Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Would Rotary Venue Bring Out Rail Critic’s Best? Not a Chance – which Leads Us to Question #9

Wouldn’t have believed it if we hadn’t been there. Cliff Slater appeared with the entire Gang of Four at the Rotary Club of Honolulu yesterday in a continuation of the group’s PR campaign they're hoping will build opposition to the Honolulu rail project.

You'd have thought this audience – highly educated and accomplished Rotarians – would have brought out a pumped-up and polished presentation from the anti-railer-in-chief, something new and thought-provoking. It didn’t happen.

Incredibly, Mr. Slater used exactly the same anti-intelligent, pro-obfuscation material that was in his Civil Beat interview in July 2010 for his brief remarks to the Rotarians. If you weren’t at the Rotary meeting, you can still get the essence of his opening remarks, because what Mr. Slater told John Temple of Civil Beat 15 months ago was exactly the same thing he told the Rotarians. (That linked post was the first of our many reactions to this train of thought; another that examined Mr. Slater's "whole argument" came one day later.)

The Set-Up
We’ve repeatedly called attention to Mr. Slater’s dumbed-down anti-rail rhetoric because it suggests his campaign has a problem at its core. As he did in July 2010, Mr. Slater yesterday told his audience that rail will cost X billions of dollars to build, then said traffic will be worse in the future after rail is built than it is today – and then he sat down!

We don’t know if this routine reveals Mr. Slater’s supreme confidence in the virtue of his anti-rail crusade or a total disdain for his audience’s intellect. Of course traffic will be worse in the undefined future! Pick a year – any year – and Oahu will have more traffic congestion than it does today. It’s the logical result of population growth.

By shrouding his anti-rail logic in a fog bank of words, Mr. Slater wants his audiences to believe the rail project is supposed to reduce congestion from current levels. He wants you to believe that because that’s what he believes.

Monday’s Set-Up to Question #7 quoted one of his columns from 2008: “We have a traffic congestion problem and that is a highway problem. It can only be fixed with highway solutions such as High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes.”

There it is in black and white: Cliff Slater wants more highways to move cars, not an efficient multi-modal transportation system that will give commuters an alternative to congestion on highways – an alternative that will save them time and money each day they ride the train.

We’re nearing the end of our TEN QUESTIONS project with suggested “interrogation points” that the host of KHET’s INSIGHTS program can use if he chooses on guests Cliff Slater and former Governor Benjamin Cayetano. Because it's apparently necessary, today’s question bears a strong resemblance to others in this series.

Question #9
“Cliff, two days ago at the Rotary Club of Honolulu, you had one of the most engaged and potentially powerful audiences you’ll ever face. The largest Rotary club in the state probably has the highest percentage of corporate leaders among its membership than any other club. Yet on that occasion you rested your entire anti-rail case on a train of thought that some people have come to conclude is bizarre. In essence, you suggested to the Rotarians that rail should not be built because it won't reduce future congestion to levels lower than we have today. Cliff – people are gonna move here! Couples are gonna have babies! Traffic will grow! Why have you dumbed-down your anti-rail rhetoric to the point that YOU have become the issue?”
We really don’t think INSIGHTS host Dan Boylan will ask that, but we can hope. Whichever way Thursday’s show goes (8-9 pm on KHET), this is a question Oahu citizens need to ask – even if only in the silence of their own thoughts – of the man who is more responsible than any other for blocking rail transit on this island. Maybe what we saw yesterday was his best.

This post has been added to our “aggregation site” under the heading Mr. Cliff Slater (and Friends).

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