Rail Rules In The Mayoral Race

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - September 17, 2008

It is no surprise that Mayor Mufi Hannemann is the presumptive favorite to win a second term at Honolulu Hale. And why not? The mayor’s public persona is ideal for a successful politician. He is physically impressive, has a penchant for singing and is as articulate as any public servant in the state.

Mufi has an ideal homegrown story. A Kalihi boy, he eventually graduated from Harvard University and served in Washington, D.C. He went on to run for Congress, work for the state and briefly chaired the Honolulu City Council. Based on what the public sees and hears, how can you not support Mayor Hannemann?

You may want to ask City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi. She called out the mayor in the recent televised debate. In her opening statements, Kobayashi alleged, “I don’t see courage. I don’t see integrity. I don’t see leadership. I see blame, bullying and excuses.”

Ouch. Whether you agree or disagree with her statements, Kobayashi does have a unique perspective. She’s gone toe-to-toe with the mayor on a myriad of issues, mostly on fiscal matters. Mayor Hannemann must be feeling a bit of karmic payback. While budget chair during the Harris administration, Hannemann (along with City Council colleague Donna Mercado Kim) shredded Harris over spending proposals and policies. As budget chair, Kobayashi has done the same to Hannemann as mayor.

UH professor Panos Prevedouros is not only in the race, but many believed he outperformed the two political veterans in their only joint television appearance. His sense of humor, coupled with direct answers to direct questions, endeared him to those who had no idea who he was. His area of expertise is civil engineering. When you think of the most pressing issues facing our community, a majority of them deal with infrastructure - traffic, road conditions, water, trash, etc. - it’s clear he would hit the ground running in dealing with the frustrating deficiencies we experience every day.

Will he win? Probably not. But Prevedouros and, for that matter, Kobayashi, should be applauded for ensuring the mayoral election of 2008 is not a coronation.

However, Prevedouros and Kobayashi are not in this race to lose. They are representative of so many in our community who believe their interests are not being served by the present administration. As indicated by the dominance of the topic at the aforementioned debate, rail is the top-of-mind issue this election year.

Despite recent polling results claiming a majority of Honoluluans want rail, the fact remains that more than 40,000 people were compelled to sign a petition in opposition to the proposed multibillion-dollar system. Recognizing this unprecedented groundswell of opposition, the City Council was forced to take action, ensuring the general public had the chance to vote on the biggest public works project ever.

Debates between political candidates can prove to be beneficial to voters. One can assess the information provided and consequently make a better decision at the

oral candidates’stand on mass transit is an excellent starting point for information on this issue.

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