Saturday, May 5, 2012

Saturday Review: Anti-Rail Candidate Attracts Scrutiny for Temper and Lack of Transparency; Cayetano’s Refusal To Discuss His BRT Plan Is His ‘Glass Chin’ or ‘Achilles Heel’ – or Both; Paper Corrects Its Report on Cayetano-Inouye Flap

It takes a five-line headline to sum up the rail-related events in the week that was, starting with a lesson for your children: Bad things can happen when you don’t talk nice.

One of those things happened this week to anti-rail mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano. was launched in response to his unflattering comments about Senator Dan Inouye, Hawaii’s exceptionally powerful senior senator who has represented the state on Capitol Hill since 1959.

Pacific Resource Partnership, described in today’s Star-Advertiser story (subscription) as “a prominent rail supporter and advocacy group for Hawaii’s unionized carpenters and construction workers,” launched the website in response to Mr. Cayetano’s suggestion that Senator Inouye is “out of touch” and flying at 30,000 feet above local issues, like rail.

“These sorts of personal attacks have no place in our public discourse,” the website says. “When Ben Cayetano disprespects Senator Inouye – a man of integrity and honor with a distinguished record of public service – he’s disrespecting all of us.”

Fits the Pattern
In one respect, the be-nice kerfuffle works to Mr. Cayetano’s advantage by diverting attention from what the campaign’s true issue – his lack of transparency about the bus rapid transit plan he says he’ll launch when he kills mobility-enhancing, travel-time-reducing, development-guiding, transportation-equity-ensuring and job-creating Honolulu rail.

That’s a recurring subject here at Yes2Rail, but it is virtually non-existent in the news media – a journalistic lapse of unbelievable proportions months into Mr. Cayetano’s campaign that defies explanation.

Why are the news media so reluctant to ask Mr. Cayetano about the specific details of his BRT plan? Has everyone from editor to reporter gone soft? Here’s a candidate who wants to wipe away years of rail planning with simplistic concepts borrowed from rail’s chief opponent, Cliff Slater.

For example, Mr. Cayetano echoes Mr. Slater’s lack of respect for the electorate by suggesting rail will fail because congestion will continue to increase long after rail is up and running. What he won’t or can’t concede is that congestion will be worse without rail than with it. Our “aggregation site” lists numerous examples of this dumbed-down rhetoric.

Do reporters need the questions to be spelled out for them? If so, here we go: (1) “Mr. Cayetano, what exactly are the details of your BRT plan, and why are you refusing to release them as you said you would by mid-April?” (2) “Will you concede that traffic congestion would be worse without rail than with it?” And (3) “Will you concede that only grade-separated transit can provide congestion-free travel for commuters, something no bus scheme – rapid or not – can achieve?”

Ask him that and the media likely won’t hear straight answers. He’ll talk about rail’s visual impacts and sewers and potholes and a "smear campaign" as he does today and potential impacts on ancestral burial sites. (Not insignficantly, an expert in Native Hawaiian legal issues defends the city’s approach to the latter in a Star-Advertiser commentary today.)

Just Say ‘Not’
The Star-Advertiser today corrected its Friday story on the Cayetano-Inouye flap, but you need an eagle eye to find it.

Yesterday’s story said: “(Mayoral candidates) Carlisle and Caldwell both defended Inouye on Wednesday and put their full faith in his ability to get the funding. Both said they did give credence to Cayetano’s ‘hypothetical’ scenario of funds running out.”

Today’s correction at the bottom of page B-2 says the word “not” was left out of that second sentence in Friday’s edition. It should have read “did not give credence….” Talk about the impact of a three-letter word.

And if you want to see who was naughty or nice in that debate, you can watch a replay on Oceanic-Time Warner’s ‘Olelo Channel 49 at 12:30 am Monday, 9:30 am Tuesday and 1:30 pm Wednesday, and on Channel 54 at 6 pm Friday.

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