Monday, January 23, 2012

Does Mayoral Candidate Understand Rail's Goals? So Far, He’s Only Channeling Cliff Slater, Who Deliberately Misleads Public on Rail’s Purpose -- To Help Commuters Avoid Traffic, NOT END IT!

As noted last week, Yes2Rail is not a political blog; it’s all about the Honolulu rail project. It’s also about calling attention to the weakness of anti-rail arguments no matter who’s doing the arguing, including candidates for mayor.

Ben Cayetano appears to not understand the rail project’s goals. What he does understand and use is Cliff Slater’s anti-rail spin that we’ve highlighted and criticized repeatedly since July 12, 2010, when Civil Beat posted its interview with the anti-railer-in-chief.

Yes2Rail devoted the first few posts of 2011 to Honolulu rail’s goals, since it was obvious even then that Mr. Slater was misstating those goals as a favored tactic. From January 6, 2011:

“The significant and obvious benefit of grade-separated transit – elevated rail in Honolulu—is that it’s completely immune to traffic congestion on highways and local streets.”
That’s the Honolulu rail project’s key attribute that will restore mobility and transportation reliability to the public. Take the train and forget about traffic; ride it and arrive at your station along the route reliabily when you want to get there – as opposed to never knowing whether an accident, stall or just Oahu’s ever-increasing traffic will slow or stop your progress.

The logic of building elevated rail in our space-restricted, cramped island environment is so strong that Mr. Slater apparently knew he couldn’t succeed in fighting the project straight up. His campaign would have to attract attention by twisting facts to suggest a plausible anti-rail argument.

Slater’s Misleading Message
Ironically, Mr. Slater uses an obvious truth about traffic – that congestion increases as the population increases – but twists that truth to create an impression that rail shouldn’t be built. Here’s his exact quote from the Civil Beat interview:

“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.”
He ties the cost of building rail to the inevitable result of families having babies, and just like that, he plants the notion that rail isn’t worth the expense if traffic is going to increase. Mr. Slater simply ignores rail’s traffic-avoiding attribute, and he resists talking about rail’s true goals.

Only reluctantly did he admit before the City Council in July 2010: “We don’t disagree at all that rail will have an effect on reducing traffic congestion from what it might be if we did nothing at all.” He doesn’t disagree, but he also doesn’t admit it unless cornered.

Cayetano Channels Slater
Though he insists it’s not the case, former governor Ben Cayetano has entered the mayoral race because of one issue – his opposition to rail. That’s what the political writers and blogs are saying, and that view is supported by Mr. Cayetano’s role as one of the Gang of Four plaintiffs who followed Mr. Slater’s lead in filing the federal lawsuit that wants to kill the project.

The Star-Advertiser’s subhead in its page-one story today (subscription) says, “If the former governor wins and refuses to fund rail transit, money and jobs may disappear.” Killing rail would have huge consequences for Honolulu and Oahu residents; ask trade union members who are counting on thousands of construction jobs, and ask west-end residents who look forward to taking the train and avoiding congestion that steals away their time each day they commute to and from town.

With stakes this high, you should expect candidates to know truth from fiction, logic from spin. Mr. Cayetano’s statements suggest he’s content to use the same spin tactic that Cliff Slater has perfected over several years.

Here’s Mr. Cayetano’s campaign website’s statement on traffic and rail: “…according to the City’s own EIS (rail) will not reduce current traffic congestion. In other words, traffic congestion in the future will be worse than today – even with rail.” It's the same message he had for the talk show host two days before his announcement.

There it is – Cliff Slater’s misleading, dumbed-down, cleverly-constructed anti-rail spin, and now it's been elevated to even greater prominence by candidate Cayetano.

We’ve banged away at Mr. Slater’s tactic for 18 months now, and others also have found flaws in the Gang’s anti-rail rhetoric. Of the seven statements in their August op-ed piece, only two were judged to be  TRUE   in Civil Beat’s Fact Check. Two were  FALSE  and three  HALF FALSE .

Coming Clean
Civil Beat says it’s now conducting a Fact Check on Mr. Cyetano’s anti-rail statements made last week when he officially announced his candidacy. We hope Civil Beat and other media don’t stop there. They also could examine the Slater/Cayetano “rail won’t reduce traffic” message, too, since it already is being used to attack the project.

It goes without saying that it would be helpful at the outset of this mayoral race if candidates would start playing straight with the public on the rail issue. By suggesting rail would be a failure if congestion is worse decades from now than it is today, Mr. Cayetano is not leading a sensible discussion on rail; he’s following Cliff Slater’s decades-long spin.

What’s missing in Mr. Cayetano’s campaign are the details about how he intends to address Oahu’s congestion problem and give commuters relief. So far he’s mentioned trolleys and buses without giving any specifics. Without the details, we don’t know what Mr. Cayetano is for – just what he’s against.

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


Anonymous said...

Stop letting foreigners move to Oahu!!!too much people on one little island!!!

Anonymous said...
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