Council gives itself way out on transit choice
The City Council has voted to let experts choose Honolulu's mass transit system.
By allowing experts to choose the technology for a mass transit system, the City Council defers its accountability to the public on one of the most important issues in Honolulu's history.
Moreover, because the expert panel would meet and discuss the matter behind closed doors, the public's role and its confidence that billions of tax dollars will be invested wisely would be eroded.
Although the Council can reject the panel's selection, the legislative process would require it begin again at square one, a waste of time and money.
The Council fought for the right to make the choice, passing a measure strongly opposed by Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who thought the administration should choose. Now, when the matter is at hand, the Council has essentially given itself an out.
Seeking advice from knowledgeable people is prudent. However, the Council should have asked that the panel evaluate the various methods and provide assessments of each without having to divulge proprietary information, which is one reason being given to shut out the public from its meetings.
The city's lawyers also told the Council that the particular nature of the panel exempts it from open meeting laws and ethics rules. While there might be no grounds for suspecting improprieties, closed doors aren't reassuring to the public.
The argument for the panel is that an unbiased group would take politics out of the decision, but the decision is nothing if not political. It is one that should be made by a governmental body -- those elected by voters to represent their best interests.
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