Mufi Takes His Train To Church

Susan Page
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Wednesday - September 03, 2008
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Now that “we, the people” can vote on rail, another of our precious First Amendment rights is being affronted: freedom to practice our religion without input from government.

Mayor Hannemann is actively lobbying pastors of Hawaii’s churches to make his pro rail case, saying their parishoners should be informed on this “non-political, quality of life” issue. The mayor’s pro rail team has already made a strong one-sided pitch to a Oahu pastor’s forum. Non-political? Really? The mayor is running for reelection and the issue is on the ballot. And thank goodness.

One thing I’ve learned from doing mission work in Africa is to appreciate the freedoms our our Constitution guarantees.

Our “Bill of Rights,” the first 10 Amendments, is like the American Express platinum card of freedom. And, it’s no coincidence the very first amendment our nation’s founders conceived guarantees freedom of religion, press and expression, which ensures our right of speech, petition and assembly.

To petition government is fundamental. Unlike California, in Hawaii we don’t have a “referendum” that allows citizens to recall elected officials and repeal and enact state laws by initiative. The only way we can effect change in a law or action by elected officials is to gather signatures on petitions.

It takes a herculean effort to organize and run a petition drive, especially if thwarted by the elected officials whose program the petition drive could “derail.”

We’ve just witness “freedom of expression” action our founding fathers would’ve cheered: Stop Rail Now. And whether we’re for or against the mayor’s rail project - I’m against - we should give the folks that gathered 49,000-plus signatures a standing ovation. In barely three months with limited financial resources, they’ve proven citizen action can work.

But it’s been like David against Goliath.

When Mayor Hannemann vowed to “do everything legally possible to see that this (voter initiative) doesn’t go through,” he meant it, and true to his word, City Clerk Denise DeCosta rejected the petitions saying they were past deadline.

But Judge Karl Sakamoto ruled. “The voice of the people should not be suffocated by the erroneous readings of the law by its own government,” he announced sternly, saying that the people who gathered these signatures “would suffer irreparable harm” if the initiative couldn’t go on the general election ballot.

Every attempt by the mayor and City Council members favoring the $5 billion (inflation adjusted), minimum 10-year rail project to squelch its opposition has only made people wonder why such fear of the ballot box?

“Rail transit is not appropriate for Honolulu ... too much money for too little result ... it is disturbing that so much of the funds are going for high-powered public relations efforts,” says former Hawaii governor, Ben Cayetano.

Using our own tax dollars to run expensive television ads to convince us to approve a rail project we’re already paying for through a GET raise flies in the face of the democratic spirit.

Now after four years, contractors and even the mayor publicly admit the Rail Mass Transit is a development project, not one to alleviate traffic like 2004 campaigns promised.

There’s no shame in wanting to develop land prudently. Shame comes in the misleading.

Because other viable and far less expensive alternatives to steel-on-steel rail have been so explicitly laid out by experts on mass transit (at their own expense, with nothing to gain financially or politically), it’s clear that giving commuters from ewa Oahu a faster-implemented, less-expensive, more-flexible commute isn’t the motive, it’s development - and it’s hardcore politics. Labor unions, developers, contractors and others who stand to gain financially by rail are willing to spend any amount to convince us that this massive project will end traffic woes and give us a better life. A large, loud (eventually dirty) train slicing across West Oahu at 25 mph stopping at 26 stations (surrounded by high rises) appeals to some. Fair enough.

Construction corporations and unions have donated heavily to the mayor’s campaign. I point out Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc. to watch as the campaign on rail unfolds. This worldwide transit projects builder has paid thousands to the Hannemann campaign, through its staff and PAC. While legal, it’s shocking that rail line work isn’t restricted to the normal competitive bidding process, rather “political discretion.”

Interpretation: Mufi decides. (Click on Special Report at and search special candidate contributions, or go to

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