Fierce divisions emerge over mass transit plan
After lengthy and sometimes heated comments yesterday, the City Council remains divided regarding whether to let a panel of experts select the technology for the city's planned mass transit system.
Acting city Transportation Director Wayne Yoshioka objected to a proposal yesterday that would have the City Council select the technology, insisting that a panel of experts works better in what would be a more transparent process.
At a City Council committee hearing yesterday, community members were divided over this issue as well, some saying the choice costing billions of taxpayer dollars should be left to elected officials, and others saying they have lost confidence in their lawmakers. "It's clearly a decision that cannot be made by a hand-picked panel of so-called experts," Dennis Callan told members of the Council. "For you to pick some kind of panel that has a veto-proof decision, I think, is really absurd."
Jeff Merz disagreed and criticized the City Council's past decision to include Salt Lake on the route instead of the airport.
"The public has lost confidence in this Council's ability to make the right decision," Merz said. "This project is far too big for us to politicize it or to even appear to politicize it."
Nestor Garcia, chairman of the City Council's Transportation Committee, revived a proposal for the Council selecting technology, Bill 80, which was introduced in 2006 to allow more public input on the type of vehicle for the $3.8 billion project stretching from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann has proposed letting a panel of five outside experts select the technology, which could be a system with steel wheels, a vehicle with rubber tires or one using magnetic levitation. The experts would have to justify the conclusion with full disclosure, Yoshioka said.
Some members of the Council adamantly rejected Hannemann's proposal, saying it could be an advisory committee with the final decision left to the Council.
Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said elected officials would look out for the taxpayers' best interest. She blasted the city Transportation Services Department for openly criticizing her in newspaper editorials since they clash over the type of technology.
"The more you try to smash me down, the stronger I will get," Kobayashi told Yoshioka, who was not in office at the time of the criticism.