get the existing system operating in order to see what the actual operating costs are before committing more $Billions.” We will be handing out small placards reading “Stop Rail at Middle Street” at the hearing and hope to have a gallery full of people holding these.

SAMPLE TESTIMONY ADDRESSING

TO: Ernest Y. Martin, Chair and Members of the Honolulu City Council

FROM: YOUR NAME & PHONE NUMBER
TESTIMONY FOR SPECIAL MEETING
CITY COUNCIL CHAMBER
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2018
9:00 A.M.

Aloha Chair Martin and Council Members,

Thank you for considering my testimony OPPOSING Bill 42 CD1 and Resolutions 18-127, 8-132, 18-237, and 18-239.

Mahalo

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TALKING POINTS
By Natalie Iwasa

– We were told no city funds would be used to build rail.

– Total cost is still unknown — additional funding requested in 2015 (GET extension), 2017 (GET extension & part TAT) and now city funds.

– Bill limits city revenues to $214 million, but city managing director testified in June that the shortfall was $250 million. (Note that the $44 million is included in the $214 million.)

– Measure is not transparent with respect to total cost to be covered by city taxpayers – it calls for the city to cover interest and issuance costs for any bonds, but that amount is not included in the $214 million.

– Budget for the last major segment from Middle Street to Ala Moana, City Center Guideway and Stations (CCGS) is only $848 million, yet this has been recognized as the most difficult section. Contract has not yet been signed, and request for proposals has not been completed.

– Bill 42 refers to Resolution 18-239, which is for approval of HART’s updated recovery plan. The recovery plan:
– Has not been approved by HART BOD. HART will meet Nov. 1, but only seven voting members are expected to attend and they will not be able to approve the plan at that meeting and are hoping to be able to do so on Nov. 15.

– Updated financial plan included in the recovery plan has not been approved by the HART BOD. (See prior bullet.)

– Updated plan relies on P3 (public-private partnership) for CCGS to contain cost and shift risks to private vendor – HART staff had said about two years ago (per Terry Lee, BOD member) that it was too late in the game for P3.

– Beginning cash of $156 million for FY 2019 appears to be incorrect (Figure 6-2). Amount per cash audit is $161 million. (HART had the correct amount for its cash projection presented at the August BOD meeting.)

– 2012 Full Funding Grant Agreement includes financing costs but Reso 18-239 does not.

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Scott Foster,
Communications Director
Hawai`i Advocates For Consumer Rights
808-590-5880

HOME

2018 Legislative Update

Partnering with local and national organizations and individuals, AFCR again wrote testimony to support or oppose numerous important public policy issues during the 2018 State Legislative Session. We supported the following laws which were passed during the 2018 Legislative Session:

– PASSED: Medical Aid In Dying – after 16 long years!

– PASSED: Doubled the funding for the the Kupuna (seniors) Caregiver Act

– PASSED: Pesticide Disclosure & Buffer Zones

PASSED: The ban on sunscreen products containing Oxybenzone to protect Hawaii’s fragile reefs

PASSED: Funding for three additional Neighbor Island emergency vehicles

PASSED: The “Bob Nakata” $800 million affordable housing Act

PASSED: Regulation of unlicensed senior care facilities

Also, the state Office of Information Practices (OIP) has prepared this “Quick Review” HERE to explain the major changes to the Hawai`i State Sunshine Law that will take effect on July 1, 2018, as a result of Act 64, (House Bill 165, SLH 2017). AFCR has worked consistently through the years to improve and to see Hawaii’s Sunshine Law enforced. A special “Mahalo” to Common Cause Hawai`i for their ongoing efforts to bring more sunshine into Hawai`i government! Consider Joining this active and effective organization.

To say that Hawai`i voters are fed up with the cronyism, nepotism and the disgusting “veil of secrecy” enveloping our local democratic processes and the resulting legislative failures of many of Hawaii’s elected officials would be a great understatement. In 2018, a growing number of politically-astute residents and community groups are organizing politically as rarely seen.

Several large local groups have recently been organized and are raising money to identify, train and support Progressive candidates for the 2018 Primary and beyond. They are working to challenge at least 10 particularly egregious entrenched elected officials.

Read some of the scathing local media stories about the 2017 Legislative Session HERE.  Although the 2018 Legislative Session has been judged to be “somewhat better,” the elephant in the room is Hawaii’s dire affordable housing situation and our many homeless. Many of Hawaii’s homeless are working families. Read the United Way’s Alice Report on Hawai`i HERE  

MEDICAL AID IN DYING: WHAT’S NEXT?

If you’re interested in helping to implement our 2018 Physician Aid In Dying legislation, please visit the Hawai`i Death With Dignity Society Web page HERE and add your name to the email list. The Catholic Church and other Conservative churches will stop at nothing to keep our bill from being implemented as is taking place now in California. If a lawsuit is filled in Hawai`i, we must be ready and will again need “all hands on deck” to deal with that.

Only one example of the power of the Conservative Christians in Hawai`i during their 2009 political rally against Marriage Equality at the State Capitol.

Only one example of the power of the Conservative Christians in Hawai`i during their 2009 political rally against Marriage Equality at the State Capitol.

Mahalo for your interest and active participation. –  Scott Foster, AFCR Communications Director

“Activism is something that no one can fake. You get angry. You cry. But you never throw in your towel, because that anger is what is propelling you to further action.” ~ Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Prize Laureate and Liberian Peace Activist

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