The plot – a classic cliff-hanger reminiscent of the Saturday adventure serials our grandparents watched for a dime when they were kids – plays well in the Islands. Will Honolulu finally build a rail transit system and join the ranks of modern cities that offer citizens traffic-free travel through the urban landscape, or will a familiar cast of characters foil those aspirations by kicking up yet another cloud of dust to obscure the facts?
We’ll recognize a few favorites for the local Honolulu Anti-Rail Awards:
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Cliff Slater
Mr. Slater gives another superb performance as the anti-rail celebrity of the era, not just one year or decade. He first came to prominence in the late 1980s and the early years of the Fasi Administration’s proposed rail project. That effort failed in its last act in large measure due to Mr. Slater’s frequent appearances on stage and in the media to sway public relations against the project.
His performance in that role prompted some critics to observe that Mr. Slater had become type-cast as “ABC Cliff” for always promoting his personal travel preference: Always By Car. The Honolulu Advertiser even gave Mr. Slater a recurring column called Second Opinion that played on the editorial page for the following decade. He used the space to attack, not support, virtually every new mass transit proposal advanced by City Hall to address Oahu’s growing congestion problem.
A Google search of “Slater BRT farce” today readily returns one of Mr. Slater’s columns attacking the bus rapid transit concept. The actor deserves special recognition in 2012 for his adept and nuanced performance that now includes the illusion of sincere support for BRT – simply because it's an alleged “better option” than the planned Honolulu rail project. Once again, critics scoff.
Best Original Screenplay: Cliff Slater
The perennial anti-rail actor showed his versatility by being the principal author of the “How the City Misled the Public,” the 1500-word anti-rail newspaper commentary that launched the Gang of Four’s PR blitz in August.
The other three members of the so-called gang may have signed off on the piece, but Mr. Slater’s style was unmistakable throughout the screed. One Slater flourish in particular – the assertion that rail will be a failure if congestion continues to grow on Oahu’s highways along with the population – was evident not only in this commentary but throughout his never-ending campaign against congestion-avoiding rail.
Best Original Song: Cliff Slater
Mr. Slater not only writes his anti-rail songs but he performs them, too, as he did in October when he and his fellow Gang members appeared on the Royal Hawaiian Hotel’s stage before the Rotary Club of Honolulu.
While a recording of the event isn’t readily available, his rendition was virtually the same as his performance before Civil Beat in July 2010, when he explained how he performs before audiences, an act that we’ve reduced to a haiku:
Mr. Cayetano, an original member of the Gang of Four cast of players who’ve sued in federal court to kill rail, clearly is following Mr. Slater’s script on how to combat the majority's will to build Honolulu rail. The former governor might have won the award in his own name but for the fact that, despite announcing his candidacy more than five weeks ago, he has kept his transportation plan under wraps and has adamantly refused to discuss its details.
Local media critics have been so spellbound by Mr. Cayetano’s comeback effort that they’ve yet to question him forcefully about his transportation ideas – with one exception: A Civil Beat reporter has done just that and was rewarded by being banned by Mr. Cayetano from covering his campaign.
And Finally – Best Overall Performance
The winner is the Honolulu rail project itself and its unsung cast of characters. Despite the publicity-hogging but substance-scarce anti-rail performances of the aforementioned actors, the project has progressed steadily through the years and in recent months received approval to enter into its Final Design phase and actually begin heavy construction thanks to the the Federal Transit Administration’s issuance of a Letter of No Prejudice.
Yesterday’s announcement by the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation that it has selected a finalist for the position of executive director is more affirmation that the rail project will become a reality despite the thespian flourishes of rail’s critics.
The local Academy wishes to thank all the participants in this ongoing drama for their collective efforts for and against rail – performances that Yes2Rail is only too happy to report.