Monday, January 9, 2012

News Flash: Rail Opponent Is Human, Capable of Seeing What He Wants To See; Plus LTE Forum

Can we all just agree on something? Can we agree that all anti-rail material published in the newspaper that’s allegedly written by the Gang of Four – Cliff Slater, Ben Cayetano, Randall Roth and Walter Heen – is actually the work of Mr. Slater?

Let’s take that further. Let’s agree that all commentaries, letters and analyses on rail signed by any one of the Gang is also Mr. Slater’s work. Why should we expect the other three to have written them? They have evidenced miniscule interest in transit issues compared to Mr. Slater, so what we see repeatedly is from Mr. Slater, with the other three “caboosed” onto the pieces for their name-recognition PR value.

Good. Now that that’s agreed, let’s move on to a key plank in Mr. Slater’s anti-rail campaign – that the city has lied to the public about rail’s effect on future congestion. He did it again yesterday in a Gang of Four commentary (subscription) that revealed once again Mr. Slater's tendency to see what he wants to see in the city’s statements about rail and why it should be built.

The Human Filter
Seeing and hearing what one wants to see and hear is a trait all humans probably exhibit to some degree. We filter out information that doesn’t fit our concept of reality. Mr. Slater’s reality is that the city never told the truth about the inevitability that traffic congestion will continue to increase along with the population even after rail is built. Here’s how his Sunday commentary put it:

“Elevated heavy rail was initially promoted by the city as a solution to traffic congestion. Since then, the city has quietly admitted that traffic congestion would get worse than it is today even if rail is built.”
Over and over and over again, Mr. Slater has repeated this myth about the city only reluctantly talking about future congestion. His website has an extensive archive with links to other sites that Mr. Slater says support his thesis, but the quirky thing about those sites is that they do not support his claim. His personal filter lets him see only what he wants to see, what he wants to hear.

Here’s one example from an undated post at HonoluluTraffic that presumably was written in 2007. It links to a KITV video report on a “Traffic Sucks” city hall rally in 2005 that Mr. Slater’s website says “typifies the grossly misleading statements emanating from our elected officials.”

Watch the video and see if you can find anything misleading in Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s sound bite: ”I want the Governor to know very clearly. This is our last chance. Traffic sucks! We need to spend time with our families! Quality of life is important! Put your signs up, gang. Let me see it! Let me see it! Transit now! Transit now! Transit now!” Pacific Business News’s report on the rally paraphrased the Mayor in saying “the city needs a rail system to alleviate increasing traffic congestion (emphasis added).

Ease, Not Eliminate
Elsewhere at the 2007 post, Mr. Slater calls out the Mayor’s quotes from a Honolulu Advertiser story: “He said the system will help all parts of the island, easing traffic overall because ‘there will be less cars on the road.’” Mr. Slater’s filter lets him conclude the Mayor was promising to reduce traffic congestion below current levels; that’s the implication in nearly all of his public presentations on rail (see numerous posts at our “aggregation” site below the Mr. Cliff Slater (and Friends) heading).

But that isn’t what the Mayor said. He promised exactly what rail will deliver – “easing” of traffic congestion because there will be “less cars on the road.” Those statements are irrefutable, but in Mr. Slater’s world, they support his allegation that the city has misled the public on the congestion issue. That’s what his filter tells him.

The same 2007 post has a link (no longer good) to the project’s Alternative Analysis report, which is dated November 1, 2006 – still early in the rail process. On page S-3, the AA states clearly: “Traffic congestion on key corridor facilities is expected to continue to exist under all alternatives, particularly during peak travel periods.”

The city didn’t hide its assessment of what traffic will be like in the future, with and without rail. It’s been forthcoming in “obscure” documents like the AA as well as in the spotlight in public meetings before the City Council, on the radio and on TV.

Expect Mr. Slater to continue his deliberately misleading campaign against rail. It’s what his filter demands.

LTE Forum
Kaneohe resident Tom Coffman’s letter today (subscription) – ‘Final design’ won’t assure rail funding – is a repeat of other anti-rail commentaries recently, including the Gang's Sunday piece, and isn’t worth quoting. The only other rail-related letter is worth quoting in full:

Modern cities need good transit systems (Star-Advertiser, 1/9)
“Please notice that the old men and past leaders who want to stop rail always seem to meet mid-morning or mid-afternoon at some convenient place and avoid the thousands of residents who spend hours in gridlock, commuting in bumper-to-bumper traffic every single day of the week. They seem to have no idea what a crisis traffic is. It is time for the old men like Ben and his crew from the past to sit down and let modern leaders move ahead. Honolulu needs to become a real city like Singapore or Sydney or Boston with real transportation systems. Yes, we need rail from the west side and guess what — then we will need lines to Hawaii Kai and Central Oahu and then finally windward. The old people, like them (and me), need to get out of the way and let progress happen.”
The Honolulu resident’s assessment seems pretty much on the mark to us. Attempting to kill rail, as the Gang of Four is trying to do with the federal lawsuit, would be an anti-progress step backward from achieving the modern transportation network Honolulu requires for the rest of the 21st century.

This post has been added to our "aggregation" site below two headings Mr. Cliff Slater (and Friends) and LTE Forum.

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