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Aalto’s Conflicts of Interest Disqualify Him for HART Board
By News Release @ 10:06 PM :: 1691 Views :: Ethics, Rail

Aalto’s Conflicts of Interest Disqualify Him for HART Board

News Release from Rail SOS (Study Other Solutions) July 18, 2021

A community group is calling for the rejection of Anthony Aalto’s nomination to the HART board, due to his conflicts of interest created by accepting money from rail beneficiaries, and because he has none of the required qualifications for the position. The group, Rail SOS (Study Other Solutions), is calling for the reappointment of Joe Uno to that board position, as explained in a message they sent to the City Council, which is holding a hearing on the nomination this Tuesday.

Anthony Aalto is disqualified because he accepted major funding for a movie production from companies who would benefit from rail construction, which creates a very troubling conflict of interest. Right after Aalto made his pro-rail movie, which was disguised as a balanced report, he made another movie costing more than $400,000 about homeless in Hawaii, which although it had nothing to do with rail, was given major funding by rail supporters, including the following:

  • PRP, the construction union organization,
  • Stanford Carr, developer of a Kakaako condo that is planned to have a rail station,
  • First Hawaiian Bank,
  • Hawaiian Dredging, which was awarded a $78.9 million contract to build three rail stations in Waipahu, Hunt Companies, developers of Kalaeloa at Barbers Point,
  • Pacific Links International, owner of two Leeward golf courses.

Aalto’s gifts from rail affiliates have the appearance of a payoff for the biased pro-rail movie he made in support of their financial interests in rail. Conflict of interest is an especially sensitive issue given the recent resignation of HART board chair Toby Martyn under a cloud of suspicion that he personally profited from his votes on bond issuances.

The very first criterion specified by the City Council for selecting a HART board member is they must “Be free of actual or potential conflicts of interest.” After the Hanabusa contract and Toby Martyn resignations, the last thing HART needs is the appearance of more corruption. Aalto filled out the required conflict of interest form in his application but failed to mention the funding he already received.

Aalto’s rail movie is his ONLY “qualification” as cited by Cordero in her nominating resolution.

We will show in the attached analysis that this movie is a pro-rail propaganda deceit filled with lies and misrepresentations. It is relevant to closely examine the movie as it is offered as his single qualification.

City Council Resolution: “the Council finds that Anthony B. Aalto's expertise, training, and experience on the Rail Project, including his in-depth study of the Rail Project for over a year in producing a documentary film on the project and his well-balanced analysis of the status of the project meet the foregoing requirements and, therefore, are the substantial equivalent of the criteria listed in the 2011 and 2019 Resolutions.”

Alto’s movie, which includes extensive quotes from PRP, is based on two big lies:

(1) Rail opponents want no growth and lack alternatives plans for transportation or future development, which leads to social chaos; and

(2) Building rail is the only way we can create affordable housing, solve traffic, and protect farmland

The person Aalto would replace, Joe Uno, is a highly regarded construction cost expert, apolitical, honest, smart and possessing the potential to contribute to finding best solutions for rail. Aalto has no such relevant expertise. SOS member Mel Yoshinaga observes, “Removing Joe Uno and his expertise in construction cost estimating flies in the face of the City Council’s desire for leadership experience in the most vital facets of any construction project: cost estimating, value engineering, and cost controls.” SOS calls upon the City Council to be pono and reappoint Mr. Uno to the HART board and reject Anthony Aalto as a conflicted and unqualified candidate.

The attempt to replace Uno with Aalto reveals the fundamental problem with HART oversight: Rail is failing because of the exclusion of expert and diverse opinions who are calling to modify transit in ways that would save money and open the system to riders sooner. By replacing Uno, Cordero hopes to suppress the voice and views of a majority of Oahu residents who have soured on rail and are concerned about transparency and financial controls.

Link to article about Aalto’s funding sources: “‘No Room in Paradise’ shows depth of homelessness

####

Aalto’s rail movie is based on two big distortions, as explained here.

1: Rail opponents want no growth and have no alternatives plans for transportation or future development, which leads to social chaos.

2: Building rail is the only way we can create affordable housing, solve traffic, and protect farmland.

Aalto’s 30 LIES and INNACURACIES Verbatim highlights from the movie:

  1. A freeway system now officially designated one of the two most congested in the nation.  And so you have the highest congestion levels in the United States right here. (Both not true, we are not even on most top-10 congested lists).
  2. In 2008 a bare majority of the islands voters approved the plan to build a $5.2 billion railway line 35 feet in the air that supporters claim will address some of the worst growth related issues. (The vote was only to authorize the city to build a steel wheel rail system, a power the city already had -- there was no plan associated with it.)
  3. Opponents believe that if the railroad is built, Oahu will become a skyscraper jungle, the Manhattan of the mid-Pacific.
  4. Supporters argue that if it is not built, the island will become a wasteland of tract housing, a sort of tropical New Jersey.
  5. Some of the people who are opposed to the rail project are basically saying that by trying to take people out of their cars what we’re doing is social engineering in the suburbs.
  6. Mass transit is going to be put in the urban corridor, and the reason for doing that is because if we don't do that, then this whole area behind us (open land) is going to be lost to urban sprawl.
  7. PRP: if we don't have a rail system where we can focus housing growth around, then the Sierra Club and the carpenters union and developers and other environmental groups are going to fight for the rest of our lives, because the choices we’re going to be faced with are not good ones.
  8. PRP You are either going to focus (new housing) along the rail corridor... Or you are going to continue to fight.
  9. PRP So rail transit gives us the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build the kind of Oahu that we can all be proud of.
  10. Aalto: "some people would say, perfect! You can't build the housing, you can't build a housing." (opponents don’t say this)
  11. PRP: my big criticism of what I would term, no growthers, is that I think they are very selfish. I think people who say, 'don't build any more' are really telling people who cannot afford to buy the $6-800,000 homes, that Hawaii is not a place for you anymore, and I think that's wrong. I think every person who has a connection to this place, deserves the right to live here.
  12. They deserve a right to a home they can afford.... (rail opponents are not anti-growth)
  13. And if you restrict growth and say we can't grow anymore, then what you're telling five, six, eight generations of families who've lived here, maybe even a native Hawaiian whose families lived here from the very beginning of civilization in Hawaii, that they are no longer welcome here. That to me is wrong, and that's what were fighting against. (Rail opponents are not restricting growth)
  14. Rail opponent: "We just have to simply stop and say, can we afford, and is it pono, to build anymore? And the answer is, no." (Implies rail opponents want nothing built.)
  15. PRP: hey wait a minute, these are human beings who deserve to be treated with some dignity. The ethnic mix of Oahu will then change. The native Hawaiians, Filipinos who are at the lower end of the economic scale, will be forced to move out of here.... (says lack of rail will force people to leave)
  16. PRP: We will become a society more divided between the haves and the have-nots. We will see more private gated communities, more homeless, working poor on the beach, the hotel workers and their families would live in shantytowns. (lack of rail causes social chaos)
  17. Aalto: so I asked Paul Brewbaker, who is a progressive economist... Is there any way to stop growth? (repeats notion opponents want no growth)
  18. Brewbaker: I don't even know why you would do it (stop growth). I mean, you have babies, right? What are you going to do? (repeats notion opponents want no growth)
  19. Kick them out, or they going to live with you for the rest of their lives? How does that work exactly.... Thou shalt not let your children live here. They've got to leave, and nobody gets to move here. Or, only the rich people can move here if they can boot out some poor people. Which is another way of getting to the solution that advocates of capping everything don't realize – it's the most likely outcome.
  20. Aalto: We also have to sacrifice what a lot of people feel is the best farmland in the state, it makes no sense.
  21. If you don't build rail people will be condemned to using their car. There is no real alternative – and as that continues to expand you are going to have to build more highways, $9 billion probably.
  22. It's the only major, public transportation infrastructure investment that anybody is talking about ever again.
  23. (Without rail) You will either have to live with complete gridlock, or you will have to build somewhere, somehow, more lanes of traffic.
  24. Supporter: the reality is for this city, with the congestion levels where it is, you cannot add transit at grade. If you did you'd be taking away lanes of traffic. (BRT at grade works well)
  25. Supporter: You got really good densities... Once you start running a line you can pick up people from a mile away that can easily get down to the train station, with a very pleasant walk. (One mile walk to station is not feasible.)
  26. Aalto: the opponents were happy to attack the concept of TOD, but they never came up with their own plans for smart growth, or their own alternative for how to handle the growing population. (Complete fabrication)
  27. Supporter: the bottom line for me is, my children, your children, need a place to live.... The aim is to keep as many generations here, living in the kind of harmony that we have created, allowing people of lower incomes to remain here, to raise their families. (implies this will only happen with rail)
  28. there's no way to really stop (population growth), and it's going to happen, (repeats same theme, implies opponents want to stop growth)
  29. we can still have a beautiful, livable Hawaii, if we do the right thing, in terms of planning, and in terms of transportation.... (implies only rail protects our future)
  30. (conclusion of this so-called balanced movie calls rail “the best transit proposal”) And that's what we are offered, I think the best transit proposal that we have had in a decade, that enables our community to plan, and what the future will look like, and how it's going to connect, and how it's going to be different, and how it's going to be liveable for all generations.

THE END

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