Rail boosters launch media ads
Two groups are trying to stymie an effort to put an anti-transit initiative on the ballot
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Several local organizations are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertisements supporting or opposing the city's $4 billion rail transit system.
Two organizations, the Hawaii Carpenters Union and a new group called Support Rail Transit, have stepped up in supporting the city's proposed 20-mile elevated mass transit project -- in the face of a looming initiative by an anti-rail group to stop the system.
The ads, appearing on radio and television in the coming weeks, attempt to dispel messages placed by Stop Rail Now. The anti-rail group has collected 20,000 of the 45,000 signatures it needs by Aug. 1 to place a question on the November ballot.
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Two organizations are launching aggressive television and radio advertisements endorsing the city's $4 billion rail transit system, countering efforts by an anti-rail group that has been gaining momentum to stop the project.
The advertisements, paid by the Hawaii Carpenters Union and a newly formed group called Support Rail Transit, echo many of Mayor's Mufi Hannemann's views that a 20-mile elevated rail system from Kapolei to Ala Moana is the best option to alleviate the island's growing traffic congestion.
Leaders of the two pro-rail organizations say they have been frustrated with recent coverage by the news media of Stop Rail Now, a nonprofit organization hoping to collect 45,000 signatures by Aug. 1 to place a question on the November ballot to block the project.
"The last thing we want to do is give the public the impression that the anti-rail minority is a majority," said Ron Taketa, financial secretary and business representative for the Carpenters Union, the largest construction union in the state with about 5,900 members.
Dan Douglass, a Stop Rail Now organizer, said he expects more advertisements countering their movement in the coming weeks. "That means we're making a difference," he said yesterday.
The purpose of the union's two commercials is to "dispel" messages promoted by Stop Rail Now, Taketa said.
The union contends that government has always paid for facilities and services all over Oahu, including the -- H-3 freeway. It also disputes comments that a steel wheel on steel rail system is noisy and says that steel systems are used all over the country.
The union has bought at least 260 commercial spots per month for three months that will air during prime-time morning and evening shows and sporting events. Taketa declined to give the total cost of the advertisements, though the total could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
For example, KITV 4 charges about $750 for a 30-second commercial during prime-time television hours during the summer, according to its vice president for sales, Bill Gaeth. The union's commercials are scheduled to run until the end of the summer, and television ads by Support Rail Transit are set to start tonight.
The state's largest public relations firm, McNeil Wilson Communications, created Support Rail Transit about two weeks ago after receiving messages from groups and individuals angered over Stop Rail Now's campaign, said one of the company's principals David Wilson.
Wilson said he does not have an exact figure on money spent on the radio advertisements but estimates the group has spent about $5,000 so far. He also declined to say which organizations and individuals are associated with Support Rail Transit.
"The anti-rail side also neglects to say their solution will make you pay twice," the group's radio advertisement says. "First, the toll road would be built with your tax dollars, but you wouldn't be able to drive on them unless you pay a toll each way. And that's after you spend a fortune filling up your car."
Stop Rail Now spent $20,000 recently to insert a petition in MidWeek, a sister publication of the Star-Bulletin, and two-full page ads in the Star-Bulletin.
Douglass said the group has received several thousand petitions after these advertisements, bringing their total to about 20,000 signatures as of yesterday.