Saturday, June 23, 2012

Something To Know about Letters to the Editor: They Don’t Have To Be Accurate To Be Printed

Attention Newspaper Readers: What you read in the letters column may not be factual.
The city has not spent a dime of the rail “line of credit” fund approved by the City Council earlier this month, but that’s not what’s in today’s rail-related letter to the editor (subscription):
Rail costs have only just begun (Star-Advertiser, 6/23)
Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle said that “the likelihood is next to zero” that a $450 million line of credit will ever be used for the rail transit project…. The next day, we learned that we’ve only just begun, and already the city is tapping the contingency fund for overruns and unexpected costs.
We are up to $88 million and counting, and Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Director Daniel Grabauskas that “it is not unusual.” I find this flippant attitude to be appalling and a direct disregard of where the money is coming from to pay for all of this.
We all know the payback will mean increased taxes….
The writer is confused. The line of credit that received 7-to-2 support from the Council will be an emergency-only “cash cushion” (the Star-Advertiser’s description) if completely unexpected developments occur.
HART CEO Grabauskas described the fund in a city press release: “The funding source Bill 37 provides would only be used as a last resort if there is a dramatic, unforeseen circumstance.” HART does not expect to use it.
Totally Different
A completely separate fund that’s already built into the project’s $5.3 billion budget is a contingency fund to cover increased costs above the original estimate. That fund is the source of the $88 million mentioned in the letter to the editor.
They’re not the same. The city has not tapped the line of credit, and the letter writer has it completely wrong.
The letters column isn’t where you go if you’re looking for facts. It’s all about opinion, and that’s why it’s there – to give readers a place to vent.
But don’t lap up everything you read there as factual. Today’s anti-rail letter obviously isn’t.
Come to think of it, you have to be careful about what you read elsewhere, too. (See the numerous links to anti-railer Cliff Slater's comments at our aggregation site.) It's a maxim for a reason: "Consider the source."


Roy Kamisato said...

It appears most of the $88 million cost increase was due to start up delays caused by Linda Lingle's refusal to sign the EIS. It is to the credit of the HART team that those delay costs were limited to $88 million. IMHO it is unreasonable to hold letter writers to a higher standard than newspaper columnist. :O

Anonymous said...

The SA is ridiculously irresponsible with its letters section.

The day before, a letter alleged that bus route cuts are not due to increased fuel prices, but are somehow due to the rail project, something that has been denied and explained repeatedly.

Not only did the letter not provide any evidence that rail is responsible for the cuts, but it didn't even provide a theory for how rail could possibly be responsible.

Yet they printed it anyway, as their top letter, no less.

When the state's sole daily newspaper is so callously irresponsible, is it any wonder the public gets confused?

Anonymous said...

Roy, Doug, The rail bids were let out too soon in '09. (Mufi and DTS were the problem)
Groundbreaking was only in Mar'11 (only 18 months ago)
Hart hasn't even been around 12 months yet Roy?!
We're in year '12, so the contracts were let out three years too early since no Fed funding FFGA til end of '12- Maybe.
The surface transit reauthorization bill in congress/senate conference may cut $150m this year from rail....So where's the needed funding coming from if the Fed funding falls short of 1.55billion? Please reply if you have any answers, because I would think this would mess up the rail financial plan in place that also includes 5307 fed funding ($244m) used for rail, but needed by the bus.
Roy, Doug- Do you think rail hurts funding for TheBus as with current bus cutbacks to affected local ridership?

Doug Carlson said...

Had it not been for Governor Lingle's politics-motivated stalling on the FEIS, those contracts would have been right on time. The rest of your commentary relies on "may" and "if" so much your post looks like it's straight from Cliff Slater's computer.

As for bus funding, that's not my focus. I tend to believe the people who speak on behalf of that operation, who have said budgets would have to be cut to curb expenses rail or no rail.

So you see things through your filter, and I see those same things differently thanks to a different filter. Cliff or whoever you are -- we disagree on rail, OK? You think you're right; I'm sure I'm right.

Anonymous said...

Doug, Linda didn't delay the DEIS nor FEIS, she had a third party review the rail financial plan validity, and the outcome was an evaluation that stated the project would cost over $7 billion not $5b as the city claims.
You are wrong on your second count, while I am flattered that you think I'm Cliff, I'm not. Try again, but we've never met, I've only seen you at a few rail events but have failed to approach, for you'd just be critical of my position against this flawed transit plan, and you wouldn't like listening to facts vs. the way you manipulate and confront others who disagree with you.
You were also wrong to think you're right; I'm sure that I know I'm right and your pro-rail opinions won't change that. I will agree to disagree with you. But I'll tell you this-
I don't think you deserve a dime of your $85 an hour to spew pro-rail garbage without even a mention of just how viable the future twenty-year financial plan is, you go and dance around it and ignore the fiscal budgetary restrictions most of us have on our daily lives, and you want heavy rail built at ANY cost to locals and it's despicable, just like you wasting my time believing the rubbish you put out. We're not buying it anymore Doug.
Go away please. Go back to ranting about the MLB blackout in Hawaii. You were much better at that even though you didn't get paid. I suggest maybe just sticking to baseball.