Consumer-savvy Waipahu High School

Kidani’s Korner…Sen. Michelle Kidani

Consumer-savvy Waipahu High School

Congratulations to Waipahu High School’s LifeSmarts teams that competed against Iolani and Campbell in the annual game show-style test of consumer knowledge and skills at the state Capitol earlier this month. Adviser Cindy Takara coached and mentored two teams as they prepared for the 2015 contest. Waipahu students actually made up half the competitors on stage at the finals, fielding questions about the environment, health, technology, consumer protection and finance. The school sent a team to the nationals in Florida last year, but this time it’s hats off to Iolani, which advances to the finals.

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Sen. Michelle Kidani

Takara said the four teams in the state finals — including her two Marauder teams — were winners from more than three dozen teams from schools statewide. Waipahu’s Team No Ka Oi included Renz Sagabaen, Jimwel Aguinaldo, John Guerrero, Cia Dela Cruz and Marc Ramirez. Its Team West Force was made up of Timothy Chinen, Marjorie Raquiz, Alysha Paz, Lawrence De Leon and Edsen Casintahan. Great work, everyone!

Notes from the Capitol – Wrestling with Rail

The recent Hawaii poll conducted for the media identified rail and traffic as the top two concerns of Oahu residents. Central and West Oahu residents readily can understand, as they spend hours in their cars during morning and evening commutes, and cope with ongoing construction projects to add capacity to H-1 and change the landscape with rail-system support columns.

West Oahu commuters will be the prime beneficiaries of rail’s first increment from Kapolei to Aloha Stadium, and in the face of rising construction costs and anticipated revenue shortfalls, the Legislature appears to be moving toward an extension of the half-percent excise tax surcharge Oahu residents pay to help finance the system. I voted in favor of the extension as an affirmation of my strong support for rail, but I did express my concern about cost overruns.

Many concerns have yet to be addressed, of course. As Senate Bill 19 was approved by the Transportation Committee (of which I am a member), we added a provision calling for an audit to be completed before the end of the year. And we added a section to require that at least half of the 10 percent the state retains from the tax it collects from Oahu taxpayers be dedicated to development around the rail transit stations. The amended bill extends the tax surcharge for an additional 25 years, so that the original 20-mile route to Ala Moana Center with extensions to UH Manoa and downtown Kapolei can be built. And, of course, we made sure that transit officials heard the message loud and clear that they must do everything to keep costs from further escalating.

Not building out the system to completion has serious financial implications. Rail officials say refunds to the federal government could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars already allocated to the city. A default on contracts would open the city to challenges that could cost as much as $1.4 billion. Destroying what already has been built could cost as much as $100 million. Our legislative action committing to future funding should ensure ongoing federal support.

Contact state Sen. Michelle Kidani, D-District 18 (Village Park, Royal Kunia and Waikele, most of Waipio Gentry, and Mililani) at 586-7100 or email enkidani@capitol.hawaii.gov.