Thursday, July 12, 2012

Here’s What We Say about Last Night’s Debate:

Absolutely Nothing!

That will satisfy those who believe any Yes2Rail coverage or analysis of the mayoral candidates’ intentions to address Oahu’s growing congestion problem is the same as criticizing the candidates and therefore “unethical.”

We’re still trying to wrap our mind around that concept. Rail is this year’s (any year’s?) biggest issue, and Honolulu rail is the City’s multi-year (multi-decade?) effort to address congestion.

Comparing other concepts with rail’s deliverables seems like a legitimate way to educate the public about the project’s goals and anticipated benefits. Others don’t believe that to be true – and they won.

So my advice to Yes2Rail’s regular readers – including Honolulu media people (reporters, columnists, editors, news directors and TV anchors) and prominent leaders in business and the professions – is to go elsewhere for insights on last night's mayoral debate. We’re done with that for the time being.

What We CAN Say
Much of the anti-rail commentary you read and hear this year is grounded in a generation-long campaign by Cliff Slater, who has been fighting mass transit issues in Honolulu for decades.

His website has links going back to the 1990s, and they’d be older if the Internet had been in fashion before then.

We’ve been standing up to Mr. Slater for just as long, including those quiet years between the Honolulu rail projects. Our letter to the editor in The Honolulu Advertiser on January 15, 2003 responded to Mr. Slater’s column two days earlier and noted that his transportation fixes are always by the ABCs – Always By Car. You need a Star-Bulletin subscription to read the letter; here’s its final paragraph:

“It’s time to embrace transit alternatives for Oahu residents and leave the toll roads to California, which has the population and space to make them work. Let Slater have his ABC preference, but the rest of us should choose modern rapid transit as the best transportation alternative for our island’s future.”

Understanding the Opposition
Mr. Slater responded 12 days later in yet another of his Second Opinion columns in the newspaper: “First, beware of the word ‘should’ – it is a planner’s word. One used by people who want to organize our behavior according to their ‘vision.’ Second, I am merely facing the reality that everyday people are pushing for more roads. For example, according to the latest Census, only 7% of Oahu’s commuters chose TheBus to get to work; 80% chose their cars and they would like traffic congestion relief.”

And there you have it – a statement that’s worth dredging up from a decade ago for two good reasons: First, it highlights the anti-railer-in-chief’s primary motivation – “traffic congestion relief” – in opposing alternatives to the car and fighting for more roads. (Our May 29th post examines that motivation in depth.)

Second, Mr. Slater’s quote from 2003 also reveals his view that transit projects must be resisted because they’re the government’s attempt to “organize our behavior.” That sounds a bit extreme, but it’s what he believes, and we should respect his beliefs.

Except this one: There was no evidence in 2003 and there is none today that “everyday people are pushing for more roads.” 

Mr. Slater backed up that bizarre notion by once again drawing dubious conclusions from statistics to make his case. It’s what he does – employs narrow interpretations of statistics to fight rail while he ignores other interpretations and other information altogether. 

We wrote about it as recently as Tuesday: More Analysis of Slater’s Deceptive Messaging on Rail: He Simply doesn’t Want You To Understand that Oahu’s Traffic Density Justifies the Project.

That post and others are recommended reading (see our “aggregation site” under the Mr. Cliff Slater heading) for anyone who wants to understand Mr. Slater’s influence and so-far success in opposing Honolulu’s multi-decade effort to build a mass transit alternative to road congestion.

There’s no doubt he’s been influential. Cliff Slater is the leader of the federal lawsuit that was filed to block the rail project, and when the three other primary plaintiffs speak up, they’re essentially repeating many of the same talking points he’s been using since at least the 1990s.

In the time remaining on Yes2Rail’s service as an educational tool on the rail project for the benefit of journalists, business leaders and all Oahu citizens, we’ll continue to examine Mr. Slater’s anti-rail comments and messaging. Doing so helps Honolulu citizens separate truth from fiction about rail transit, and that should help them understand it.

This post has been added to our “aggregation site” under the Mr. Cliff Slater and Friends heading. Many thanks to those who left comments below Tuesday’s Yes2Rail post.


Roy Kamisato said...

The sad thing is Cliff Slater fully understands rail is the only viable alternative to sitting in traffic congestion. Mr. Slater has sat in on many a meeting with city planners and engineers to discuss rail. In every single meeting Slater agreed with the city that rail is the only option that makes sense. To the surprise of the City Slater then walks out of those meetings and then makes up nonsense about rail to fit his agenda. You see, for Cliff the issue is not rail. The issue is his libertarian agenda that government in general is bad and people should take personal responsibility for themselves. If Cliff had his way we would no longer have the police department, fire department, life guards, public schools, health department etc. This is not about rail, this is about his libertarian beliefs.

Anonymous said...

In 1993, Honolulu Magazine named Slater its Man of the Year after he claimed victory when the City Council dropped rail. In the article he wanted the city to stop running the 15 bus past his house,claiming it was an outrageous waste of money. Now Pacific Heights Road is a narrow, winding road and Slater lives near the top. On Google Maps I found that his address coincides with the last bus stop, so I believe that he is annoyed that the bus lays over at the bottom of his driveway.