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Aalto’s Conflicts of Interest Disqualify Him for HART Board

A community group is calling for the rejection of Anthony Aalto’s nomination to the HART board, due to conflicts of interest, and is urging instead, the reappointment of Joe Uno to the board. The group, Rail SOS (Study Other Solutions), states in their message to the City Council:

Anthony Aalto has none of the required qualifications to become a HART board member, but does have one major disqualifier: a conflict of interest created by his accepting major funding for a movie from companies involved in rail construction.

One year after Aalto made a 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 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, the Hunt Companies, developers of Kalaeloa at Barbers Point, and Pacific Links International, owner of two Leeward golf courses. Another sponsor was Hawaii News Now, managed by Rick Blangiardi, who provided the prime-time broadcast slot.

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 of 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 developer funding for his movie.

Aalto has a complete lack of rail expertise, or any of the required experiences. 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.

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

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