Public relations firms feed at city-funded transit trough
The city released yesterday a list of companies working on the $3.7 billion mass-transit system in contracts totaling more than $107 million.
Paying up to sell mass transit
Here are some companies or individuals hired to do public outreach on the city's mass transit system:
Elisa Yadao, public relations: $504,662
Lychee Productions, public relations: $889,117
Norman Mineta, Hill & Knowlton: $120,000
The three companies contracted to the city -- Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas Inc., InfraConsult and PB Americas -- are responsible for primarily the engineering studies being done on the elevated mass-transit system from Kapolei to Ala Moana.
But those companies also hired several other companies for work that includes public relations or community outreach. The city does not pay these subcontractors directly, but does approve the companies.
"I'm very concerned," said Councilman Charles Djou, who had requested the list. "I've always contended that the rail project is too expensive. All this spending of taxpayer money on public relations is basically bribing the taxpayers with their own money."
Djou pointed to two well-known consultants, former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and Elisa Yadao, who does public relations with InfraConsult. Mineta, vice chairman of international public relations firm Hill & Knowlton Inc., is getting $120,000 a year to do community outreach in Hawaii.
Yadao, who also worked with Mayor Mufi Hannemann on his campaign in 2004, is getting paid $425,000 over four years. Yadao also received $79,662 for work done with Parsons Brinckerhoff.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann said he stands by the money the city spends on the project.
"I think it's worth every penny that we spend on this project," Hannemann said. "This is the biggest capital improvement project. This is very common and something that the Federal Transit Administration looks at. It's very necessary. Maybe if (the Council) weren't trying to delay and obstruct the project as much, we won't have to spend as much."
The mayor's spokesman added that the public-involvement expenses are a small fraction -- 2.5 percent -- of the project's total cost.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
» Public relations expenses equal about 2.5 percent of the $107 million in contracts issued so far for the city's rail transit project, according to a city spokesman. A Page A6 article Thursday incorrectly reported that they equaled 3.5 percent of the project's total cost.