Saturday, December 4, 2010

Lingle a Secret Rail Admirer? What Else Explains Hiring Anti-Railer To Write Financial Plan Study?

The “mainstream” media have caught up with Civil Beat’s break on the key piece of information that has become the story surrounding the Governor’s study of rail’s financial plan. The subhead of the Star-Advertiser’s print and online top story today carries what CB published Thursday:

“An opponent of city train systems helped write an analysis”

That’s really all we really need to know, isn’t it? The study was tainted from the moment anti-rail activist Tom Rubin became part of the analysis, so in an odd way, the report actually helps Honolulu rail by being so biased from the start.

Rubin’s participation is so obviously egregious that the best parallel we could think of on this last major college football Saturday is Ohio State coach Woody Hayes throwing a punch at a Clemson player in the 1978 Gator Bowl. Hayes was fired the next day, and the Honolulu community is in the process of “firing” the rail study Rubin helped write.

Thinking the Unimaginable

Our headline today is fanciful, of course, but putting an anti-rail activist on the study panel seems like such a strange undercutting move that almost anything is possible. It’s all the more surprising from an Administration loaded with allegedly media-savvy staff.

Governor Lingle has used every opportunity to put Honolulu rail in a bad light, from insisting an at-grade system would be better than the City’s elevated plan (it wouldn’t) to ordering up a $350,000 study that Mayor Peter Carlisle calls an ”appalling waste” of taxpayer money.

Former Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who deserves credit for restarting the rail project about 15 years after the Fasi Administration’s efforts failed, also faulted the study as biased from the start.

“They had a predetermined mindset that they wanted to come up with – that this project is going to bankrupt the city of Honolulu and the state of Hawaii,” Hannemann said. “So they looked at the most pessimistic, weakest scenarios to come up with their conclusions. To me that’s not being balanced.”

Hannemann’s case is an easy one to make, and the study group’s meeting with anti-rail and apparently perennial mayoral candidate Panos Prevedouros helped make it. Ask yourself: If you were guiding a study on rail’s finances, would you reach out enthusiastically to someone whose views couldn’t conceivably be called “fair and balanced”?

You wouldn’t if you were truly “independent” and “objective.” This panel seems to have been blind to those standards and the appearance of built-in bias and conflict of interest.

So is this anti-rail study a Machiavellian plot to actually help rail succeed by being so unbelievably unbelievable? At this late stage in the project, anything is possible.

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