Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Mayor’s profligate spending on pro-rail advertisements is an outrageous waste of taxpayer money

by Larry Geller

I was actually quite angry when I unpacked my newspaper and found Mufi’s expensive, flashy insert pushing his rail project. I planned to call to find out how much that slick propaganda piece cost us taxpayers. The Advertiser saved me the trouble. An article today says it cost $176,000.

Now I’m even more angry.

The city spent nearly $2.6 million from August 2005 through June 30, 2008, on a rapid-transit public information campaign that includes pro-rail advertising, community meetings and speakers bureau presentations, a monthly newsletter and a project Web site and hot line.

More than $1 million of that money was spent since February 2008. That figure excludes about $176,000, which was spent on a new brochure that was inserted into last weekend's Honolulu newspapers.

Some of those public outreach efforts are mandated by the federal government, which is expected to pay for a portion of the mass transit system. However, citizens group Stop Rail Now contends the city is using taxpayer money to sway public opinion in favor of rail in advance of a Nov. 4 vote that's key to the project's future. [Honolulu Advertiser, City ending rail transit advertising campaign, 10/21/2008]

“Public outreach” could have been done on ordinary, relatively cheap and recyclable newsprint. The insert was printed on large-format, expensive, bleached, coated and highly calendered paper. It will go into the landfill and pollute our islands. The “outreach” was clearly timed to arrive just before early voting began. That must be a distortion of any federal mandate.

The city doesn’t listen to us at its public meetings. This expensive insert is just another effort to tell us what’s supposedly good for us.

That $176,000 could have been used for other purposes. It could have been used to replace aging  or missing street signs. It could have used to repair sidewalks or re-paint fading or faded white lines and turn arrows. It could have been used to make those “left turn only 6:30-8:30 except alternate Friday mornings in March” street signs actually large enough to read.

It could have paid to re-paint some crosswalks and help save pedestrian lives. Heck, it could have paid for some police to enforce traffic laws! Wouldn’t that be a great use of the money?

$176,000 could be used to educate the public on recycling. It could be used to help those who need homes, or to fix those sprinklers on Nimitz Highway that keep washing the roadways instead of watering the plants (even during downpours!).

Here’s a picture I’ve run before of a street just rotting away. It’s just a block from Beretania right here in downtown Honolulu.

Keep walking towards Vineyard Blvd. and there’s a sidewalk which is still waiting for its cutout.

The contrast between that slick, colorful rail ad with the shabby, deteriorating condition of the rest of the city is pretty stark. Producing such an expensive promotional piece is a wildly extravagant use of taxpayer money.

Mayor, spend our money on the things we elected you to take care of.



One of the Mufi distortions that really bugs me is his claim that sierra club endorses his most recent railroad train plan. He needs to understand that he is not a king and he can't tell sierra club what they endorse.

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