Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Reader Responds to ‘Partisan Anti-Government Wing’ of Rail Opponents Who Fight Transit Option

It’s axiomatic that those who oppose projects and initiatives are usually more visible and vocal than the supporters. Protestors attract media coverage, and NIMBY-ism produces video that plays well on television.

The Comments section below rail stories in the Star-Advertiser supports this axiom. It attracts rail opponents like ants to a picnic or, judging from many of their anonymous comments, flies to a sewer.

Well-constructed, articulate letters supportive of Honolulu rail stand apart from anti-rail op-ed pieces and letters for both their civility and depth. A good contrast can be seen between a letter in today’s paper (see LTE Forum, below) and the Gang of Four’s (aka Cliff Slater’s) op-ed piece last Sunday (subscription required for both).

Here’s a summary of the Gang’s main points on 1/8:
• The piece disagrees with the newspaper’s coverage of the FTA’s December 30th authorization for the city to enter into Final Design. It says Congress hasn’t appropriated any of the $1.55 billion in federal funds for the Honolulu project. Call it quibbling. (Jan. 12th Update: Rail official refutes Gang's allegation.)
• The commentary says the FTA has “firmly rejected” several project financial plans. Call it not true; here’s what the FTA wrote: “Regarding the Financial Capacity Assessment, FTA notes that the financial plan HART submitted is sufficient to advance the project into final design (emphasis added). However, it must be further strengthened before FTA will consider awarding (a Full Final Grant Agreement).”
• The piece “doubts” HART can justify its several assumptions about future financial considerations. Call it standard anti-rail skepticism.
• The Gang cites other city financial obligations beyond rail and says paying for rail might exceed the city’s capabilities. Call it wishful thinking.
• Finally, the commentary once again scrambles facts in suggesting the city duped residents by promising rail would reduce traffic congestion below current levels. Call it dishonest – and we have in numerous posts. See our “aggregation” site below the Mr. Cliff Slater (and Friends) heading.

LTE Forum
It’s easy to see why the Gang’s commentary motivated the Kailua resident to write his letter to the editor that leads the pack in today’s paper. It’s a model pro-rail statement that presumably could be echoed by the majority of Oahu residents with the same opinion:

Oahu rail system is long overdue (Star-Advertiser, 1/11)
“Since the 1970s, Honolulu has needed, and tried to get, a rail transit system. The move into final design makes it appear as though we are finally on our way despite dealing with the same kind of irrationally emotional opposition we've always had to put up with. It's been coming from the same blindly partisan anti-government wing, from has-been politicians using the issue to make personal attacks and from incredibly ill-advised environmentalists, among others.
“The opposition has failed to offer any serious alternative transportation solutions and instead continues to push reliance on the expensive petroleum-addicted automobile for everyone. The opposition also doesn't seem to care at all that the project will help put people back to work.
“Still, thankfully, it does appear that the third time will be the charm for Honolulu rail transit, and future generations that the selfish opponents don't care about will have transportation options.”

The letter is a straight-forward, thoughtful assessment of the rail project and one reason it’s being built – as an alternative to continued reliance on cars and what fuels them and the congestion they cause. The writer sums up the opposition neatly from his perspective; he uses common sense and doesn’t quibble about the present or past, doesn’t misstate the truth and doesn’t obfuscate the issues.

And since the writer lives in Kailua on the opposite side of the mountain from the rail system, his pro-rail letter reflects an attitude that what benefits others along the route benefits everyone on the island. It’s called “community” – an appreciation missing in most anti-rail commentaries, along with their answer to the question, “If not rail, what?”

The letters column has two other rail-related letters – both reacting to Bette Midler's anti-rail letter printed on Sunday. One asks, "Does Bette Midler think that the high-rise monstrosities that line our coastline, and are now the view, are better than a 20-foot-high rail?" Our sentiments exactly.

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