Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mayoral Candidates Face Off in First Debate, but One Man’s Nakedness Goes Unreported: Cayetano Still Refuses To Provide Details of His BRT Plan

Reading the Star-Advertiser (subscription) and Civil Beat stories about last night's debate among the three mayoral candidates recalled the famous tale by Hans Christian Anderson, "The Emperor's New Clothes."
You remember it: An emperor is conned by two weavers into believing the threads of the new suit they’ve made for him are so fine that they’re invisible to the unfit, incompetent and stupid. When the emperor walks among his subjects wearing nothing but his birthday suit, a child sees the truth and blurts, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

Ben Cayetano, the anti-rail candidate, is going out in public with his own set of invisible threads. He’s woven an image of a bus rapid transit plan that he’d implement instead of building Honolulu rail if he’s elected. 

Trouble is, as any child can see, there is no BRT plan – just a description as vague and invisible as the emperor’s new suit. All we know is what he told Civil Beat six weeks ago: He’d resurrect the failed Jeremy Harris BRT plan that was written in 2000. What we also know from personal contacts is that the former governor is refusing to respond to media requests for details on the recycled plan.

The BRT Fable
Using the emperor’s suit again for imagery in imagining Mr. Cayetano’s BRT plan, what size is his jacket, and where exactly will the buttons be placed? Will it have wide or narrow lapels or maybe no lapels, like a Nehru jacket? Will the vents be on the sides or at the back? Will it be fitted, European style, or cut to flatter a more portly figure? Sleeve length? Inside pockets? What exactly will it look like?

The same goes for all the missing details in the former governor’s BRT scheme. He wants to kill rail, for which construction already has begun, and replace it with an unknown, invisible and totally unvetted and untested plan that will add more buses to congestion rather than reduce it.

If political science students are looking for a naked political play to study, this surely is it – the old “duck and cover” strategy used by candidates allegedly ahead in their races to avoid being dragged down by details.

Where's the Transparency?
Mr. Cayetano is avoiding the inconvenience of discussing BRT’s specifics, and that apparently includes ducking debate opportunities that might expose his invisible BRT threads.

According to Civil Beat, “Cayetano balked at having more than 10 to 20 people in the room” when pro-rail candidate Kirk Caldwell sought his commitment to participate in “three televised, open-to-the-public debates.”

He wants only 10 to 20 people in the room and for all we know no TV? And he’s committed to transparency in "solving" Oahu's traffic congestion problem with buses instead of building rail? How exactly?

Rail is the biggest issue in the 2012 campaign for mayor, so it’s incumbent on the one candidate who wants to kill rail to tell the media and therefore the public exactly what he’d do instead.

This is where the journalists in town need to step up to their responsibilities as the inquisitors for the public. How much longer are they going to wait for Mr. Cayetano to produce his invisible BRT plan?

The time for politely asking for those details has long since passed. It’s time to “demand” them, and if the candidate ignores those urgent requests, that needs to be reported, too.

Cliff Slater and other anti-rail “weavers” have created this problem for Mr. Cayetano. They’ve dressed him up in a bus-based plan that can’t possibly duplicate the contributions of mobility-enhancing, travel-time-reducing, development-guiding, transportation-equity-ensuring and job creating Honolulu rail.

Talk about naked.

This post has been added to our "aggregation site" under the 2012 Mayoral Race & Rail heading.

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