Mayor slams media and ‘attack’ over rail
Mayor Mufi Hannemann criticized the media for doing a poor job of challenging opponents attempting to stop the city's planned $4 billion rail-transit project, prompting him to spend campaign funds to take out advertisements.
In his first interview since ads ran in Honolulu's two daily newspapers last weekend, Hannemann said yesterday he stands by his assertions that the local anti-rail campaign is backed by mainland companies and individuals connected with the oil and automobile industries.
"This whole thing about it being purely grass-roots-driven and Hawaii-based is baloney," Hannemann said. "I don't think the media is challenging them. They pass themselves off as a free-spirited group of citizens out to do good, where they're doing great damage because they're not telling the whole truth on what they're all about."
Hannemann, who is seeking re-election as mayor with no major contender in sight, has spent about $20,000 on seven ads from campaign funds that total nearly $2.5 million.
"I'm under attack," Hannemann said in response to a question about using campaign funds instead of city money to pay for the ads. "I'm under attack for false reasons."
Hannemann contends that three outspoken, longtime critics of the transit system -- Cliff Slater, Dale Evans of Charley's Taxi and Panos Prevedouros, an engineering professor -- are controlling the anti-rail movement in Honolulu. The three are involved with Stop Rail Now, a group attempting to create an ordinance stopping the project through a petition initiative.
Slater and Evans -- members of another anti-rail group, the Hawaii Highways Users Alliance -- also are officers of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, best known for its opposition to U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka's bill for native Hawaiian recognition. The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has recently announced it has a new president, Jamie Story, who worked for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which describes itself as a nonprofit research institute.
Hannemann links Story to Wendell Cox, a public policy consultant based in St. Louis who has expressed opposition against Honolulu's project.
"There is a direct linkage from the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, Hawaii Highway Users Alliance to ultra-right-wing conservative organizations that has been fighting mayors all over the U.S. on rail, and they are here in Hawaii," Hannemann said yesterday during the interview.
All three local rail critics denied Hannemann's assertions, calling them "ridiculous," saying they have not accepted any money from mainland companies.
"We have not received a penny that we did not raise locally," said Slater, a vocal critic of the 20-mile rail system from Kapolei to Ala Moana.
"I think he's scared he's losing the project," said Prevedouros, a University of Hawaii engineering professor who is considering running for mayor.
Story, who moved to Hawaii in March, said the organization has not accepted funds from oil or automobile companies.
Slater said he has given a "substantial" amount to help Stop Rail Now, which spent $20,000 on ads promoting its petition to place a question on the November ballot that would stop the project.
Hannemann, who has pushed aggressively for this project and remains determined to begin construction next year, said he is "not worried at all" about Stop Rail Now succeeding in attaining the nearly 45,000 signatures needed to bring the issue to a vote.