Advocates For Consumer Rights

Aloha!

October, 2019

Thanks to you, the informed Hawai`i Consumer, Advocates For Consumer Rights (AFCR) is in our third decade working for the interests of Hawaii’s beleaguered consumers. Explore our proud history of public policy accomplishments at “Our History” in the menu bar. 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 consider joining our email list (top right column or scroll way down on a smartphone) to follow and hopefully engage in dealing with some of Hawaii’s many critical challenges.

NOTE: The Jones Act is back in the news after the March, 2019, publication of the 52-page analysis by the University of Hawaii Research Organization (UHERO): Cabotage Sabotage? The Curious Case of the Jones Act By William W. Olney. Read or download the pdf HERE

The UHERO report has been followed up by an October, 2019, story by Beverly Creamer: Jones Act: Pro and Con in the Hawaii Business Week magazine HERE.

Frankly, AFCR tends to follow and agree with Michael Hansen, President of the Hawaii Shippers’ Council. His sage 1997 review of the Council’s Jones Act cost estimates (3%) was reposted on July 10, 2019, and may be read on his Jones Act Facebook page HERE. It’s short and to the point.

Last but not least, view Ed Case Talks Jones Act with Keli’i Akina on Hawaii Together (September 13, 2019 ThinkTech Hawaii) via YouTube HERE.

As our regular readers know, AFCR has reported on The Jones Act for decades and have much understandable (dumbed down) information under What is “The Jones Act” and why should you care? HERE.

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WHAT CAN WE DO TO SALVAGE RAIL?

A Viable Plan B?

Given the many problems including four scathing State audits , one equally negative Honolulu County audit AND a federal investigation of the Honolulu Authority For Rapid Transportation (HART) underway, we believe that major construction on the Honolulu Rail Project should be built to and paused at the Middle Street Bus Terminal and that entire leg be made operative ASAP. In the meantime, we suggest exploring rerouting the rail line to end at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

We believe our elected and appointed officials must all be encouraged to carefully contemplate this Plan B before another contract is offered on what has been acknowledged to be the most disruptive and expensive segment; Dillingham-downtown-Ala Moana.

The dysfunction and financial bleeding must cease. While the Kapolei to Aloha Stadium portion “is slated to begin operating in 2020,” we are challenging HART to accomplish this Plan B by the end of 2019.

While our primary reason for the suggested reroute is the predicted sea rise which will ultimately inundate much of the current route, we also believe that the greatest reduction in street and highway traffic can be achieved via the UH route.

Some want to see the project completely stopped and torn down, others insist that it continue to Ala Moana. OUR primary goal is to help salvage the project in the most logical and expeditious manner possible and we are already working to see this Plan B debated in the public square.

Obviously, the massive rail project is out of control and it’s up to US to help bring order to chaos. Please see the following Star-Advertiser article for more about our Plan B. – Scott Foster, volunteer Communications Director.

State Audit of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation: Report 1 HERE

State Audit of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation: Report 2 HERE 

State Audit of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation: Report 3 PENDING

State Audit of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation: Report 4 PENDING

Honolulu City Auditor’s Highlights HERE

Honolulu Follow-Up Audit of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, Resolution 17-199, CD1 HERE

NOTE: See our long history working to see an efficient and affordable mass transit system in Honolulu HERE.

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 Star-Advertiser op-ed HERE

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Who Are We?

AFCR is nonpartisan, 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 make positive change in important public policy. Mahalo for supporting our work through the years. — Scott Foster, Co-Founder & volunteer Communications Director.

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