Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Op-Ed: Honolulu City Council Revote on Rail a Mockery
None of these contributions broke the law. But they obviously created a major conflict with the public’s interest. The contributions were also so great, and the indebtedness so deep, that it was, and is, impossible for any council member to vote against any project the building community wants.
Dr. Kioni Dudley asked if this might be posted here. I agree with him, and so here it is.
Corporations and unions are not philanthropic organizations. When they make political contributions they are making investments, and they expect a return for their money. If the Honolulu City Council members identified by Dr. Dudley had a conflict of interest when they originally voted on rail, then they still have that conflict today, and re-voting does not erase that conflict but rather compounds the ethical issue. In fact, calling a revote is tantamount to an admission that the councilmembers are compromised.
I have not verified the accuracy of the information cited by Dr. Dudley.
Council Revote on Rail a Mockery
By Dr. Kioni Dudley
Whoa, there! Do City Council members have no shame? The Honolulu City Council is rushing to pass Bill 73, a revote on a Rail bond passed in 2012. It is absolutely preposterous that this Council is holding themselves up as able to vote in the interest of the people on any construction project. Every Council Member has been bought by the construction community.
Over the years, the construction community—developers, contractors, cement companies, banks, planners, lobbyists, real estate people, and the many various construction unions—have worked together to take over the city government. Pacific Resource Partnership (PRP), a consortium of developers, contractors, and unions, has been at the heart of the action. In 2012, John White and Andy Winer, in leadership positions at PRP, spent $3.5 million dollars for ads vilifying Ben Cayetano in order to get Kirk Caldwell elected mayor.
What did it get them? A mayor in their pocket, of course, but that’s not all. It bought them every department in the whole city government. All department heads are appointed by the mayor and report directly to the mayor. They do exactly what the mayor wants. Period.
At the same time, under the radar, PRP and the whole construction community were laying out huge amounts to buy each of the council members.
The Friends of Makakilo did a study of Council Member campaign contributions during the period from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2014. We looked for contributors who would profit directly from development of Rail and Ho’opili, since the Council views them as intricately interconnected. We found that all but two Council Members got more than half of their campaign contributions from these construction entities.
Ann Kobayashi got 43% and Joey Manahan got 46%, far too much to pass up next time by voting wrong. Trevor Ozawa was next at 57%.
Carol Fukunaga collected 40% of her campaign contributions from the construction community. But recent research uncovered the fact that PRP spent a separate $86,000 on advertising in order to get her elected, bringing her total support from construction to $190,565 and her percentage up to 57%.
Council Chair Ernie Martin came in at 59%, but that represented $258,000, certainly a big enough hunk of cash to assure he would do anything needed.
Stunning as it might be, nearly three quarters of the campaign contributions--72%-- collected by Ron Menor, Ikaika Anderson, and Kymberly Pine came from developers, builders, unions, and others in the construction community. Three quarters of their campaign chest! Could they possibly vote against any project?
In addition, during the last four months of Ikaika Anderson’s campaign for Congress in 2012, his campaign manager was hired and paid a salary by PRP for a job as their Government Relations Manager. She still holds this position and regularly sends testimony from PRP asking the council to support various projects.
Kymberly Pine also had marvelous additional help from PRP who paid for three mailings at roughly $30,000 each to get her elected. That $90,000 raised her percentage of money spent by builders for her candidacy to 82%!
All this on-the-take is topped by the case of freshman council member Brandon Elefante. Elefante collected $13,000 from ordinary people. He received almost twice that much from builders and unions. He then allowed PRP, in their new disguise as Forward Progress, to spend another $105,000 to secure his victory. Having brought in only $13,000 from local citizens, he won with $130,000, ten times as much. His percentage of indebtedness to entities who will profit directly from approval of Rail: 91%.
None of these contributions broke the law. But they obviously created a MAJOR conflict with the public’s interest. The contributions were also so great, and the indebtedness so deep, that it was, AND IS, impossible for any council member to vote against ANY project the building community wants.
No council member any longer has the independence of judgement and freedom of choice that is absolutely essential in making an unbiased, reasoned, fair, honest, legal, and valid judgement. Without this independence of judgement and freedom of choice any vote is dishonest and fraudulent.
To hold a truly valid vote on rail, we need an entirely new council.
Princess Abigail Kawananakoa filed a suit over earlier votes on rail. We salute her for stepping forward and insisting on clean government. We need to all insist on the same.
There is an opportunity: On Friday, October 16 from 2:30 to 6:00, and on the following day, Saturday, from 8 -4, the Friends of Makakilo will join Aloha ‘Aina/We Are Mauna Kea and many other organizations for mass sign-wavings to protest both corruption in government and the invalid votes of the Council on the Ho’opili development. This will take place in Kapolei, at the Walmart corner. Take a ride to the country. Park your car, grab a sign, and let others know Enough is enough!
This article is written by Dr. Kioni Dudley in his capacity as the president of the Friends of Makakilo, Inc.