Sunday, May 27, 2012

Star-Advertiser Editorial Page Finally Calls Out the ‘Elephant’ in this Mayoral Campaign, Says Public Needs To Know Details of Cayetano Transit Plan, Plus: ‘Uncharted Territory’ Lies Ahead if Rail Fails

With less than three months to go before the 2012 primary election, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s editorial page staff has had enough and asks: What exactly is Cayetano’s transit plan?
Former Governor Ben Cayetano announced his candidacy in the mayoral race more than 18 weeks ago and made it clear he was running to end the Honolulu rail project. Since then, he’s said virtually nothing about a transportation plan he’d implement instead of rail.

There have been hints dropped along the way, such as “an express bus or trolley system using dedicated freeway lanes,” a suggestion that buses would run down King Street or Beretania Street taking some parking along the way, and the 20 words Mr. Cayetano used in last Wednesday’s mayoral debate to “describe” his alleged bus rapid transit plan.

Disappointing Debate
But Mr. Cayetano has not released a comprehensive document that summarizes his transportation planning. After such a prolonged information drought, the debate could have been the venue where Mr. Cayetano answered questions about what he’d do to help address Oahu’s growing congestion issues.

It didn’t happen – to the obvious chagrin of the Star-Advertiser:

“All three candidates – Cayetano, Mayor Peter Carlisle and the city’s former managing director, Kirk Caldwell – skirted other issues, including the selection of the next landfill site and the growing homeless problem.
“But on a week when a new study showed Honolulu ranked worst for time spent in traffic, the lack of real discussion on transit, from Cayetano in particular, was the most obvious shortcoming in the debate.
“The voters have the right to expect better in the coming weeks, or having these public presentations will really become a pointless exercise.”

'Uncharted Territory'
Whether this or any other editorial critical of the candidate – such as the Star-Advertiser's “Cayetano’s rail tactics a disservice” editorial in March – will produce the desired response remains to be seem, as editorial writers often observe.

Also unknown is whether local media reporters who cover transportation and the mayoral race will take the hint and start asking all three candidates about their transportation vision, especially would-be rail killer Mr. Cayetano.

One issue the newspaper examines on page one today (all Star-Advertiser links require a paid subscription) is the cost of terminating rail so far along in the project. Writes Kevin Dayton:

“Honolulu will find itself in uncharted territory if former Gov. Ben Cayetano is elected mayor and actually cancels the city’s $5.27 billion rail project.
“There are few, if any, examples of rail projects in the United States that were shut down this late in the development and funding process, and many observers predict a messy, expensive and drawn-out closure process if Honolulu scraps the planned 20-mile train system.”

The issue gives Mr. Cayetano and anti-railer-in-chief Cliff Slater another opportunity to speculate about the future, of course. Speculation is Mr. Slater’s chief tactic, and he asks, “…is it worth spending another $5 billion, or $6 billion, or $7 billion, of whatever it is, to finish this off?”

Today’s page-one story of more than 1,700 words deserves more attention than we’re giving it today, and Yes2Rail will give it this week.

Digging for Details
Even Star-Advertiser columnist Richard Borreca – who usually says good things about the former governor and who we predicted wouldn’t write a single positive paragraph about rail in 2012, and hasn’t – says the public deserves more information about rail and Mr. Cayetano’s proposed alternative.

“We all need him to explain when and how he would start a bus system, where it would go, what it would look like and how much it would cost,” Mr. Borreca writes in today’s column.

That sounds right, since it echoes our own observations about Mr. Cayetano’s intentions 18 weeks ago after his candidacy announcement:

“So far, we know next to nothing about Mr. Cayetano’s transit plan, and we’re likely to read what he thinks about sewers, water fees and potholes before he chooses to provide those devilish details. If the elephant-in-the-living room description ever applied to anything, Mr. Cayetano’s missing transit plan is the perfect fit.”

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

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