Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Advertiser editors on the hot seat for a change

by Larry Geller

Today's Advertiser editorial is Rail initiative offers no solution to voters. The main thrust, if I may summarize, is that the proposed ballot initiative on rail is inappropriate, we should instead wait and vote out the elected leaders we don't like. Please read it if you have not yet had a chance.

Hmmm... suppose I generally like a city council person or even the mayor, just not their position on "rail" as a technology, or instead of an alternative? Then voting them out on this single issue might not be what I want to do. Actually, that's exactly where I'm at with several city council members.

Let me revert to the ancient Internet convention of commenting paragraph by paragraph. I don't like it very much, but in this case, it's expedient. Also, I haven't included the whole editorial, just the parts I want to say something about.

Don't worry, very few people will read this (only the important ones!) in comparison to your editorial. My rant won't hurt you too much. But I hope you'll read it.

The left side is snipped from the editorial. The right side is my commentary.

There is a way for voters to weigh in on the mass transit system, but the just-launched "Stop Rail Now" petition drive is not the route to take.

Rather, we should hold accountable our elected leaders entrusted to make these decisions.
  We have a participatory democracy. One can "weigh in" by giving testimony, making petitions, demonstrating, visiting/speaking with lawmakers, sending them emails.

To say that our only appropriate recourse is to exercise the vote is a distortion of democracy.

Besides, by November, it's clearly too late. Money will have been expended, commitments made.
That's it. No alternatives proposed. Just a simple rejection of the $3.7 billion commuter train that studies show offers the best alternative to deal with O'ahu's worsening traffic.   It can be wrong to put in rail. Simply wrong, no alternative is necessary. In fact, alternatives (e.g., HOT lanes) have been suggested. The Phileas system (no rail required) has been suggested.

And shame on you, do you still think this proposal will alleviate traffic? My understanding is that even the city administration is no longer making this claim.
Imagine if every controversial public works project were pushed to the voters. If that were the case, would voters outside of East Honolulu have approved the widening of Kalaniana'ole Highway? What about H-3? Would voters outside the Windward district agree to pay for the $1.3 billion project that raised a number of environmental concerns? The city administration has the duty to responsibly address the transportation needs of the entire island — as it should.   Many rail opponents are arguing just that: that the city administration has the duty to responsibly address the transportation needs of the entire island. And the current plan doesn't do that.

"Imagine that all the other projects were pushed to the voters" is a straw man. The proposal is that this one should be. It is so expensive that some believe it could bankrupt the city. And maybe, in the face of Mufi's arrogance, this one does need to go to the voters.
In the case of the fixed-guideway project, the city administration has moved ahead after extensive study of various transit alternatives, which were also presented to the public in community meetings.
  Yup, presented to the public. Reports are that no one listened to the public.

So why not take a vote? Maybe next time they'll listen.
The final selection of the system was handled as it should have been: by elected representatives who were informed by that research.
  Obviously our elected officials (city council) have not yet selected the system.
If the public is displeased by how their elected officials acted on the basis of those facts, the response at this point should be to show that displeasure at the polls. In November, both the mayor and several of the council members are up for re-election.
  See first response above on leaving democracy to the vote only.

Certainly we can vote out whomever we please as well.

The question is: If not rail, what? And that question neither will be asked on the ballot, nor answered by the vote.

  Instead of railroading us with this rail plan, how about proper city planning first, with choice of technology falling later, as appropriate?

Why leave city planning to developers? Why is ad hoc better than the urban planning that has served municipalities like Portland, OR so well?

And what makes us think that this city can run a railroad successfully, a criticism I hear often but that seldom makes it into print?

And why rail to nowhere, clearly a development decision rather than a planning decision?

The residents of this island (and their elected representatives) are clearly not unified or close to agreement on a transit system. I'm guessing (and who knows) that the 40,000+ signatures will be obtained in time.

Piece of cake.

End of rant.


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