Mayor against delay of rail tax
Hannemann cites a poll showing residents' support of rail to lobby against a Council bill
Backed by the results of a poll that show Oahu residents prefer a rail system over other alternatives, Mayor Mufi Hannemann is trying to kill a bill that could severely delay the collection of a tax to support it.
In the city-backed poll, 45 percent of 905 Oahu residents chose rail; 21 percent chose boosting the efficiency of the bus system and constructing more highways; and 20 percent chose expanding the bus system and building a viaduct as a toll road.
Of the remaining respondents, 10 percent said they don't know and 5 percent preferred the "no build" option, which focuses on replacing buses and highway construction.
QMark Research and Polling conducted the survey Oct. 27 to Nov. 6. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.27 percentage points, and was commissioned by the city Department of Transportation Services for $15,000.
Rail was the first choice of residents even when the results were broken down by council districts.
"So it is clear that the majority of the people on Oahu are for a fixed guideway system. To do nothing is clearly not an alternative," Hannemann said.
The tax to pay for the city's share for building a rail system is scheduled to be levied Jan. 1. But a bill introduced by Councilman Charles Djou would move back the start of the tax to July if the Council selects a mass-transit system, route and technology before the end of the year.
If the Council makes that selection after Dec. 31, the bill would impose a collection date of Jan. 1, 2008.
"Councilmember Djou's Bill 83 is ludicrous, is absolutely a sham to even suggest at this late hour that we try to derail the movement toward a transit solution," Hannemann said.
The City Council has given the preliminary green light to rail transit.
Djou's bill is scheduled for the first of three Council votes today.
Djou said he's surprised at the mayor's early hard lobbying because the first reading is viewed as a procedural step, when nearly every bill is given approval and referred to committee.
"I understand the mayor is working overtime to kill the bill on first reading, which I find nonsensical," Djou said. "People have told me that he has had multiple meetings with business people and union officials.
"I understand he had a meeting Thursday and another one (yesterday) morning at the Banker's Club. He's strategizing and really pulling out all the stops to kill the bill."
Djou, who returned from a trip last week to Washington, D.C., to talk with federal transit officials and Tampa, Fla., to examine an elevated toll road there, is not convinced that the city will have enough federal funding to complete the project if rail is ultimately approved. And he doesn't think the city fully considered the elevated toll road as an option.
Hannemann said Djou's bill jeopardizes federal funding because it sends the wrong message to Washington at a critical time. And he is critical of Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz for allowing a hearing on the bill today.
"Every bill has first reading, then it's up to the discretion of the chair to make a decision based on the merits of the bill," Dela Cruz said.
The chairpersons of two key committees said they don't see a problem with the bill being approved on first reading.
But Councilmembers Ann Kobayashi and Romy Cachola, who head the committees that the bill will be referred to, said they are not sure how much further the bill will go after that. And they are not sure they can even change the start of the excise tax increase to 4.5 percent from 4 percent.