Mayor uses funds to back rail
A rival decries using political contributions for an ad "full of lies"
Mayor Mufi Hannemann has launched a series of ads using his campaign funds against a group attempting to stop his plans to build a $4 billion rail transit system.
Amid a surge of recent television and radio advertisements by local organizations supporting and opposing a planned 20-mile elevated transit system from Kapolei to Ala Moana, Hannemann's campaign paid for advertisements that appeared in Honolulu's two daily newspapers with the title, "Getting Real on Rail: Setting the record straight on anti-rail misinformation."
In the 3/4 -page advertisement, Hannemann writes, "the city has been open and accessible, it is now also important that the public know all the facts, including those about the anti-rail organizers."
He goes on to say the anti-rail groups, started by vocal community members, are "the creation of ... people using smoke and mirrors" and that a petition to place a question on the November ballot to stop a rail project "just kills what most people feel is the best choice."
Leaders of the group organizing the petition, Stop Rail Now, rejected Hannemann's statements that the anti-rail effort is made of conservatives and that the city has accepted public input at numerous community meetings.
"It is wrong for this mayor to be using his huge campaign treasury to attack a citizen group who is working to put the rail issue on the ballot for public vote, especially when his ad is full of lies," said Dennis Callan, co-chairman of the group.
Earlier this year, several City Council members criticized the Hannemann administration for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on public relations for the project, which the administration says is required under federal guidelines.
Hannemann, who has no strong contender in sight in his re-election campaign this year, has raised more than $2 million in campaign funds. According to Barbara Wong, executive director of the state Campaign Spending Commission, Hannemann's use of the funds is legal because candidates can use campaign funds for issues related to the office they are seeking.
Hannemann's campaign aides declined to comment on the advertisements, saying the mayor wants to address the issue when he returns today from a business trip to Miami.
In recent weeks, the state's largest construction union, the Hawaii Carpenters Union, and a newly formed group called Support Rail Transit have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertisements countering messages supporting the petition to stop the project.
Stop Rail Now has until Aug. 1 to collect nearly 45,000 signatures needed to place a question on the ballot that says, "Honolulu mass transit shall not include trains or rail transit." It has collected about 25,000 signatures so far.
Hannemann's advertisement directs readers to the Web site of Support Rail Transit, a nonprofit organization formed about three weeks ago by a large public relations firm, McNeil Wilson Communications.
David Wilson, one of the company's principals, said McNeil Wilson is not a part of the mayor's re-election campaign and started the group after hearing from pro-rail community members concerned with the petition initiative. Wilson declined to release the names of the individuals associated with the pro-rail group.