Post 3 today asks when the Honolulu news media – including Civil Beat – will look beyond the poll numbers to examine why the public believes what it believes.
Today’s Civil Beat headline continues the theme: Civil Beat Poll – Honolulu Rail Authority Hasn’t Won Voters’ Confidence
Not to belabor the points we made in yesterday’s posts, but the poll did only survey likely voters, a decision Civil Beat defends as reasonable due to this year’s mayoral election pitting anti-rail Ben Cayetano against pro-rail Mayor Peter Carlisle and Kirk Caldwell. Nevertheless, that methodology ignored the views of transit-using non-voters who live along the line – people who actually will benefit the most from rail’s construction. (See yesterday’s posts for more.)
Today’s post is all about whether Civil Beat and other Honolulu media intend to report on why their opinion surveys have uncovered the relatively recent alleged slippage of support for rail. In other words, what has created this recent divergence from the results of opinion surveys in 2008, 2009 and 2011? And once they do that, will the media examine the messages that are driving public opinion?
We immediately posted that day and the next about Mr. Slater’s “whole argument,” as he described his main talking point in the interview. We said this argument is a cynical, dumbed-down and deliberately misleading statement about Oahu’s future traffic congestion.
Any reputable transportation expert will tell you congestion’s growth is inevitable as long as Oahu’s population increases. By implying in this pitch that rail’s purpose is to reduce congestion – that’s not it; see rail's goals – Mr. Slater says rail shouldn’t be built.
It’s a slick presentation that gets laughs in places like the Rotary Club of Honolulu a few months ago, but it obviously fails to achieve the level of an honest description of congestion’s inevitable growth. Even Mr. Slater admitted before the City Council that congestion will be worse without rail than with it.
But Mr. Slater doesn't in any way mention rail’s primary purpose or greatest contribution – traffic-free travel through the city, a feature that’s impossible now and would still be missing if rail weren't built regardless of how much new concrete Mr. Slater wants poured for his toll road preference.
Mr. Temple did not challenge Mr. Slater on this point during the July 2010 interview, and neither have his reporters or any other reporters in town since then.
We obviously don’t agree with Civil Beat’s editor about the candidate’s transportation plan not mattering. Nearly seven weeks into his campaign, Mr. Cayetano has provided no detailed description of what he’d try to implement if he were to successfully kill rail – along with the traffic-free travel option and the jobs rail would provide.
This obviously matters. The media have an obligation to be more than a unfiltered pipeline for campaign rhetoric, and it’s past time for reporters to start digging into that rhetoric.