Thursday, May 31, 2012
May in Review: Two Big Stories Make the News--Honolulu’s Worst-in-Nation Traffic Congestion and Anti-Rail Candidate’s Refusal to Reveal His BRT Plan; Civil Beat Joins Chorus Asking for Details
With August’s primary election just over two months away, many are asking: “Can Ben Cayetano keep his bus rapid transit ‘plan’ secret until then?”
That seems to be his strategy. Civil Beat posted a 1500-word piece today about Mr. Cayetano’s alleged BRT plan under the headline Bus Rapid Transit: The Devil’s in the Details, But What Are They?
The piece notes the candidate’s refusal to reveal anything that resembles an actual plan with information on construction costs, bus stop locations, routes, anticipated elevated structures, exclusive bus (no-car) lanes, removal of parking spaces, O&M expenses and all the other details that would foster a true understanding of his concept -- and, of course, criticism.
Like the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Sunday editorial -- What exactly is Cayetano’s transit plan? – Civil Beat’s piece describes Mr. Cayetano’s stonewalling with an implied criticism one would expect from a media outlet.
“Civil Beat has asked Cayetano since March for more information on his bus alterative, even offering him an opportunity to present it in his own words,” CB writes. “But he’s simply pointed to the presentations at his campaign events as supplying details of his plan.”
However, attendees at those campaign events report back that no such details were provided – just the same vague assurances about Mr. Cayetano’s BRT scheme that he wants to implement instead of the Honolulu rail project, which he vows to kill if elected.
Even members of the Cayetano campagn’s “Truth Squad” are avoiding any “truth.” Malcolm Tom “declined to comment on BRT,” Civil Beat writes, “either the (city’s) previous system or Cayetano’s plan.”
Following the Book
Political observers have surmised that Mr. Cayetano is following the political playbook strategy of minimizing a candidate’s vulnerabilities prior to an election. Cynics might call it the “duck and cover” strategy.
Hawaii Pacific University professor John Hart told Civil Beat he doesn’t see “a lot of impact on the campaign about him not being specific.” Once a specific plan is articulated, he said, rival campaigns and other interested parties, such as pro-rail Pacific Resources Partnership, can tear it apart, bit by bit.
We wonder how much longer Professor Hart’s assessment will be valid. The Cayetano Calling-Out Party is just beginning and will only intensify in the weeks ahead.
PRP’s new radio spot zeroes in on Mr. Cayetano’s refusal to provide BRT details; Civil Beat has downloaded the 60-second spot and posted a clickable link to listen to it. Here’s an excerpt.
“Cayetano says he’s for Bus Rapid Transit, an outdated billion-dollar plan to force people out of their cars and onto buses. Reduce traffic lanes for cars, make them for buses only. And erect more double-decker roads? How will that reduce traffic?”
We’re Number One!
The news that road congestion wastes more time for drivers in Honolulu than in any other city in the country exploded into the mayoral campaign just as the no-BRT plan controversy was heating up.
Mayor Peter Carlisle and former Managing Director Kirk Caldwell leveraged the report from INRIX, Inc. in criticizing Mr. Cayetano for not revealing his BRT plan’s details.
Other rail-related developments in May included former Governor Linda Lingle’s endorsement of at-grade rail, thereby showing no hint of recognition that rail operating on city streets can’t be as fast, frequent, reliable or safe as Honolulu’s future elevated system.
The next 71 days leading up to the August 11th primary will see more demands for transparency among all three mayoral candidates about how they propose to address Oahu’s worsening congestion problem. Mr. Cayetano’s intentions – either to remain in his cone of silence or provide the BRT details others are seeking – may be the deciding factor in this election.