Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Desperation Sets In: Rail’s Chief Opponent Uses Bizarre Diversion To Confuse Public on the Project

Today’s Yes2Rail post was as good as written, but then I clicked on Cliff Slater’s website.
Mr. Slater, the man more responsible than anyone else for the absence of a traffic-free way to travel through Honolulu’s east-west corridor, has posted another irrelevant opinion that’s too good to pass up.

For years I’ve publicized the web-based writings of Mr. Slater and other rail opponents on the assumption that the more Oahu residents know about what the opponents think, the less credible they’ll appear. (Here's a link to a post we particularly liked about Panos Prevedouros.)

Today is no exception. Here’s what tops Mr. Slater’s site this morning:

“If every child, woman and man on earth gave $1…it would be just enough to build the Honolulu rail project if the cost overruns were within reason. The world’s population is currently 7.1 billion. That’s about what we think (emphasis added) it will cost with overruns.”

What Mr. Slater thinks about rail doesn't reflect rail's reality, since what he thinks is driven by a car-first, mass-transit-last philosophy that can’t possibly be in Oahu’s best long-term interests.

The $7 billion figure comes, of course, from anti-rail ex-governor Linda Lingle’s “study” on rail’s finances that she commissioned at a cost of 300,000 taxpayer dollars in the final months of her term. It was a delaying tactic that pushed the whole project back several months; Governor Neal Abercrombie officially approved and accepted rail’s Final Environmental Impact Statement 10 days after he took office.

Mr. Slater’s Overrun Theory also is dependent on other jurisdictions’ rail experiences, none of which are relevant to Honolulu.  Just because a project in Puerto Rico or Jacksonville or anywhere else had an overrun is no reason to automatically conclude it will happen here, but that's what Mr. Slater thinks.

Unraveling the Web
Cliff Slater's entire anti-rail campaign is a web of specious thought threads strung together to seem plausible to the casual listener who has 2 seconds to give it. It’s after 3 seconds that his rhetoric starts to unravel.

Take his #1 pitch: “Traffic congestion with rail in the future will be worse than it is today….. That kinda sums up the whole argument.”

Mr. Slater got an enthusiastic reaction from a room full of Rotarians last year when he used that “whole argument,” but in looking around the room, I saw others in the audience who were already into their third second of thought about that statement.

Three seconds should be enough to conclude that traffic congestion of course will increase in the future, with or without rail, because the population will continue to grow. 

The City’s Wayne Yoshioka took apart that argument before the City Council and even got Mr. Slater to admit that “…rail will have an effect on reducing traffic congestion from what it might be if we did nothing at all….” 

Yet the Two Second Types invariably fall for this thin anti-rail argument, just as they’re undoubtedly lapping up what Mr. Slater thinks about a cost overrun on Honolulu rail. Just remember that the project already has hundreds of millions of dollars budgeted for unanticipated contingency expenses during construction.

Say It Again
Repetition is a good marketing technique, of course, and that’s why Yes2Rail has written about Mr. Slater’s “whole argument” more times than we can count. And that’s why Mr. Slater is so insistent that “the rail project is now in its death throes.” That’s also at the top of his website this morning. It’s what he thinks, and he wants you to think it, too.

His string of “ifs” that he thinks threaten the project includes the outcome of the mayoral race, the outcome of the Gang of Four’s anti-rail federal lawsuit, the outcome of congressional legislation to fund transportation projects and so on.

ABC Cliff – Always By Car – Slater’s legacy is still intact as the man who killed rail two decades ago, but his place in Honolulu history as a spoiler will be reduced to a footnote once the current project overcomes all obstacles and is built.

It's personal with Mr. Slater. No wonder he’s looking desperate.

This post has been added to Yes2Rail's "aggregation site" under the Mr. Cliff Slater and Friends heading.


Anonymous said...

Cliff Slater has always hated union-staffed public transit systems. He wrote about the Atlantic City Jitney Association as being a model for Honolulu transit because it was privately run. (Never mind the disparity between the size of Atlantic City and Honolulu.) Also he would switch sides in an arguement if it suited him. Slater once wrote foundly of the Rosecrans Jitney that competed aginst Honolulu Rapid Transit until it was regulated out of business in 1940. Later he sided with Honolulu Rapid Transit owner Harry Weinberg when the transit company was being sold to the city in 1971. Weinberg wanted to set the price but was sued by Mayor Fasi who said that Weinberg had violated the company's 1921 franchise. When the matter was settled in court, the proce was much lower and Weinberg complained about that until he died. I believe that Slater wanted the price to be high so the city would have a harder time reviving the bus system.

Peter Kay said...

Doug if I'm not mistaken, rail is already way, way over budget. Mufi Hannemann budgeted $2.7 billion in 2004 for rail and now it's over $5 billion.

But let's cut to the chase: how much of your own money would you be willing to bet that rail will come under budget?

Roy Kamisato said...

Cliff Slater a master of messaging preys on the uninformed. To the informed his message is filled with nonsense, but to the low information voter Cliff is Mister Common Sense. Unfortunately the game of snake oil is as old as civilization itself. Cliff's biggest fear is the truth, which is why stomping out the truth is job one for the anti- rail coalition.

Anonymous said...

It's so sad to see people who fought their way up become foolish parrots of Slater's dubious propaganda and allow themselves to be manipulated for his elitist right-wing fringe agenda.

The journey from Kalihi to Waialae Iki sure can leave you lost.

Doug Carlson said...

Response to Peter Kay, long-time rail opponent:

Peter, you've fallen for the dumbed-down "price escalation" argument anti-railers love to use against the project. That lower figure was in 2004 dollars; the FTA required subsequent costs to be figured in year-of-expenditure dollars. There's been no dramatic increase in costs -- just in the minds of those who won't face the truth.

As for cutting to the chase: THAT's the chase?! Looks to me, Peter, you are as adept at issue avoidance as the rest of them. Coming in under budget isn't the issue; see the end paragraph of my July 25th post for THE issue.