With Cliff Slater, Ben Cayetano, Panos Prevedouros, Walter Heen and others, Randall Roth Opposed Heavy Rail on Oahu:

For a Quick Look at the Key Issues: How the City Misled the Public on Elevated Heavy Rail; The Impending Honolulu Rail Ridership Debacle; and Randall Roth email to legislators on eve of funding decision

2011: Job Numbers Don’t Add Up, Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Oct. 20, 2011 (with Heen, Cayetano, and Slater); Congestion Lies; Response to Civil Beat, Oct. 25, 2011; Submitted to Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Oct. 25, 2011; Response to Star-Advertiser article about rail-construction jobs, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Oct. 25, 2011 (with Cayetano and Slater); How the City Misled the Public on Elevated Heavy Rail, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Aug. 21, 2011, p. F1 (with Heen, Cayetano, and Slater)

2012: Commentary submitted to Star-Advertiser, Jan. 7, 2012; FTA Letter, March 27, 2012; City Rail Project is Fundamentally Flawed, Hawaii Reporter, Mar. 27, 2012 (with Heen and Slater); Rail article, April 24, 2012; Managed Lanes, Not Trains, Pacific Business News, June 4, 2012; Randall Roth and Bill Meheula debating RAIL on Rick Hamada Show June 12, 2012; Randall Roth discussing RAIL on radio June 19, 2012; Randall Roth discussing RAIL on radio June 26, 2012; Rail Robbery, Honolulu Weekly, June 20, 2012 (with Heen and Slater); Managed lanes would be superior to elevated rail, Pacific Business News, June 22, 2012 (with John Brizdle); Radio Interview of Roth March 23, 2012; Video Talk by Roth Feb. 28, 2012; Video Interview of Roth & Prevedouros Aug. 23 2012; Video Interview of Roth & Slater March 29, 2012; Roth and other made dozens of presentations on rail each year, such as the following:

2013: Waiting a bit longer for court decision could save more money in the long run, Island Voices, Sept. 15, 2013 (with Heen and Slater); Misleading Description of Congestion Relief regarding misleading “facts” on HART Website

2016: The Case for Stopping Rail Construction at Middle Street, May 19, 2016 (Cliff Slater); How to make the best of Honolulu’s rail fiasco, Honolulu, Star-Advertiser, June 29, 2016 (with Slater and Prevedouros)

Not Too Late To Stop Rail At Middle Street, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Sept. 18, 2016 (with Prevedouros); What to do about Rail, Civil Beat, Sept. 29, 2016 (with Slater and Prevedouros); What to do about the Honolulu Rail Project, Civil Beat, Oct. 3, 2016 (with Slater and Prevedouros); We Should Not Pay a Penny To The Federal Transit Administration, Civil Beat, Oct. 10, 2016 (with Slater and Prevedouros) Honolulu Rail: From $4.6B to $8.6B in Eight Years. Now What?, New Geography, Oct. 11, 2016; also published as What to Do About Rail, Civil Beat, Oct. 3, 2016 (with Prevedouros and Slater); Randall Roth Speech to Social Science Association, Dec. 5, 2016; Still time to turn rail woe into bus way Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Dec. 25, 2016

2017: Ridership data, Feb. 7, 2017, Fifteen Smallest Cities with Rail; Roth Video Interview on July 17, 2017; Roth Video Interview on May 22, 2017; Roth Video Interview on Jan. 6, 2017; Honolulu Rail Is Too Much, Too Late, Civil Beat, March 9, 2017 (with Slater); Anti-Rail Ad in Washington Post, April 20, 2017 (Ben Cayetano); Dumb and Dumber: Why Honolulu Should Abandon Rail, Civil Beat, April 27, 2017 (with Slater); Enough is enough: Cut losses, end rail project, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, June 20, 2017; Rail Audit Needs to be Comprehensive, Independent, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Aug. 24, 2017 (with Slater and Prevedouros); Special Session to Fund Rail, Hawaii Public Radio, Aug. 28, 2017 (with Slater); Letter from Cliff Slater to Jim Ryan re Rail Ridership, Sept. 23, 2017; It’s Not Too Late to Build Rail Better, Civil Beat editorial, Dec. 5, 2017; The Impending Honolulu Rail Ridership Debacle, Civil Beat, Feb. 13, 2017 (with Slater); Randall Roth email to legislators on eve of funding decision, Aug. 31, 2017; $3 Billion Deep Hole for Honolulu Rail Project, July 17, 2017; Honolulu Rail Counting the Cost, May 22, 2017; Problems with the Rail Initiative, Jan. 6, 2017

2018: Randall Roth Rotary Talk, March 2, 2018; Transit Innovations Impel Shorter Rail, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Mar. 11, 2018 (with C. Slater); What Honolulu Rail Officials Know They Don’t Know, Civil Beat, April 17, 2018 (with Slater)

2019: How a Train Through Paradise Turned Into a $9 Billion Debacle, Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2019 (Dan Frosch and Paul Overberg); Rail Propaganda, April 15, 2019 (with Slater and Prevedouros); Randall Roth talk to Downtown Exchange Club, June 2019; TV News Report regarding Kathy Kealoha’s role in rail (2019)

2021: Why Honolulu’s Rail System Should End at Middle Street, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, May 10, 2021 (with Slater and Prevedouros); Council Member Cordero Wrong about Stopping Rail at Middle Street (with Slater and Prevedouros); What Now For Honolulu’s Rail Project? Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Sept. 12, 2021 (retired FTA officials Ron Fisher and Jim Ryan)

Misc. Items: Stop Rail Now flyer; WSJ in 1991 regarding Cliff Slater and Rail in 1980s and 1990s; Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi re TOD; IMG Report (2010); Office of Environmental Quality Control (OEQC) email [In which Kathy Kealoha somewhat surreptitiously assists in the push for heavy rail on Oahu]; Interview of retired FTA official Ron Fisher, Aug. 2, 2021; Options for rail’s future, draft #3, Aug. 31, 2021

FTA internal email: (1) “lousy practices of public manipulation,” (2) “We seem to be proceeding in the hallowed tradition of Honolulu rapid transit studies: never enough time to do it right, but lots of time to do it over.” (3) “Unless this changes, we are again headed for a lawsuit.” (4) “With all of the misinformation that is out in the media and the growing public discontent, getting [the Environmental Impact Study] out [prior to asking voters to approve rail] would have been a great benefit to the project.” [#4 is dated October 20-22, 2008, shortly before the public approved rail on Oahu by slight majority without knowing what was in the Draft Environmental Impact Study, thanks to the city’s foot dragging]

Notable Headlines: Runaway Train, Original Cost Projection, Train Wreck Audit,

Political Ads: Trust, Big Mess

Roth Videos: $3 Billion Deep Hole for Honolulu Rail Project, July 17, 2017; Honolulu Rail Counting the Cost, May 22, 2017; Problems with the Rail Initiative, January 6, 2017

Roth and Slater Radio Interview, August 28, 2017

Katherine Kealoha’s Role in Rail:

1.  Gov. Linda Lingle appointed Katherine Director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control (OEQC) on Feb. 7, 2008.  As such, Katherine was responsible for assisting the governor on all matters relating to environmental quality control, such as the governor’s acceptance or rejection of the critically important Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the City’s rail project.  

2.  On Feb. 20, 2008 Katherine used the fictional Alison Lee Wong to recommend her own confirmation.  The public has long known this. I mention it now simply to underscore Katherine’s willingness to deceive within the time frame I’m about to describe.

3.  Background Information:  Beginning in 2005, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann led a well-financed, highly misleading effort to secure public support for a steel-on-steel heavy rail project.  For example, he and other City personnel led the public to think (a) rail would create 10,000 new jobs each year during construction, (b) run from Kapolei to UH-Manoa at a total construction cost well below $5 billion, (c) be fully operational by 2019 and (d) reduce traffic congestion from current levels.  All of that was wildly off the mark (e.g., the EIS eventually clarified that “traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than what it is today”).  Years later I received copies of interoffice emails in which a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) staff member cautioned his colleagues when dealing with the City’s personnel on its rail project, to “remain cognizant of their willingness to deceive the FTA with no remorse,” and another wrote, “I do not think the FTA should be associated with their lousy practices of public manipulation.”  The City’s rail campaign intensified in the months leading up to a public vote in November of 2008 on whether to authorize the City to proceed with rail.  By October 22 of that year, an FTA staff member complained in an email to the City about the City’s failure to make the draft EIS available to the public before the upcoming vote: “With all the misinformation that is out in the media and the growing public discontent, getting both this document … out early in October would have been a great benefit to the project.  Now we must focus on getting it out in the last week of October ….”  Yet the City held off releasing a draft EIS until it was too late to influence the November vote, which the City won with a razor-thin majority. 

4.  There is a troubling Sept. 21, 2009 email from Katherine to two people from the City who, along with Mayor Hannemann, were probably quite concerned about the possibility that Gov. Lingle would eventually reject the final EIS.  This email is labeled, “CONFIDENTIAL status report … NOT FOR DISSEMINATION.”  In it, Katherine says the next step for the City is “to submit the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) to the Governor, c/o Office of Environmental Quality Control (Accepting Authority), for approval by OEQC of the distribution list for the FEIS, and OEQC’s processing acceptance or denial.”  This is fine, on its face.  But Katherine then highlights legal issues that strike me as inappropriate for her to discuss in a confidential email to agents of the City, and she “recommend[s] that OEQC organize and moderate [] hearings.”  The first problem is that Katherine’s agency (the OEQC) would not normally organize and moderate such hearings.  Another is that after correctly describing OEQC as “an objective third-party with no interest in the outcome,” Katherine goes on in this confidential email to suggest a plan of action: “Strategically, if everyone agrees to this approach, OEQC would be the appropriate requesting party that initiates the concept of public hearing for the project” and “upon agreement, the request will be made by OEQC, and the City/State/Federal stakeholders will not object to the proposal.”  Katherine appears to be inviting others to conspire in, or at least not oppose, a confidential plan to conduct public hearings in a way that would serve the interests of the Mayor and other rail supporters at the City.  Katherine evidently held such hearings several months later in December 2009 and early 2010, but according to a July 6, 2010 Honolulu Advertiser news article, not even the leaders of Hawaii’s leading environmental groups knew about any of these hearings.  In the article, Katherine Kealoha “acknowledged that her hearings did not draw crowds or attention.”   

5.  I suspect it was not a coincidence that Louis Kealoha was named Chief of Police less that two months after the above-described confidential email in which Katherine seemed to suggest a way she could use her office to benefit the City’s rail effort.  According to media reports, Louis’ credentials were not overwhelming: “The new chief has jumped over the ranks of Major and Assistant Chief,” and “Mayor Mufi Hannemann gave Kealoha a rousing endorsement [even though Kealoha had] the least experience out of the three other local candidates.” 

6.  It’s been reported that Katherine managed to prevent Lingle from making a formal decision on the final EIS prior to leaving office.  Simply described, Katherine kept saying she needed more time to complete her analysis, right up to the very end of Lingle’s term. 

7.  Although not free from doubt, there are reasons to believe Gov. Lingle was inclined to give a thumbs down to the rail Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  For example, earlier in the year she ordered an independent financial analysis of rail by outside experts and it sharply criticized the rail project.  Hannemann implied that Lingle was biased against rail by suggesting her experts “reached a ‘predetermined’ conclusion.”

8.  Perhaps the most bizarre piece of this admittedly incomplete puzzle is an email from a senior rail person at the City to Katherine’s personal email address four days after the swearing in of Lingle’s successor.  By then, Katherine had long since vacated her office and position at OEQC.  The sender of this email asks Katherine for “a copy of the Acceptance Recommendation Letter for our EIS,” even though that person almost certainly knew such a document did not exist.  But the sender added, “If [you don’t have such a document], would you be willing to write a short letter providing the [new] Governor with your assessment of the acceptability of the FEIS?”  Keep in mind, this email was coming from the Mayor’s office; is addressed to a former member of the Lingle Administration who had reportedly prevented Lingle from being able to make an informed decision on the rail EIS; and is asking Katherine to create an important document for the new governor. 

9.  Although the EIS for rail was thousands of pages long and quite detailed, the new governor approved it several days later.  Meanwhile, here’s a brief TV News report on Kathy Kealoha’s role in rail.

For many years, Cliff Slater maintained a comprehensive record of the history of heavy rail on Oahu.

Lots more to come ….