Lingle ‘likely’ will sign anti-rail petition
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A petition to stop the city's planned $4 billion rail transit system could soon get another signature: Gov. Linda Lingle's.
"If it doesn't work out, then (the people) are paying for it one way or another, so why shouldn't people be able to vote on it?"
Gov. Linda Lingle / On the petition to stop the city's planned rail transit system by placing the issue on the November ballot
Lingle, who has remained quiet for much of the intensifying debate on the 20-mile system, said yesterday she will "likely sign" a petition created by an anti-rail group attempting to bring the issue to a vote on the November ballot.
"I'm not for or against rail," Lingle said, referring to the current project. "I'm pro-people. Let the people decide, that's my mantra."
Lingle also said the anti- and pro-rail forces, including Mayor Mufi Hannemann, need to "tone down" their personal attacks on recent aggressive advertisements.
Hannemann pointed out Lingle's history of supporting rail, including a proposal she unveiled in 2003.
"You can't run from your past," Hannemann said yesterday. "We would not be here today without (the state's) help. It's too late to turn back now."
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Gov. Linda Lingle threw her support behind an anti-rail effort attempting to let voters decide whether to move ahead on Mayor Mufi Hannemann's proposed $4 billion rail transit system.
Lingle, who has remained mostly quiet on the intensifying debate surrounding the transit project, indicated yesterday that she favors the petition created by Stop Rail Now, a local nonprofit group that wants to stop the system through a voter referendum.
"I'll likely sign the referendum myself," Lingle said yesterday in a Star-Bulletin interview. "This is the most expensive project in the history of the state. The downside is a big one. If it doesn't work out, then (the people) are paying for it one way or another, so why shouldn't people be able to vote on it?"
Hannemann, who has clashed with Lingle on several issues in the past, shot back, pointing out Lingle's previous statements supporting rail.
"She's entitled to her own opinion. But she broached the subject of supporting rail and calling me to come together," Hannemann said, referring to Lingle's State of the State address in 2005, where she expressed support for mass transit and working with Hannemann. "Without those comments and her previous history of supporting rail, we would not be here today. I stand by the fact she made those statements, which basically revived this issue again."
Lingle declined to say whether she supported the city's current project, but her record shows she previously backed rail transit. In 2003 she unveiled a light rail proposal in West Oahu, and has told reporters she believed a route going to the Honolulu Airport would be vital to a transit system in Honolulu.
The debate surrounding the city's 20-mile elevated system from Kapolei to Ala Moana has escalated in the past several weeks as the Aug. 1 deadline approaches to collect nearly 45,000 signatures of registered voters for the issue to be placed on the November ballot. Organizers estimate they have about 35,000 signatures.
Citizens announced the formation yesterday of a new pro-rail group called Go Rail Go. Also yesterday, Stop Rail Now threatened to sue the city for fraud if it does not pull its ads paid for by taxpayer dollars promoting the rail system with what they call "false statements." Hannemann declined to comment yesterday since the lawsuit has not been filed.
Pro- and anti-rail groups have stepped up TV, radio and newspaper advertising, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, including by Hannemann through campaign funds in a newspaper ad that intended to "expose" rail opponents.
"I think you need to tone down the personal attacks on both sides," Lingle said. "I think we need some objective information for the publicly that would allow them to make a good decision as opposed to either being browbeaten. You need to be rational about it."
Lingle said Hannemann's ad was "misleading" by claiming that the governor supports the project.
"I've never taken a public position on rail," Lingle said, referring to this project. "I certainly voted to allow them to have some financial ability, but to imply in an ad like that we're all moving forward together is misleading to the public."
Hannemann said he stands by his ad, noting that the state Legislature approved a general excise tax in 2005 to collect funds to pay for the rail transit system and that the governor let it become law without her signature.
Former Gov. Ben Cayetano, a longtime critic of rail, has also recently public voiced his support of Stop Rail Now and signed the petition several weeks ago. Hannemann responded in a press conference Monday to criticisms by Cayetano.
"Let's be honest of where (Cayetano) is coming from," Hannemann said. "He has a household that doesn't like rail. Let's not make him a holier-than-thou guy trying to be the elder statesman to give advice."
Cayetano shot back, saying that as a taxpayer, he has grave concerns about the information the city's consultants are releasing on the project.
"How sad," Cayetano wrote in an e-mail. "Rather than answer or repudiate my criticism, the mayor launches into an incoherent personal attack against me. I have nothing to gain personally. I am retired from politics. Period."