Rocket Dreams, Flaming Garbage

Larry Price
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Wednesday - February 23, 2011
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Sometimes trying to keep track of how our legislators think is a major challenge. In one way it makes sense, because they are coming from so many unknown sources. It was once suggested that it would be easier for taxpayers if all legislators were forced to wear uniforms like NASCAR drivers who have all of their sponsors decals sewn on their jumpsuits, so you can tell whom they are representing.

But they don’t, of course, so sometimes you just have to guess where their ideas come from. In the federal legislative system, with all the bills that are introduced you know who’s managing the bill. Bills such as Taft-Hartley are known worldwide just by their name - and then there is Hawaii, where transparency is limited.

Example: It seems we have been listening to the debate of a proposed rail transit system for years. It’s been introduced, killed and revived so many times, it’s difficult to put your finger on its origin. The latest news on the elevated high-speed rail system was that ground was going to be broken somewhere on the Leeward Coast. This was a relief after months of political debate about the federal EIS and financial plan. The former governor was blamed for delaying it, saying she would not sign off on the financial plan until a group of experts declared it sound.

That seems like lightyears ago.

A new governor was elected and signed off on the EIS without a twitch of concern. U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye said he would keep the pressure on Congress for funds. Oahu elected a new mayor and he immediately endorsed the rail system. It looked like Mufi Hannemann’s train was finally going to start construction.

A wrench was thrown into the works because the latest word is the city must now produce a new financial plan for the $5.5 billion system. The Federal Transit Administration is demanding to see a financial plan that demonstrates Honolulu can meet its financial obligations, and that its existing bus service continues to operate and be maintained properly. Mayor Peter Carlisle said, “The updated plan will be completed by late spring or early summer.”

The first plan and this new updated plan were both prepared by Parsons Brinckerhoff, one of the world’s leading planning, engineering and program and construction management organizations.

Meanwhile, the rubbish we were trying to ship to Seattle to burn caught fire in Honolulu after the state of Washington said it didn’t want our garbage after all. Right after that, a rain storm in Ko Olina flooded Waimanalo Gulch Landfill and showered the Leeward Coast with garbage, including medical waste.

Back at the Big Square Building on South Beretania Street, a senate bill was crafted that would appropriate between $250,000 and $350,000 from our strapped general fund for an environmental assessment and the application of a space-port license from the Federal Aviation Administration. The license is intended to be a catalyst to launch commercial space travel in Hawaii.

Maybe rockets could take our garbage somewhere, anywhere.

Maybe we might consider yet another agency in state government: The Department of Space, Rail Travel and Garbagology.

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