Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Fact-checking fact check: Rail jobs may not even go to locals

by Larry Geller

The Civil Beat fact check series is well worth tracking. It’s not perfect, but it is very much on the right track.

I’m not going to participate in their Facebook commenting system, though, and heck, I have my own blog right here.

Check out FACT CHECK — Rail Opponents: City Has Yet To Identify 10,000 Promised Jobs (Civil Beat, 8/29/2011). While this article gets a bit mired, in my view, in the he-said-she-said claims of rail proponents and opponents rather than researching the experience of historically similar ventures (in other words, rail construction that has completed or is even still underway elsewhere), it attempts a neutral analysis of these claims. Since the rail project is certain to figure prominently (for good or bad) in Honolulu’s economy should it proceed, we might all be concerned and interested in understanding the impact as much as possible.

I would throw in a comment I’ve made before about rail jobs: they may not go to locals.

We live in a tough economy, nationally. There is nothing I can see that would prevent someone from coming to Hawaii and, if they have necessary skills, getting a job workin’ on the railroad. And then goin’ back home to Texas or wherevah. Or even back to Mexico? Yes, we may hear a little Southern drawl or Northern twang in addition to pidgin or the many languages we already have in Hawaii.

They may take jobs we assume will go to Hawaii workers, or possibly, some might choose to stay here, buy a car, and add to our traffic problems. They may send money back home to their families rather than spend all of it in our local economy.

Fact checking has its limits. There are uncertainties, and no one has a crystal ball. Still, there may be ways to bypass some of the hype and look instead at related projects for guidance. That is, to tap into numbers more reliable than the figures floating on the hot air fumes hovering over the local battle. I don’t actually care if the local numbers are 17,000 or 10,000 jobs claimed. There may be a way to estimate the impact of a rail project independently of the hype. Not that it would be easy.

We need more fact checking as an antidote because too many people are out there trying to cloud our minds with propaganda.

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We have experienced this already --- it was called construction of the H-3 and there were 2 companies building the bridging on the Windward side of the island, with numerous workers from Canada and New Zealand.....didn't someone do some research on those jobs - and who managed to get them and the numbers - and the resultant unemployment when the job ended? With a little extrapolation from the earlier times, coupled with the global recession and many-many people out of work now, I can see the numbers being even more skewered towards outside labor than the H-3 ever was.....So just think, this construction project will not just be about local labor getting a position -- it's going to be about workers permits and all the usual tools of imported labor....

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