Djou offers proposals to put rail vote on November ballot
City Councilman Charles Djou has introduced two measures aimed at letting voters in the Nov. 4 general election decide whether Oahu should have a planned $4 billion rail transit system.
He offered a City Charter amendment resolution yesterday calling for a ballot question that would ask voters whether the city should build "a steel wheel on steel rail transit system."
Djou also suggested amending a charter resolution -- which asks if a public transit authority should run the rail system -- with language to allow people to vote for or against the project.
The proposals would need to be approved by two-thirds of the Council three times as well as Mayor Mufi Hannemann's approval to be adopted. In a statement, Hannemann said his administration would give "serious consideration" to a charter amendment passed by the Council.
Some councilmembers, including rail supporter Todd Apo, have said it could be too late to introduce a measure to allow voters to have a say on the rail system, but Djou said the Council can act on time by holding one special session.
Djou claimed a ballot question is the best way to settle a "contentious, heated and divisive" debate about the envisioned 20-mile elevated transit system from Kapolei to Ala Moana.
"We should just send it to the people," he said, comparing his proposals to a 2006 charter amendment through which voters added bikeways to Honolulu's transit plans.
Djou unveiled his proposal after City Clerk Denise De Costa on Tuesday told a citizens petition seeking to block the rail system that their voter referendum could not be on the Nov. 4 ballot. De Costa said the Stop Rail Now initiative cannot be added to the general election ballot because it specifically calls for a "special election."
Leaders of the nonprofit group are considering challenging the issue in court.
In the Council, Djou's proposed charter amendment resolution needs to undergo three readings, receive at least six of nine votes and be adopted before Sept. 5. A majority of councilmembers back rail. If a charter resolution were to pass, Hannemann could still veto it, and the Council would not be allowed to override it.
On Wednesday, Hannemann said he would consider new Council legislation as long as it was not as restrictive as the Stop Rail Now petition.
The Council will take up Djou's resolution at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi agreed with Djou that it makes sense to let residents determine whether a planned taxpayer-funded transit system that will run through several communities should go forward. She supports a fixed-guideway system but had favored a rubber-tire system.
"This is the largest project ever," Kobayashi said. "It will certainly impact many lives, so the public deserves the right to vote on this sort of project."
But City Councilman Rod Tam, a rail proponent, accused Djou of taking advantage of an "emotional issue" in a desperate effort to stop a project that has already passed the Council despite his opposition.
"Charles Djou has made it well known that he is against any form of mass transportation," Tam said. "He thinks that by getting an emotional issue on the ballot that he can get his way, because he's lost several times in terms of legislation."
Still, Tam said he would wait for public hearings to be held on Djou's proposed charter amendment resolution before deciding whether he would oppose it.