Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Wasted tweet

by Larry Geller

Tweets are cheap and plentiful. Tweets flew at the rate of 3,283 tweets per second when Japan beat Demark in the World Cup. There’s no better way to keep in touch with changing events than to monitor the tweetosphere. They re cheap (free), but still, I think this one has been wasted.Wasted Tweet
Civil Beat editor John Temple promotes his experiment with the occasional tweet. As regular readers know, I keep hoping that Civil Beat will eventually produce some quality journalism for Hawaii. And I’m also interested in Mufi’s rail project, so when this tweet came by, of course I clicked to the article in the hopes of learning something, in this case, about Cliff Slater, a long-time public figure in Hawaii and proponent of toll roads instead of mass transit.

"Rail Is So Ridiculous" is a catchy title, I’m thinking, good start.

Oh, well.

It turns out to be a puff piece for Slater. Written by Temple himself, it is amazingly shallow. Slater has been a fixture on the Hawaii scene for ages, so perhaps most readers know him well as the owner of Maui Divers, and for his political interests, including education reform and most recently promotion of toll roads and opposition to mass transit. Temple is a newcomer on the scene. Cliff Slater’s writings have been regularly featured in the late Honolulu Advertiser and he’s a familiar and influential face for many of us.

From Temple’s article, I now know that Slater may favor khaki pants and an aloha shirt. That’s about all I learned. Well, I knew about the shirt already. I have no idea what other information might be behind the paywall, that’s not for us to know.

He doesn't think anybody is for the train, except maybe folks who've been poorly informed by the local media, which "haven't covered the story enough," or contractors who are going to make money building it.

This is promising. Of course, there are many people for the train, or for some form of mass transit, if we are allowed to deviate from that track slightly. And yes, there is a huge push by contractors, who will make a killing on this and who (along with developers, architects and others) contribute to Mufi’s success because his success means their success.

But oops, I see the bottom of the page looming, and that means that Civil Beat will be asking me for money to read on.

Slater’s comment wasn’t challenged, and of course it should have been. Even in a cursory article the writer has a responsibility to insert some facts in there someplace.

One thing you need to be prepared for with Slater is that while he may be determined — he seems to live and breathe the issue — he's got a sense of humor, and a way with words.

Ok, more puff. But there is a video, bringing us some of Slater’s actual words. He does have a way with them. Did Temple plan to challenge some of them behind the paywall?

The most glaring is Slater’s claim that all environmental groups oppose rail. One influential group, our Sierra Club chapter, for example, doesn’t oppose rail:

The Sierra Club O`ahu Group supports the Fixed Guideway (rail) alternative.  The Fixed Guideway alternative provides what O`ahu needs most:  an alternative to the automobile.   [See their position statment]

By letting that go, and there is more that could be questioned, Temple has done readers a disservice IMHO.

There’s much more to know about Slater and his achievements, which have been considerable, but that also might help explain his positions on public issues.

I wrote Development Oriented Transit (5/24/2008) more than two years ago. The link in the section that relates to Cliff Slater is still good, try it. I was writing about the Honolulu Advertiser’s lack of recognition of Slater’s position with the Reason Foundation. In other words, they routinely cited other author’s affiliations, but mysteriously omitted Slater’s, which seemed curious to me. Here’s why (snip):

Reason Foundation trustees One of the longest-running deceptions has been the omission, in countless op-ed articles in the Advertiser, of HOT lane proponent Cliff Slater's deep involvement with the Libertarian belief tank Reason Foundation, which pushes for HOT lanes and privatization of public assets. He's been a rail opponent with a one-track mind. The newspaper should have noted that he has been listed as a trustee of this organization as well as a member of the Reason Foundation's Business Advisory Board. But not a word of this in his numerous articles pushing HOT lanes:


Cliff has not hidden his association with the Reason Foundation, though the Advertiser has. …

Yes, he was above-board when asked. Now, Temple wasn’t here at that time, and may not have researched Slater’s regular columns. I hope he will do that, at least for the benefit of his paying customers.

That article also highlighted a deception by some of the toll road proponents who pictured a gorgeous uncrowded roadway in a park-like setting—trees, even a lake nearby. It put forth my own views (perhaps at too great a length, but then this is a blog after all) that the people have not been given a chance to plan their own communities or their own transit solutions. I showed an example of how that might be done.

Given an understanding of where he might be coming from, Slater’s proposals should be given the same consideration as Mufi’s. Anyone with an idea should be allowed to air it completely. No problem there. We citizens are smart enough to sort out what’s best for us, given complete information. There are more than just two choices, of course.

The decision of what kind of mass transit Honolulu should have should not be up to Mufi and his supporters or to Slater and his. It should be up to us.



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