Wednesday, June 03, 2009


That train is not gonna go past the Prince Kuhio Federal Building

by Larry Geller

(thanks to Denny and Lynda Lou McPhee for the link to the article below, and for suggesting the title)

When the Myrtle Avenue El was torn down in Brooklyn (it went right outside one of my college classrooms), we cheered. It was relief from the incessant noise that we were celebrating. These days, it seems that having a train skim by building windows is also a security issue.

Planning Mufi’s train to run outside the windows of the Federal Courthouse is just plain stupid. But that’s what our city council did.

In January, three federal agencies asked the city to change the train's route to avoid passing near the Prince Kuhio Federal Building. Their concern was that the train system, which would pass at the same level as three judges' chambers, could be a platform for a terrorist bombing or attack by someone with a grudge against a particular judge. [Honolulu Advertiser, Judges still oppose rail route, 6/2/2009]

Federal judges are so concerned about security these days that several of them are packing heat:

"I live with a constant heightened sense of awareness," said John R. Adams, a federal judge in Ohio who began taking firearms classes after a federal judge's family was slain in Chicago and takes a pistol to the courthouse on weekends. "If I'm going to carry a firearm, I'd better know how to use it."

The threats and other harassing communications against federal court personnel have more than doubled in the past six years, from 592 to 1,278, according to the U.S. Marshals Service. Worried federal officials blame disgruntled defendants whose anger is fueled by the Internet; terrorism and gang cases that bring more violent offenders into federal court; frustration at the economic crisis; and the rise of the "sovereign citizen" movement -- a loose collection of tax protesters, white supremacists and others who don't respect federal authority.

Hundreds of threats cascaded into the chambers of John M. Roll, the chief U.S. district judge in Arizona, in February after he allowed a lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants against a rancher to go forward. "They cursed him out.” [Washington Post, Threats to Judges, Prosecutors Soaring, 5/24/2009]

Casually insulting the “banana patch” community (55 residents, 10 homes and a church) that the train is planned to displace, Councilman Charles Djou voiced what the others should have thought about (from the Advertiser article):

Councilman Charles Djou, who also met with the judges, said the city can't afford to alienate key federal officials.

"One of the biggest parties out there that you've got to get this right with is the federal government," he said. "This is not some banana-patch farmer. How can it possibly be good to upset federal judges who might review this project and engage the U.S. Justice Department against you?"

As the article also points out, the feds don’t have to give the city the easement it needs to run the train over federal property. Simply because of that, choosing that route was dumb to begin with, but that reality escaped the city council.

It’s clear that the judges won’t give up. The city should very quickly say “yes, Your Honors” and take their train elsewhere.

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