The Importance of Accurate Testimony
With rail costs running away this past summer, it seemed worthwhile to consider whether a less expensive Plan B option would be feasible.
However, just before the special session, the Caldwell administration effectively took a Plan B option off the table.
In a hearing leading up to the rail special session, Mayor Kirk Caldwell stated that, “Funding must be adequate to fully fund the project all the way to Ala Moana Center.” He added, “The FTA (Federal Transit Administration) will allow nothing less.”
Many legislators looked visibly shocked at the claim by the mayor that the FTA, which is partially funding the rail project, would not accept anything less than a Plan A.
But our Grassroot Institute researchers double-checked that point with FTA officials, who told us that they never made a determination one way or the other about a Plan B option.
The FTA “never made a determination as to whether a Plan B … would potentially be feasible or acceptable,” we were told in an e-mail.
Accurate facts are important when billions of dollars are on the line, and the Caldwell administration should have been more forthright about the fact that a lower-cost option might have been feasible.
State lawmakers rely on testimony to be accurate, because they use that knowledge to make decisions that affect hundreds of thousands of taxpaying citizens. But in this case, they simply took the mayor at his word and never pressed his administration to submit a Plan B.
We may never know what kind of Plan B might have been submitted to the FTA if lawmakers had known that a lower-cost rail option might have been considered.
But, we can still hold the lawmakers accountable and call their bluff when they are less than transparent.
That’s why it’s still important to conduct a full forensic audit of the Honolulu rail project, to shine a light on any inaccuracies that might have affected its history, or its future.
E hana kakou (Let’s work together!),
Keli'i Akina, Ph.D.