HONOLULU CITY COUNCIL
STAR-BULLETIN / JULY 2005
Rail transit activists rally at City Hall before a City Council vote on raising the general excise tax to pay for a system. Rail transit is a continuing hot-button issue for the Council.
Mass transit could decide Honolulu races
The City Council elections this year could turn out to be a referendum on whether Honolulu should pursue rail transit.
Councilmen Gary Okino and Rod Tam each have challengers in their respective re-election bids who say the incumbents are viewed as pro-rail.
» Donovan Dela Cruz
» Charles Djou
Okino has long supported rail transit, and Tam is close with Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who backs rail.
The City Council is expected later this year to select a mass-transit system for Oahu from rail, dedicated toll lanes, a beefed-up bus system or nothing at all.
Okino is being challenged by truck driver Kenneth Harmeyer and physician Inam Rahman, while Tam's opponent is recording engineer Michael Wilcox.
The challengers say that rail is not necessarily the answer to solve traffic congestion.
"I don't see the rail as bad, but I think we need to look at other things," said Harmeyer, who also advocates dedicated bus lanes.
Rahman, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress two years ago, said, "I strongly believe that we need to invest in mass transit. When I say mass transit, it's just not only rail, but any other options."
STAR-BULLETIN / 2006
City Council members will work with current Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz, left, and Mayor Mufi Hannemann.
Okino makes no apologies for his support of rail to help ease traffic congestion and will continue to push for rail if he is re-elected.
"I'm probably the staunchest supporter of transit," said Okino, a retired city planner. "It's the experience and knowledge that I have in seeing (rail) systems worldwide and having studied the issue of traffic congestion and traffic relief."
Wilcox, who became politically active with a group trying to keep a racetrack on Oahu, said that instead of rail, the city should be expanding the bus system.
Tam said he has yet to decide on what to support.
"My position is we need to have some kind of mass-transit system. What technology? I'm not sure," Tam said. "Is the mass transit going to be convenient? Is it going to get them to their destination in a timely manner?"