Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Roundup Includes Groundbreaking Target

Reading the Sunday Advertiser can be a “Serenity Now!” moment for rail transit advocates. Some of us would turn to Cosmo Kramer’s incantation for stress relief that he made memorable in a particularly hilarious Seinfeld episode.

It seemed as if Sunday couldn’t go by without another downbeat assessment of the project, and the demand for tight headline writing often blackened the picture. But today’s page one head in the print edition (the online version is different) has it right:

“December groundbreaking still in sight for rail project”

What follows is a pretty straightforward timeline of the key hurdles that must be cleared for a December groundbreaking. The story quotes some of the usual skeptics but also has a City Council member’s assertion that moving the project forward means “not looking back on all the decisions that have already been made.”

That could have been a reference to the eleventh-hour proposal by some that a portion of the 20-mile rail route be built at street level. That option already was studied and discarded for its inability to provide fast, frequent and reliable transit service.

A Banker’s Assessment

Elsewhere in the paper, First Hawaiian Bank CEO Don Horner gives a strong endorsement of the project in the Focus section’s “Hot Seat” feature. Horner was asked if Honolulu can afford the rail project:

“I had the privilege of chairing a committee for Business Roundtable to look at this subject when the heated debate was going on, and just before…we all voted for rail. I think the short answer is yes…. What people don’t understand is this system is designed to be a 16-year full payout. So it’s just like a 15-year mortgage. So at the end of 15 years, this is fully paid off.”

Another questioner asked why business should support rail, particularly those not on the route:

“…The gridlock we are experiencing on the west side is not sustainable. That’s where the growth is. I mean the same question could be asked why should we build H-3? Why should we widen Kalanianaole Highway? Why did we widen that road all the way to Hawaii Kai? So I think it’s the west side’s turn. The west side has not ever been endowed with a lot of infrastructure, historically. So, I think it’s good that we start on the west side….”

Horner’s “Hot Seat” is worth a read for its coverage of other topics, including this comment about the Wall Street disarray that led to the economy’s troubles:

“There’s investment banking and Main Street banking. I’m a Main Street banker; I’m not a Wall Street banker. I don’t understand all those fancy things. That’s why we are not in trouble. We do things pretty simple. We loan money to people who can pay us back. That’s the reason I love Hawaii, because most of the people in Hawaii pay you back.”

No wonder Cosmo Kramer always wanted to be a banker.

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