Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Star-Advertiser Said Cayetano’s ‘Email-Gate’ Was ‘Disservice’ to Public, So What Does Paper Say About His Refusal to Release His BRT ‘Plan’?

Remember this? It’s from a March 18 editorial in the Sunday Star-Advertiser:
“For all his professed concern for the taxpayer in his fight against the planned rail system, former Gov. Ben Cayetano is not serving the public interest with his latest tactic of cherry-picking through old communications in his effort to turn public opinion against the project – and to boost his own candidacy for mayor.”

That lead paragraph in the editorial (subscription) produced a torrent of “telling the truth is no disservice” letters to the editor from the Cayetano faithful, for whom the editorial’s intent was lost.

Those old emails were a sideshow that proved nothing and added less to the pubic discourse on rail. As the editorial went on to note: “We expect better from the distinguished former governor of Hawaii.”

The newspaper’s editorial staff can expect all it wants, but it’s still not getting it – not if the man who would kill the mobility-restoring, travel-time-reducing, development-guiding, transportation-equity-ensuring and job-creating Honolulu rail project refuses to provide any details about his intended substitute, a bus rapid transit system.

Not just any BRT system. This is the Harris Administration’s plan, which was written a dozen years ago and thoroughly trashed before being dumped as unacceptable for any number of reasons, including the necessity to “Rob Peter to Pay Paul” – take street lanes from car use and dedicate them to BRT buses.

Silence Isn’t Golden
All we know about Mr. Cayetano’s intentions is what little he’s dribbled out – and we mean little. Here’s essentially all he’s said about BRT to anyone, a paragraph in an interview published on May 5 in the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle; we’ll quote the entire paragraph:

“My proposal is a system that uses Bus Rapid Transit like Mayor Harris proposed except that I’d make some changes. Most people agreed that Harris’ proposal was fine coming in from Kapolei on the freeway. Where it met some opposition was when they decided to run the bus line down Kapiolani Boulevard. It was to be a dedicated bus lane, which faced opposition. We’ll revisit the system and look at alternatives. The beauty of a bus system is that it has the flexibility to change. So we’ll look at running it down King Street or Beretania Street. We may have to elevate it in certain areas but it’ll run on the freeway, so we won’t have to create a new elevated structure. When it enters Downtown, it will need a dedicated lane which may require taking away some parking here and there. It’s a system that’s worked in Europe, South America and Japan. It’s now starting to catch on in the U.S.”

The list of questions about Mr. Cayetano’s plan is endless, and here are a few prompted by this one paragraph alone: What changes? What does he mean he’ll “revisit the system” and “look at alternatives.” What alternatives? What alternative to rail would give commuters a congestion-free trip? What does he mean he’d elevate BRT in certain areas? Where? What lanes would be dedicated on King and Beretania streets? Where would parking be removed, and only parking? What else would be denied to car drivers?

Questions for the Media
Mr. Cayetano told Civil Beat in March he’d be releasing details of his BRT plan by mid-April, which the calendar says was one month ago today, and there’s still no plan. At least CB has been asking but getting nowhere with Mr. Cayetano, according to reporter Michael Levine.

But where are the other Honolulu news media on this? We’ve already written two “open letters” – one each to reporters at the Star-Advertiser and Pacific Business News – urging the two transit scribes to ask/demand information from Mr. Cayetano on BRT.  There is no evidence besides Mr. Levine’s posts that the media here are asking about the still-secret BRT plan – as if it’s unimportant.

If the Star-Advertiser's editorial page staff thought Mr. Cayetano’s little email-gate sideshow was a "disservice," what do those journalists think about his silence on an alleged “plan” that he wants to impose on Honolulu and its citizens without dropping more than a few hints about it here and there? How would they describe this silence -- as a "mega-disservice," a "super-disservice," or just an "egregious disservice"?

We’re pretty sure the job descriptions for local journalists are fairly broad presumably  broad enough to include permission to ask tough questions of politicians when the stakes are so huge. You'd think so, but we're still waiting.

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