City’s bill on rail transit outreach

October 23rd, 2008

The city has spent $2.6 million for “public involvement” — such as advertising, brochures and community meetings — for its proposed rail transit system over the last three years.

Responding to recent media reports, City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi‘s campaign for mayor sent out a press release today, calling Mayor Mufi Hannemann‘s use of taxpayer dollars on advertising and promotion “irresponsible.”

“Especially since rail is a (City) Charter amendment question, taxpayers’ money should not be used to lobby,” Kobayashi said. “Mufi has been saying it’s a federal mandate, but the federal government says you only have to inform the public, not spend $2.6 million.”

Elisa Yadao, spokeswoman for the city’s rail transit system under city-contracted consulting firm InfraConsult, was quick to note that not all of the expenses were on advertisements and that the total amount was over a span of two years since the project’s inception. Yadao also noted that public outreach is required by the Federal Transit Administration.

The city will hold its last of a series of community informational meetings tonight at Mililani Waena Elementary School. Organizers of anti-rail group, Stop Rail Now, have complained that they didn’t get ample time to present their side at these community meetings.

After tonight’s meeting, the city will go dark on all its outreach and advertising with less than two weeks until Oahu voters vote on a crucial City Charter amendment that will determine the fate of the system.

On the decision to stop running the ads, Yadao said, “Clearly people have been hungry for information. We’re two weeks before the election, we made a decision last week so that we can be abundantly cautious.”

Here is a breakdown of the city’s expenses on outreach, courtesy of Yadao, from August 2005 to June 2008. (Download a PDF file here.)

Community Outreach, $1,501,100
Scoping meetings, speaker’s bureau, Neighborhood Board meetings

Alternatives Analysis Dissemination, $116,400
DVD production, airtime for DVD broadcast

Workshops and Symposia, $265,100
Preparation and staffing

Web site, $100,750
Development and maintenance

Olelo (Public TV access), $89,550
“Honolulu on the Move”

Commercial radio spots, $165,200
Airtime, production, “Honolulu on the Move”

Other, $329,900
Newsletter, clipping service, multi-language fliers

One Response to “City’s bill on rail transit outreach”

  1. Russ:

    Is it a lot of money? Yes. Has the rail system faced consistent and high-profile opposition that distorts the truth with half-truth/half-lies like “traffic will be worse in the future with rail”? yes. (duh. of course traffic will be worse in teh future no matter what we do. rail makes it less worse) And if you look at how much was expended, more than half of it went to grassroots stuff like community meetings.

    I’m saying this as a local boy who is an unabashed rail supporter. I went to college in SF and used BART everyday. I worked in Portland and rode the MAX everyday. When I came back home after 10 years away, I could literally see a difference in the number of cars on the roads and how much worse traffic is, particularly in town. I can’t believe that building more highways will reduce traffic congestion and make our island more sustainable.

    I think rail is an expensive but worthwhile investment. It’ll cost us far more if we don’t build it.

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