FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Inside City Hall, with boxes of signed petitions in front of him, Dennis Callan of Stop Rail Now talked to the media yesterday with supporters rallying behind him.
Lawsuit looms over validity of anti-rail petition
Transit: City clerk denies petition
STORY SUMMARY »
City Clerk Denise De Costa denied an anti-rail group's petition initiative yesterday, leaving the decision of whether there will a November ballot question on the city's $4 billion rail transit system up to the courts or the City Council.
Stop Rail Now said it will file a lawsuit in Circuit Court today in an attempt to force De Costa to process its petition initiative attempting to stop the city's project. De Costa refused the petition, saying she would violate the City Charter by placing the question on the general election ballot.
The City Council is considering several versions of a charter amendment on rail transit in a meeting tomorrow. De Costa has a Sept. 5 deadline to submit all general election information to the state.
FULL STORY »
An anti-rail group said it plans to file a lawsuit today after City Clerk Denise De Costa refused yesterday to accept its petition initiative attempting to stop the city's proposed $4 billion rail transit system.
Monday the city clerk refused to accept tens of thousands of signatures that the anti transit group "Stop Rail Now" collected in a petition drive.
Leaders of Stop Rail Now said they collected 49,041 signatures over the last three months, which they believe qualifies them to place a question on the November ballot that would ask Oahu voters to stop a rail or train system.
"The clerk's position is absurd," said Earle Partington, the new attorney for Stop Rail Now. "We're going to ask the courts to force the clerk to file and process the petition."
More than a dozen supporters of Stop Rail Now -- including two challengers for the mayor's seat, City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi and Panos Prevedouros -- went to a 2 p.m. scheduled appearance yesterday to submit nine boxes of petitions to the City Clerk's Office in Honolulu Hale.
The group had expected De Costa to deny its petition after she had sent another letter last week reiterating her stance that it would be a violation of the City Charter for her to place the initiative on the general election ballot.
"There is so much interest in this subject that I don't think they would be satisfied with anything less than a court decision," De Costa said. "It is our belief that we are interpreting the Charter correctly. I feel like we treated them fairly because if we took their documents today, I would have to reject their petition and all the signatures they collected."
According to the City Charter, a petition initiative calling for a special election needs to be submitted at least 180 days before a general election. The group disputes De Costa's ruling, saying they collected the required number of signatures necessary -- at least 10 percent of votes cast in the last mayoral election, or about 30,000 verified registered voters -- to place it on the November ballot.
The deadline for the city to submit any information on the general election ballot -- such as charter amendments and ballot questions -- to the state Elections Office is Sept. 5, giving the courts about a month to make a decision.
"That doesn't really give us any time because the clerk is going to have to spend time validating the signatures," said Dennis Callan, a Stop Rail Now organizer. "It's too soon to worry about anything yet. We hope the court would realize the urgency of this situation and expedite our case."
At a meeting tomorrow, meanwhile, the City Council will consider several versions of a charter amendment that would let voters voice their opinion on the city's planned elevated 20-mile system from Kapolei to Ala Moana. Mayor Mufi Hannemann's office deferred comment on yesterday's developments to De Costa. However, Hannemann has said he is willing to consider a charter amendment on this issue.
A charter amendment requires approval from at least six of the nine members in a City Council that is typically divided 5-4 on many issues.