Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mayoral Candidate Wants 'Truth' in Rail Debate, So Let It Begin: 'What’s Your Plan, Governor?'

NEW RULE: Candidates for public office can't complain about "truth" in media coverage if they avoid telling it themselves.
That seems about right this morning in light of mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano’s commentary in the Star-Advertiser (subscription) complaining about the newspaper’s hard-hitting editorial published one week ago on his recent campaign tactics.

Mr. Cayetano’s piece begins: “Since when is telling the public the truth a disservice?” There are multiple answers to that question.

First, it’s a disservice when the alleged truth the former governor is promoting is so obviously a campaign trick. He pulled six emails out of a half million documents – they represent 12/100,000ths of the total – to “prove” his assertion that the Federal Transit Administration has reservations about Honolulu rail. The FTA’s many endorsements of the project since those emails were written underscore the trick’s falsehood.

Second, the “fawning grandstanding” (Mr. Cayetano’s description) of Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s support for rail in testimony before a US Senate committee refutes the candidate’s gotcha campaign trick.

Mr. Cayetano takes issue with the Secretary’s statement that rail “will deliver people all over the island” – a statement the candidate himself describes as "off-the-cuff." If given a second chance at that sentence, Mr. LaHood undoubtedly would insert “from” before “all.” Cayetano ridicules a Cabinet member for want of a preposition.

In truth, rail will indeed serve people from all over the island by improving their mobility once they’re in the urban corridor. Those already living and/or working there will walk, take TheBus or drive to the nearest station, and those who live “all over the island” will avoid traffic once they’re in the corridor if they choose to switch travel modes and ride the train.

Third, Mr. Cayetano needs to avoid discussing The Truth because he strays from it so often. We’ve made the point repeatedly here at Yes2Rail, and we’re not alone; Civil Beat’s Fact Checks found examples of his and other anti-railers’ statements that were false or only half true – which means they're also half false. You can find examples here, here, here and here.

Mr. Cayetano has adopted Cliff Slater’s main anti-rail tactic of attributing statements to the city about rail’s impact on future congestion that the city has never made. We’re calling it the “Rotten Apple Effect” that could well be the campaign’s undoing if the mainstream media ever spend more than a few seconds or paragraphs on it.

66 Days and Counting
But the truth of all truths about Mr. Cayetano’s position on rail is that he entered the race for mayor without a transportation plan to replace the project.

One might have thought such a plan would have been the first thing he’d present upon announcing his candidacy, since killing rail would kill thousands of jobs and years planning. From what little we know, however, the plan is still being written – without benefit of public input in hearings or scoping meetings of any sort.

Mr. Cayetano told Civil Beat in an email that the core of the plan is “a Bus Rapid Transit system” that was written during the Harris Administration in 2000. The candidate says he’ll take the wraps off by mid-April.

Since April 15th will be the middle of that month, maybe we will read about Mr. Cayetano’s bus-based plan three weeks from today in the Sunday paper. That’s when the real truth-telling will begin about how much of what may have been Truth in 2000 is still Truth today.

Ironically, the last sentence in Mr. Cayetano's commentary states: "The public deserves answers." Truly.

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