Sunday, August 28, 2011

Op-Ed Continues Fight on Rail Project; Supporters’ Response to ‘Gang of Four’ Could Sink the Critics' New Media-Driven Anti-Rail PR Campaign

Here’s our theory on where the public stands on Honolulu rail: They’ve had enough, heard enough and read enough on rail and are crying, Enough already! We want it!

You can imagine that outburst in homes across Oahu this morning as Star-Advertiser subscribers find yet another op-ed commentary on rail dominating the editorial section.

The public’s preference for rail was confirmed by three scientific opinion surveys conducted since 2008 that averaged 58.6 percent support for rail, the last one this past May.

Those results explain why the opponents have been everywhere with their anti-rail campaign in the past week, starting with their Sunday commentary. Their PR campaign continued with an impressionable journalist’s column on Thursday and on Friday in Honolulu’s business weekly, thanks to the remarkable naiveté of its editorial staff.

Last Sunday’s piece by Cliff Slater and his “prominent quartet” insisted the city had misled the public on rail. This week's piece arguing that rail is Oahu's future is by “the mayor and five community leaders (who) extol the necessity to stay on track on mass transit.”

Substantially Different
There’s really no competition anymore now that the opposing sides have taken their best shots. The city’s piece is fact-filled and weighty, with a strong case for grade-separated transit. The critics’ effort was an embarrassing lightweight job relying on silly complaints about public relations, imagined wrongdoing by the contractor and baseless exaggerations. Most damaging of all, it was silent on options to rail that would address Oahu’s intolerable traffic congestion.

It would be challenging to find a different conclusion in a side-by-side comparison. That’s not easy for most residents now that the Star-Advertiser limits access to online content to print subscribers, but our post last Sunday was a point-by-point answer to much of what was in the anti-rail broadside by Cliff Slater, Ben Cayetano, Walter Heen and Randall Roth.

This quartet and others are plaintiffs in a lawsuit that wants to kill a project most Oahu residents support. The lawsuit’s drama will play out beginning later this year; the city and federal defendants have responded to the suit, saying it has no merit.

Continuing our theorizing, Mr. Slater and friends are firing their PR ammunition at rail knowing they’ll need something on their side if the lawsuit fails. They’re hoping that something will be public opinion, and they’re trying to reverse it with their op-eds and by evoking friendly editorials and columns by cooperative journalists who betray their misunderstanding of the rail project in what they write.

The opponents know anti-rail sentiment never rose above 40 percent in the three opinion surveys that can be accessed at our aggregation site. Their latest attacks therefore are emotional, accusatory and intellectually dishonest -- most obviously in their assertion that rail will be a failure if traffic decades from now is worse than it is today.

Of course traffic will be worse than today decades from now; Oahu will have 200,000 more residents in 2030 than it did in 2005. What the critics don't readily admit unless forced to do so is that it will be much worse if no rail option exists to avoid it.

Expect to see more from the Gang of Four in the weeks and months ahead, since they’ve put their reputations on the line and want the public to believe they know best. They don’t, and the public already has made their preference for rail clear.

1 comment:

sumwonyuno said...

If you don't have access to the Star Advertiser online, you can read the commentary at: