The front page headline of the Sunday Star-Advertiser virtually screamed: “UH RAISES WOULD COST $1M,” (Star-Advertiser, 8/18/15)! That article leaves me, after 40 years as a professor at UH, Manoa, with only one response: SHIBAI! Maybe even two SHIBAI! No, for sure three SHIBAI!
Shibai 1: The people who received the raises generally are paid so much more than the faculty and staff at UH that the need to add to their already bloated income makes UH look ridiculous, even anti-academic. Look at some of their salaries as reported by the Star-Advertiser. It is likely that many of the 10 executives listed on the front page, with salaries from $279,000 to $522,000 (!), are already millionaires from feeding out of the public trough. They need cost of living increases like the rest of us need our salaries reduced to pay for these raises.
Shibai 2. The raises “were based on performance reviews and were only given to those who received an outstanding or superior rating!”(emphasis added). These execs are outstanding?! Give me a break. These are the execs that lurch from one disaster to another that they themselves create. Ain’t it wonderful that UH rewards some of the most incompetent UH employees—all administrators—for causing, not solving, problems? Ask any faculty member or staff: many of these “execs” can barely function in a modern-day university that purports to aim at excellence. The evidence of their incompetence: dilapidated, outdated facilities and awful national ratings, to wit, UH Manoa was ranked last year by “US News and World Report” as 168th out of 201 research universities nationwide and receiving an evaluation score of only 23 points out of 100, a failing score in any class in the country. These leaders are outstanding? At what?
Shibai 3: Outstanding performance reviews, eh? Says whom? There are way too many examples of individual incompetence in this bunch, but let’s just take a few. President Lassner: fires the best chancellor we have ever had at UH because others told him to. What kind of “leader” just does what he is told to do? Jerris Hedges, Dean of the Medical School, makes a completely undeserved $500,000 and change: facing continuous budget shortfalls in the Med School, he reportedly moves his staff to the Cancer Center, and pays them out of the Center’s funds, thereby—in one fell swoop—saving the Med School money and taking money away from the Cancer Center that is supposed to go to research on cancer. And, most unbelievable of all, Vice Chancellor Reed Dasenbrock: he’s outstanding all right. He has the most faculty and staff complaints of any general UH administrator in the history of UH! He has been accused of racism, sexism, harassment, temper tantrums and other egregious offenses. He is under investigation by UH right now. He should be fired, not rewarded. Unless, of course, his actions are covertly supported by other UH administrators and the Board of Regents. Not beyond the realm of possibility, say I.
It seems like UH is living in a fantasy world wherein incompetence is viewed as “outstanding” (outstanding incompetence?), where these so called “evaluations” are completed without any transparency, and where the Mad Hatter would as much be at home as he is in Alice’s Wonderland. The only possible rational explanation is that the incompetence starts at the top, with the Board of Regents, and their incompetence begets even more incompetence as the incompetent at the top hire ever more incompetent executives and administrators at all levels.
Systemic problems require systemic changes. When will the community realize this?
Dr. Joel Fischer, ACSW (735-7582)
University of Hawai`i, School of Social Work
Honolulu, HI 96822
Dr. Joel Fischer retired in December, 2009, after 40 years as a professor at UH Manoa.
The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit (HART) trumpets a reduction in traffic congestion on Honolulu’s crowded streets and clogged freeways as the primary benefit to the multi-billion dollar rail project. But, while the project is still years away from completion, statistics on the contributing factors show that congestion will only get worse in the mean time.
The auto industry is booming across the state; car sales and registrations continue to rise rapidly. In 2014, new auto registrations throughout Hawaii increased 11 percent in just the first quarter. Although registrations have stayed flat during the first quarter of 2015, they are projected to rise nearly four percent by the end of the year. And research from the National Automotive Dealers Association found that the auto business remains a multi-billion dollar industry in Hawaii. In 2013 alone, 78 new car and truck dealerships opened across the state.
Part of these gains can be attributed to Hawaii’s growing population. A report from Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism says the state’s population has steadily increased every year since 1980. Hawaii’s overall resident population is expected to increase from 1,363,621 in 2010 to 1,708,900 in 2040, an average growth rate of 0.8 percent per year. Oahu, of course, will retain the largest population, currently at 976,000 and projected to rise to 1,008,000 by 2040.
Add to that the impact tourism will have on driving. This year, Oahu has had at least 400,000 visitors each month, many of them renting cars. Nationwide, car rental businesses are seeing significant gains. The American car rental industry generated a record $26.1 billion in revenue last year, sparked—in part—by growing tourism, which is back to pre-recession levels in Hawaii.
HART is making its best effort to assure Oahu residents that rail will alleviate traffic congestion. Rail’s official website says it will, “eliminate an estimated 40,000 car trips from our congested streets and highways.” But does the project take into serious consideration the island’s continued growth? Increases in population, tourism, and vehicles will continue to make HART’s goal of traffic reduction a hard one to reach. If all rail does is take some cars off the road to create room for new ones, its net effect on traffic will be nothing.
The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit (HART) experienced another fiscal shortfall, recently, when General Excise Tax (GET) surcharge revenues in the latest quarter fell $8 million short of projections. That brings rail’s total tax deficit to $39 million. This is just the latest in a growing list of financial blows and disappointments related to the state’s largest public works project ever. Here’s a timeline of some of rail’s financial setbacks:
2010-2011: HART faces mounting criticism over the amount it is spending on public relations, presumably to manage negative press and speculation into the controversial rail project. Over-compensation and -employment for HART communications is estimated in the hundreds of thousands, at least. In July, 2012, HART CEO Dan Grabauskas finally cuts half the PR staff.
May, 2013: HART approves more than $10 million to pay for delay costs after a Hawaii Supreme Court decision halts construction.
September, 2013: Safety gates to prevent riders from falling onto the future rail tracks were accidentally left out of the initial project budget. The nearly $30 million dollars needed to build and install the gates will now come from the project’s contingency fund.
August, 2014: Bids to build the first nine rail stations come in more than $100 million over projections. HART originally budgeted $184 million (including contingency funds of $34 million) for building the stations, but the lowest bid came in at $294.5 million.
November, 2014: Concerns over rail’s electricity supply arise. HART previously said relocating utility poles, electricity lines and other utility infrastructure would cost $63 million, but that did not include the actual cost of electricity, which was an unresolved matter with Hawaiian Electric Company.
December, 2014: A financial assessment released by rail authorities says the project is on track to cost $500 million more than expected. Officials blame lagging tax revenues, rising construction costs and project delays. HART’s total contingency fund is just $538 million.
January, 2015: Rail’s budget shortfall rises to $910 million, bringing the total cost of the project to more than $6 billion.
March, 2015: Bids to build three rail stations in Waipahu come in far above projections. The city estimated building stations at Leeward Community College, Waipahu and West Loch would cost between $60-75 million, but the lowest of five bids came in at just under $79 million.
July, 2015: Amid growing concerns about rail’s funds, Governor David Ige signs House Bill 134, which extends the half percent GET surcharge five years, from an end date of 2022 to an end date of 2027. Officials say the surcharge could be extended again if necessary.