Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cliff Slater Won’t Stop Using Same ‘Non-Truth’ in His Anti-Rail Campaign, but Is It Something Else?

“One of our major criticisms of the City is not what they tell you but what they leave out. For example, they tell you that rail will relieve traffic congestion, and that is true, but grossly misleading. What they don't tell you is the rest of the story. That is, rail will relieve traffic congestion (slightly) from what it might be if we did nothing, but congestion will still be worse than it is today.” – Cliff Slater, 12/5/11 at
That’s definitely one of Cliff Slater’s continuing and tiresome criticisms, but the rest of the story is something Mr. Slater will never admit:

His criticism is ethically challenged because it relies on what some would call an outright lie.
Mr. Slater wants the public to believe the city hasn’t told the truth about rail, but he’s the one who’s been the Big Misleader in promoting the erroneous notion in nearly every speech and every interview he gives that the rail project is intended to cut traffic congestion dramatically.

That’s not rail’s goal; you can look it up. Rail will be an alternative to driving and wasting hours sitting in traffic congestion. By being the traffic-avoiding travel option residents don’t now have, rail will restore mobility to the community – the ability to travel through the urban core whenever you want without having to contend with traffic congestion.

We first started noting Mr. Slater’s deliberate efforts to mislead the public about rail when Civil Beat posted its interview with him in July 2010. Here’s how he began:

“In talking to groups about rail, I tell them that there’s really two things you need to know about it. Number one, it’s gonna cost five and one-half billion dollars before cost overruns, and the second thing is that traffic congestion with rail in the future will be worse than it is today. And then I ask them if they have any questions, and that kinda sums up the whole argument.”
What he implies with this opening (view the entire interview here), which he employed again two months ago at a meeting of the Rotary Club of Honolulu, is that rail is supposed to reduce traffic decades from now. Mr. Slater obviously is motivated by traffic reduction goals, which are not the rail project’s goals.

Following his Civil Beat interview, Mr. Slater testified before the City Council in July 2010 and quoted from a letter sent to him by City Transportation Director Wayne Yoshioka about the traffic-congestion issue: “You are correct in pointing out that traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than it is today without rail,” Yoshioka said.

It’s a true statement and accurately conveys what the city has said repeatedly every time the issue is raised. Mr. Slater has known the city’s position on rail and traffic reduction and even agreed with it when he and Mr. Yoshioka were on a KHVH radio program on November 3, 2008.

Slater: “…We in the room here all understand that traffic congestion is gonna get worse with rail in the future, OK…. The public thinks that traffic today, today’s unendurable traffic congestion…will be reduced from today’s levels once rail goes in. That’s what they believe. OK, and we don’t believe it. You and I don’t believe that….”
Mr. Slater bases his alleged knowledge of public thinking on rail – that it’s supposed to reduce traffic – on a 2008 public opinion survey that he says backs him up. We made the connection in September when we found a Honolulu Advertiser story about that poll.

It was a classic case of “garbage in, garbage out” because the poll itself misstated rail’s intended outcome in one of its questions. Here’s some of the Advertiser’s reporting on the poll:

“The poll asked voters whether they favored or opposed rail following this statement: ‘The City and County of Honolulu has approved developing a fixed-rail mass transit system as a means to reduce traffic (emphasis added).”
And there it is – the polling company’s misstatement of rail’s goal that Mr. Slater has dishonestly attributed to the city ever since.

We think this is worth repeating here at Yes2Rail. The public needs to know Mr. Slater is not telling the truth when he says the city has promoted rail as a way to reduce traffic congestion to below current levels. That’s how he describes rail, not the city.

The fundamental flaw in Mr. Slater’s anti-rail campaign is dishonesty at the core. His willingness to deliberately mislead the public says more about his efforts than any rail advocate could.

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

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