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Honolulu Councilmember Calls For More Transparency From Rail Project

Casey Harlow
Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi

Honolulu Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi has submitted two resolutions to urge the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, and the administration, to be more open with the Council and the public.

Resolution 19-257 requests the U.S. Department of the Interior to postpone any decision on a land exchange between the state and city until public hearings are conducted. 

In 2006, the City began discussing a possible land exchange with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. The deal would exchange 56 acres of DHHL land in Waipahu for 50 acres of undeveloped City-owned land in Kapolei.

The land in Waipahu would be used for a maintenance and storage facility for the rail.

According to resolution, the Waipahu property had an assessed real property tax value of more than $21 million, while the Kapolei property was assessed at $5 million.

The U.S. Department of Interior oversees the DHHL's land trust, and must review and approve the full appraisals of both parcels in the exchange.

Tsuneyoshi says the public has the right to know the specifics of the land exchange between the DHHL and the City, and they have the right to voice their concerns.

The second resolution, Resolution 19-256, urges HART to submit the contract for a public-private partnership (or P-3) to the Council for approval before it moves forward. This is mainly for the Council to see the conditions of the partnership before it is finalized.

Tsuneyoshi pointed to recent controversies surrounding the rail project, including the results of the audit and federal subpoenas, as reasons for more transparency as it moves into the next phase.

"This resolution is looking to make sure that there is transparency, and questions are answered before we make any agreements," said Tsuneyoshi.

Tsuneyoshi believes the resolutions are also necessary to get specific details about the rail project.

"For many years, we've [City Councilmembers] asked for information about the cost of this, what's happening with this, and we get general answers," said Tsuneyoshi.

"But we never get specifics. And without specifics, it's very hard to set a budget. It's very hard to figure out what we're obligating the taxpayers to."

Both resolutions will be discussed at the next Executive Matters and Legal Affiars Committee on Tuesday, October 22, at 1:30 PM.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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