Election’s Done, But Not Rail Plan

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - November 05, 2008
Panos Prevedouros

As of this writing, I don’t know the results of Election Year 2008. Regardless, this has been an invigorating, frustrating, sobering and, yes, exciting political season.

Sen. Barack Obama may or may not be our president, but his entry into presidential politics is historic. There is no doubt his personality, appearance, oratory and intelligence captured the imagination of our nation.

The first African American with the real chance of winning the presidency is considered a rite of passage for our nation. Historically speaking, it wasn’t that long ago when blacks were slaves and the racial divide that followed has yet to be completely resolved. With this perspective, one can’t help but admire Obama’s accomplishments.

Personally, I appreciate his personification of the idea that America truly is the land of opportunity. His performance makes this idea an absolute fact.

Sen. John McCain’s place in history was solidified before his quest for the presidency. He deserves the American hero status afforded to him. I can’t fathom what he endured as a POW. His service in the U.S. Senate is rife with accomplishments, and he will continue to exert great influence around the world. Whether he won or lost the race, McCain will be considered a premier statesman.


Why am I a McCain fan? Honestly, I disagree with McCain on several key issues. However, as he was suffering relentless beatings and unspeakable violations to his body, McCain was offered freedom from his captors. He said he would leave when his men leave. McCain’s answer bought him another five years of abuse. This profound act reveals a character that is rarely found in men, let alone a politician.

Speaking of historic, I have just two words. Sarah Palin. Or is it Tina Fey? No, definitely Sarah Palin.

The Honolulu mayor’s race should have been over before it started. Mayor Mufi Hannemann, a popular and compelling political figure, was running unop-posed just weeks before election day. It was widely believed he was going to coast into a second term. He had the money, the record and the issue - rail transit.

Enter Panos Prevedouros, a University of Hawaii professor. His area of expertise is civil engineering. He is not a politician. However, he is a renowned authority on public transportation who has been analyzing the issue for years in Hawaii. It was natural for him to not only educate the students in his class, but to educate the entire community. And the community responded. At the urging of friends and colleagues, Prevedouros took the plunge and announced his candidacy for mayor. This was a bold move. He took a leave from his teaching post (forgoing his salary in the process), and the run impacted preparation for the birth of his first child. Regardless, Prevedouros plunged headfirst into Political Candidate 101 and passed with flying colors. With about $1.50 in his campaign war chest and three signs for waving, he hit the streets.

Ann Kobayashi is a political veteran with service in the state Legislature and positions in the governor’s and mayor’s offices. A former Republican, Kobayashi has the reputation of a no-nonsense straight shooter, especially on budget issues. Her late entry into the mayoral race raised some eyebrows (and ire) despite being in full compliance with the law. Her candidacy lifted the spirits of those who were looking for an alternative and she truly gave Oahu voters a choice.

It was a shock Mufi did not capture the requisite 50 percent plus one vote to win the primary election. What was more shocking was Prevedouros garnered 17 percent of the vote. Here is a guy who’s not a politician wresting thousands of votes from two political icons. His effervescence was a jolt of energy demanding attention. But he wasn’t all about personality.

Prevedouros delivered an authoritative alternate voice in the rail project debate. His knowledge and expertise coupled with his charisma struck a chord with Honolulu voters. This was on display in the one and only televised primary debate. Prevedouros clearly won the evening and a broad audience was exposed to what many of us had known - Prevedouros would make a great mayor.

However, much to her credit, Kobayashi beat out Prevedouros for the opportunity to run in the general election against Hannemann. Soon after the primary, an alliance developed between Kobayashi and Prevedouros. He soon became active in her campaign with his endorsement and an advisory position. Kobayashi embraced an alternative transit plan crafted primarily by Prevedouros and his students. The EZ Way plan was born and rail itself had an opponent.

The interest generated by the presidential and mayoral races along with the rail question have dominated this election. Decisions regarding Congress, the state House and Senate, the Board of Education, OHA and several ballot questions have been made, too. However, the domination of the conversation about the selection of a president, mayor and potential expenditure of $6 billion of taxpayers’money is understandable. The debate and Monday morning quarterbacking of the election results are inevitable.

But one aspect of this election will not be resolved on election day. Look for a determined scrutiny of the rail project process. If voters have chosen to proceed with rail, there will be calls for investigations into the handling of the entire project. If voters rejected rail, I anticipate the city will continue with the project.

Why? First of all, Mayor Hannemann has not stated unequivocally that the project is dead with a no vote. Secondly, the justification for continuing the process will be found in the amount of money already collected and “invested” in the project. It’s my “pot committed” theory. We’ll see.

If you are a true political junkie and are concerned about what you’re going to do after election day, don’t despair. The race for governor begins Nov. 5.

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