Putting Rail Transit To The Vote

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - July 23, 2008

The news that City Clerk Denise De Costa would not accept the Stop Rail Now petition was unsettling, but not surprising. I mean, Mayor Mufi Hannemann vowed to do everything in his power to legally stop this initiative. I’m not saying that the mayor and the city clerk are in cahoots to stop the petition, but is anyone really shocked at the latest turn of events?

The fait accompli of controversy and legal action regarding the initiative was widely acknowledged. However, the language of the petition (which is the basis of De Costa’s comments) had plenty of time to be vetted by both sides for legality. The fact that tens of thousands of registered voters affixed their names and now face having their voices squelched is equally frustrating and disconcerting.

The rail transit project is a topic that evokes an immediate response. I believe a vast majority of citizens have made up their minds to either support or oppose the project as we know it today. If the election were held today, which side would win?

Clearly, Pro-Rail should be the overwhelming favorite. The mayor and City Council expressed their unwavering support for the project since day one. U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie has vociferously supported the project, as have the two Senator Dans and U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono. The most powerful labor unions are in support, and virtually all construction and design companies and firms give it a thumbs up, too.

The funding mechanism - a giddy way to say tax increase - has collected about a quarter billion dollars so far. Numerous contracts have been awarded, including $86 million to PB Americas. Even former City Council chairman John DeSoto scored $150,000 for being John DeSoto. Millions are allocated for a taxpayer-sponsored media campaign and these messages blanket TV, radio and print. The project has everything going for it. The mayor has stated time and again that he believes the majority of Oahuans support rail. Pro-Rail has the support of the government (except Governor Lingle), organized labor, the entire design and construction industry and a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign.

How can you not support rail? It appears there are about 40,000 reasons.

Despite seemingly insurmountable odds, the crackpot, so-far-right-it’s-Libertarian, oil-funded malahini hui of four people has inspired a huge segment of our community to say “Stop Rail Now.” This battle is like having Goliath 10 feet taller and David without stones for his slingshot. Until the brakes were put on the Stop Rail initiative, it appeared the petition would be certified and the rail issue would be placed on the November ballot. Today, who knows?

This issue should have been placed on the ballot from day one. Why? Because our politicians do make the decisions but they expect the citizens to pick up tab. If you are paying for the most-expensive public-works project in history, don’t you think you should have a say in how those billions are spent, if at all? The taxpayers of Seattle had the opportunity to vote yes or no to fund their rail system. Why shouldn’t you?

The mayor and the City Council can draft a ballot question regarding rail and have it appear on the November ballot. If supporters of rail are so confident the public supports the project, there shouldn’t be any resistance to a vote on the issue. This is a golden opportunity to demonstrate the leadership that so many crave. Will it be the mayor, the council or both who will do what should have been done at the very beginning?

Put the support of rail transit to a vote in the November election. Either way, this act will be a clear signal that the citizens are indeed the priority and their will supersedes special interest.

Mr. Mayor and City Council, will you put the rail transit project to a vote? There are many of us who hope you will.

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