By Laurie Au
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”
Newsletter, clipping service, multi-language fliers