Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What Exactly Do the Four Rail Opponents Want? Their Essays Give Us Nothing Except ‘Not This’

A few things we’re sure about regarding the Cliff Slater-led last-ditch PR campaign against Honolulu rail by the quartet of “leading” opponents:

First, their attack strategy to bring down Honolulu rail doesn’t have any room in it for better ideas or alternatives to this infrastructure project; second, they do know how to fill space with endless defenses of their viewpoints without telling us what they want, and third, the sole contribution by Messrs. Heen, Cayetano and Roth to the effort is their rubber-stamped names. Let’s start with the last one.

Does anyone really believe retired Judge Walter Heen, former Governor Ben Cayetano and current UH law professor Randall Roth are qualified to write the thousands of words we’ve seen recently from them on transportation issues? The three attorneys appear to have been recruited by Mr. Slater to “contribute” their names to his worn-down anti-rail campaigning that stretches back more than two decades. Mr. Slater already has lost the public on rail, as revealed in the three independent scientific opinion surveys we mention here so often.

Using the football metaphor, he’s facing fourth and long deep in the 4th quarter and hopes a “gadget play” using three big-name but untested rookies as wide-outs will reverse the score that’s already posted on rail.

A Reasonable Question
What do they want, these four rail opponents? Although he’s studiously avoided mentioning his preference lately, Mr. Slater is an advocate of HOT lanes – high-occupancy toll roads that only those who can afford to pay the tolls can use, as discussed here yesterday. What about the other three?

Mr. Cayetano told an audience in June that he thinks at-grade rail transit is better for Honolulu than elevated rail. His ideal system would of course be affected by traffic and intersections, would require drivers, would not be as frequent or as safe as elevated rail and therefore could not provide what’s needed here – a fast, frequent, reliable and safe transit alternative to driving one’s own car.

Far as we can tell, Messrs. Heen and Roth have never put in writing what they want instead of Honolulu elevated rail – just what they don’t want. Maybe they’re hoping the public won’t ask or simply won’t see them standing out there next to the sidelines and will leave them uncovered. No chance.

Filling Space
The four contributors’ piece in Civil Beat today is nearly 1,300 words long and amounts to a drawn-out complaint about the grade Civil Beat gave their views on the rail project’s job count. “We think Civil Beat’s analysis amounts to quibbling over the placement of the knives, forks and spoons at a table on which sits an elephant nearly the size of an aircraft carrier,” they wrote.

There’s that aircraft carrier analogy again (which already received FALSE  judgment from CB), and in it we see more evidence of Mr. Slater’s thinking and none by the other three. And talk about quibbling; the four contributors appear to be arranging the deck chairs while their PR ship sinks by focusing so much on jobs.

That brings us to the fourth thing we’re sure about after reading the quartet’s latest words:

As meaningful as new employment will be, Honolulu rail is not a JOBS project. It’s a MOBILITY project. Mr. Slater thinks he’s found the project’s Achilles Heel, but what he’s done by being fixated on attacking the jobs numbers and other secondary issues is reveal his own weakness – the lack of a workable, meaningful, doable alternative to elevated rail.

Mr. Slater doesn’t have a transportation plan to simultaneously slow the growth of traffic congestion, provide an option to sitting in it, shorten the time necessary to move east-west through the urban corridor and provide an orderly way to channel the island’s inevitable growth. Neither do Messrs. Cayetano, Heen and Roth. The city does. Game over.

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