Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Democracy’s One Thing, but Informed Vote on Honolulu Rail System May Be Too Much to Ask

Getting through to KHVH and Council member Charles Dijou on Tuesday requires calling early in the hour. We learned that lesson last week and implemented it today. Here’s what Dijou’s argument comes down to:

The democratic way to “put this controversy behind us” is to have a vote by the electorate on whether rail should or shouldn’t be a part of Oahu’s transportation future. The paradoxical counter-argument is that this issue may be too important to leave up to what amounts to an uninformed electorate that seems motivated primarily by self-interest rather than what’s best for the community. The common theme among many who oppose rail is, “I’ll never ride it, so why should I support it?”

If that attitude prevails among a majority of voters, the rail system won’t be built. Turning back the initiative will depend on voters not likely to be riders but who nevertheless think outside their own circumstances and consider what’s best for the community and their traffic-bedeviled neighbors who fight the daily H-1 commute.

When Self-Interest Prevails

Communities across the mainland know about the downside of self-interest when school bonding issues are put on the ballot. Time and again, those issues are voted down by a majority in the community with no school-age kids. The result is stagnation and no progress.

Everybody loves a democracy, and that’s why the City Council’s months of deliberation and resulting 7-2 vote to build Honolulu’s transit system was and is valid. This issue requires a community-interest orientation, and that’s what the Council gave it. The electorate as a whole seems unlikely to do the same based on prevailing anti-rail sentiments.

As one of two votes on the losing side in December 2006, Councilman Dijou now finds it convenient to set aside the Council’s vote. Had he prevailed and positions were reversed today, we’re pretty sure he’d be defending the vote of the democratically elected Council and fighting a pro-rail initiative.

Moving on, check out Corky’s cartoon in today's Star-Bulletin on the Governor’s “neither for nor against rail” position. And not to be forgotten is my FULL DISCLOSURE ALERT in the July 11 post to this blog. Some people seem fixated on it.

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