The Engineer, Not The Politician
Wednesday - August 04, 2010
On a recent July morning, mayoral candidate and University of Hawaii civil engineering professor Panos Prevedouros worked his way through a short stack of pancakes, slowed too often in his breakfast by a scribbling reporter.
Others at Zippy’sBeretania held him up as well. City Councilmember Ann Kobayashi dropped by to say hello. A departing diner from a nearby table stopped, looked for a few seconds at Prevedouros, recognized him and said: “I’m going to vote for you. I don’t like that rail.”
Prevedouros smiled engagingly, thanked his newfound supporter, and continued his breakfast and interview.
He should smile, for the opponents of rail provide him with his electoral base in mayoral election 2010 just as they did in 2008 when he ran third in the primary election to Kobayashi and incumbent Mufi Hannemann. A political unknown that year, Prevedouros received 28,792 votes.
This year, Prevedouros starts with greater name recognition and the distinction of being the only candidate who promises, if elected mayor, to stop what he derisively calls “Mufi’s rail.”
Prevedouros characterizes rail transit as “a 1 percent traffic solution for which we will pay $5.5 billion. The mayor claims that the train will replace 40,000 car trips a day on Oahu. What he fails to mention is that Oahu residents make from six to 12 trips a day, up to 4 million car trips a day. $5.5 billion for a 1 percent solution? That doesn’t make sense.”
Prevedouros calls Oahu’s current traffic jam “a failure of government. You can’t build a city of 150,000 people like Kapolei with no employment centers and no new lanes to carry its residents to the Honolulu employment centers. It was irresponsible and unethical.”
New lanes, 10 miles of “high occupancy” lanes, two or three reversible lanes including an afternoon zipper lane, better timing of traffic lights, barge ferries across Pearl Harbor and more lanes at the Middle Street merge are all part of Prevedouros’solution to the Honolulu’s traffic congestion.
“Besides,” he says, “rail is now off the table. The city has now agreed to spend more than $5 billion for secondary sewage treatment over the next 10 years. Signing that consent decree ate the rail. The city can’t afford to do them both.”
Prevedouros dismisses the argument that rail is much needed to stimulate Hawaii’s economy: “Two billion dollars of rail’s costs won’t even be spent here in Hawaii. They’ll go to Korea or Canada to buy the trains to ride on the rail. The whole rail project is an exercise that failed.
“We have more important projects. Our parks are in disrepair. The city needs to spend $1 billion on overage paving. Honolulu has the third-worst paving in the country.”
Prevedouros the engineer sees solutions to Honolulu’s problems everywhere.
“We have an average of seven nuclear submarines in Pearl Harbor every day. Nuclear is one of the best source of energy independence, and they are only two miles from city center. Solar works only 10 hours a day. Windmills cause visual pollution.”
Homeless people? “Eighty percent of them are normal people who hit a bend in the road. In one to six months they’ll find a job. Another 5 percent have mental issues. They need treatment and hospitalization. Fifteen percent are freeloaders, bums, squatters, and we incentivize them to the tune of $30,000 a person. Other jurisdictions give them tickets to come here.” Prevedouros implies that Honolulu should give them tickets to send them back.
In 2008 Prevedouros distinguished himself in candidate meetings and debates with his quick-wittedness and congeniality. But he also can be blunt. He accuses city transportation people of “cockroaching” money from the paving fund to support rail, Hannemann of “spinning” numbers to make his arguments, government officials and voters of “living with lies” regarding retirement funds.
Professor Prevedouros promises that the engineer, not a politician, will be guilty of none of those sins.
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