That’s the biggest news to come out of the first hearing in the case – the potential for months of delay and increasing project costs.
Mr. Cayetano may feel comfortable spinning that argument with reporters, but we doubt he’d try it inside the courtroom. In the court of public opinion, Oahu citizens have every right to question the plaintiffs’ motives as they pursue an action that could boost project costs through further delay. (They might also want to ask the former governor and the others to defend their favored alternative to rail, if they have one.)
With his efforts gaining no traction as shown also in scientific public opinion surveys, Mr. Slater recruited others to join the lawsuit, which was filed in May. The plaintiff’s pre-trial media campaign began in August with their 1,500-word newspaper op-ed piece that contained nothing new and served only to hype the lawsuit and raise money to hire their California attorney, Mr. Yost.
The so-called Gang of Four (Mr. Slater and his three high-profile recruits) followed the op-ed with a radio show, a public television program and various speaking opportunities. They succeeded in grabbing the spotlight with their dumbed-down and misleading rhetoric; plaintiff Randy Roth’s “shame on the city” explosion on public radio’s “Town Square” program was perhaps the most hyperbolic exclamation of this campaign.
It’s a campaign that no doubt will continue outside the walls of the federal court building. It’s only a matter of time before Mr. Slater floats his familiar assertion that rail is supposed to reduce traffic congestion, and if it doesn’t, why build it? (See rail’s actual goals.)
His continued misstatements about the rpoject and what it will accomplish says a lot about the integrity of Mr. Slater’s campaign and also, unfortunately, about the lost art of reportorial challenge. Just once we’d like to hear a reporter stop Mr. Slater in mid-sentence and challenge him on yet another of his obfuscations about rail.
It’s a style of journalism that once was common in Honolulu under different media leadership, but it probably won’t happen any time soon. It might spoil a good sound bite.