But Mr. Cayetano’s future campaign pressers might attract less attention if yesterday’s event was a prelude to more of the same. The session was billed as an exposé of the city’s “lousy practices of public manipulation” in the early years of the rail project’s planning phase. Civil Beat even headlined the event in advance as a revelation of a “conspiracy.”
But the smoking gun promised in the media advisory was nowhere to be seen at the event itself. The “conspiracy” turned out to be snippets found in several emails among 500,000 documents filed as part of the Administrative Record in the lawsuit by Mr. Cayetano and several other plaintiffs that seeks to kill the Honolulu rail project.
The author presumably would like a do-over on that one now that the email has been used as alleged proof of “lousy practices and manipulation” by the city. Here’s the FTA statement on Mr. Cayetano’s event:
A reporter did ask Mr. Cayetano what he’d tell west side residents that he’d propose to address their traffic congestion problem if he’s elected mayor and kills rail. Paraphrasing the former governor:
We predicted yesterday that the candidate won’t “describe and defend a detailed transportation plan” during the campaign, but we may have been wrong about that. Mr. Cayetano said he has a team working on the 12-year-old BRT plan, and he may roll out a new plan any week now. We can certainly hope so, because without something to show the public as a better option than rail, we’re all just guessing at what it might be. Yesterday’s event made it clear that whatever it is, it won’t be new.
Mr. Cayetano was also asked yesterday for his BRT plan’s cost and how it would be financed. He said he doesn’t have a figure yet – just another one of those vexing details that by rights he should have been ready to discuss on Day 1 of his campaign.
Mr. Bunda, who's now a board member of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART), minces no words in criticizing the former governor’s position on rail. He recounts the Cayetano administration’s securing of land for a new UH-West Oahu campus and efforts to encourage economic activity on the ewa plain.
It’s not until you read today’s sub-head on the rail story that it’s clear the present tense doesn’t accurately reflect the facts in the story: Former Gov. Cayetano releases documents that show federal officials HAD concerns (emphasis added). In other words, the “problems” and “concern” were yesterday’s news, not today’s.
The only thing current about them in light of the FTA’s several approvals that have allowed construction to begin in a matter of weeks is Mr. Cayetano’s alarm about six-year-old emails.
Hawaii News Now did this in last evening’s report on Mr. Cayetano’s event. Its story began, “Ben Cayetano has released some damaging emails written by the federal government…emails he’s using to show the Federal Transit Administration shares some of his anti-rail concerns.”
The reporter didn’t attribute the “damaging” observation to Mr. Cayetano; he simply said the emails are damaging as if that’s a fact, but it’s not a fact. It’s Mr. Cayetano’s opinion.
Even that assertion is demonstrably not true. If it were, the FTA would not have approved rail’s environmental impact statement in 2010 and given the city a Letter of No Prejudice on February 6 authorizing it to begin construction with local funds.
If the FTA ever did actually “share” Mr. Cayetano’s concerns, which isn’t at all clear, it certainly doesn’t now. Hawaii News Now’s story implied something about the status of city-FTA relations that simply isn’t true – which makes you wonder what kind of journalistic oversight is in effect at Bob Sevey’s old station.
The Media – Push-Pulling about Polls
Civil Beat’s reporter on the Honolulu rail project, Michael Levine, attended yesterday’s campaign event and managed to prompt an answer from Mr. Cayetano to one of his questions. The candidate apparently has thought better of banning Mr. Levine from his sight.
Mr. Levine let Yes2Rail’s author know that he didn’t appreciate our characterization of Civil Beat’s recent rail public opinion survey as a “push poll.” “If you understand what a ‘push poll’ is, you’d admit you were wrong,” he said.
Our response is that he’s right about one thing; the Civil Beat poll wasn't one of those unsavory telemarketing campaigns that sound legitimate but end up blackening the reputation of one candidate. We don’t think Civil Beat is anti-rail, and given the opportunity for a do-over, we would say the poll could have been improved by eliminating one push-poll characteristic that remained in the survey.
The American Association for Public Opinion Research’s website says legitimate opinion surveys “usually ask about more than one candidate or mention both sides of an issue.” Civil Beat’s poll presented only “concerns” to the respondents and none of rail’s benefits and in so doing excluded all positives about rail, such as traffic-free commuting.
Also, the survey excluded people who said they’re not likely to vote in the 2012 election. That seems reasonable in a poll about the mayoral horse race, but its weakness is that it ignored approximately half of the populace who are non-voters. That’s the half more likely to use public transit and rail, and their opinions on rail are no less valid than those who vote.
The other two major mayoral candidates – Mayor Peter Carlisle and former managing director Kirk Caldwell – have yet to really begin their campaigns except for a few radio spots. Television advertising, the great determining factor in most political campaigns, hasn’t started for any candidate to a noticeable degree.
HART board members like Senator Bunda are taking the initiative more than previously to stand up for rail, and HART’s new executive officer, Dan Grabauskas, will begin his duties here in early April after wrapping up his work in Boston. He’s articulate and certain to be influential in this debate.
Then there’s Mr. Cayetano’s "Truth Squad" that he said will hold a press conference next week. We’ll likely attend that one, too, but we doubt the local media will cover such an obviously politicized campaign event with another full-court press, as they did yesterday.