Thursday, August 2, 2012
A Troika of Anti-Rail Newspaper Columns, All in One Week! Star-Advertiser Columnists Ramp Up Their Efforts To Paint Honolulu Rail in Worst Possible Light
The Star-Advertiser’s Cynthia Oi chimes in today with the newspaper’s third anti-rail column of the week, hard on the heels of Dave Shapiro’s Wednesday column and Richard Borreca’s offering on Tuesday.
But the newspaper’s editorial position is pro-rail, so thir columns provide the balance, right? Balance is one thing, but there’s no way three columnists, each filling a hole with 500 words once a week (two times for Mr. Borreca), represent an equal offset of the paper’s infrequent editorial page support for rail. It’s an ongoing anti-rail beat-down.
Shapiro, Oi and Borreca are opinion leaders who help frame the community's discussion of its biggest issues, and for years now, all three have been fighting Honolulu’s attempt to build the rail system – Hawaii's biggest construction project ever.
Doing Their Job?
Like their columnist colleagues across the country, the three use government and government spending like a punching bag. Government is a big, slow-moving target and isn't particularly adept at punching back. You have to look elsewhere – like to this blog – to find anybody associated with the rail project who’s willing to take on the column-writing troika. (And don't be surprised when Yes2Rail becomes a target.)
We tried adding some perspective back in January when we predicted not one of them would “write a single paragraph of positive content about the Honolulu rail project in 2012.”
“Journalists often describe their business as comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable,” we wrote. “As for the latter, there’s no bigger target to view with alarm than the biggest construction project in state history.”
Ms. Oi gives her version of Honolulu’s future rail project in today’s column (subscription):
“Wide concrete overpasses borne by wide concrete pillars will shuttle trains back and forth from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center. Under the best scenario, retail stores, business plazas and hgh-rise apartments and condos will thrive beneath and between their shadows. Under the worst, adjacent properties will be vacant or used for industrial purposes, left unsightly and vulnerable to graffiti and grime.”
She leaves no doubt about which scenario appeals to her most. Yes, appeals, since a trouble-free rail project would be anathema to newspaper columnists. What – nothing to complain about?
“From on high, rail cars will glide over thousands of houses interspersed with commercial structures and a few patches of green where Ho’opili residents can grow cucumbers if they chose the garden package when home-buying.”
No Laughing Matter
The anti-rail predictability would be laughable if it weren’t so corrosive to a project – the only project – that can give commuters a congestion-free travel option through Oahu’s east-west corridor between the ewa plain and town.
Rail enjoys only minority support according to the Star-Advertiser’s latest poll, which not incidentally surveyed only “very likely Oahu voters,” leaving unexamined non-voters’ views even though they’re more likely than voters to rely on public transportation.
If the numbers are correct, it’s not just because anti-rail mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano has injected anti-railer-in-chief Cliff Slater’s talking points into the campaign. It’s also because these three opinion leaders have helped create the anti-rail vibe in the community.
But could any one of them recite rail’s goals spontaneously if asked? It’s highly doubtful, since they’ve avoided stringing together even a dozen words in any of their offerings that illuminated rail’s benefits.
Rail’s positive contributions are completely ignored in what they write, and what they write is obviously supportive of the anti-rail candidate for mayor. You could look it up by clicking on the Star-Advertiser’s Back Issues link and searching through their columns published on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
You could do that, but save yourself the time: Yes2Rail's money-back guarantee is that there's been nothing positive about Honolulu rail in their columns so far this year, and assuming a General Election runoff in November, you won’t see anything positive in the next three months either.
Being negative about government projects is what columnists do – whether they understand them or not.