Rail groups gear up for fresh fight
Both sides aim to raise money to fund more TV and radio ads
Pro- and anti-rail groups are preparing for a new skirmish over the city's $4 billion rail transit system if they are allowed to vote on the issue in the November election.
The city clerk has rejected a petition initiative by Stop Rail Now to block the project, but several groups plan to raise funds for another advertising blitz, through television and radio advertisements, if the anti-rail group's lawsuit succeeds or if the City Council agrees to include the issue on the ballot.
"The paid media has been a powerful tool," said David Wilson, an advertising and public relations executive who started the Support Rail Transit group. "We're looking at raising a lot of money and raising money in an election cycle is not easy."
Eric Ryan, who was the spokesman for Stop Rail Now, recently formed another anti-rail group called Rail Truth Now with a goal of raising $250,000, according to its Web site.
"Now is the time to turn our attention to this new phase of the fight and embark on what will be the most challenging part of our campaign -- persuading voters and getting out our vote on Election Day," Ryan, who is listed as the campaign manager, said in a video on the Web site. "That's round two of our fight."
Cliff Slater, one of the most vocal rail critics and a Stop Rail Now organizer, said yesterday morning that he didn't know anything about the new group.
"This Rail Truth Now was a suggestion from (Ryan), but there's no substance to it," Slater said yesterday. "I want it (Rail Truth Now's Web site) taken down. It would mislead people to think it would have something to do with us."
Ryan said Monday that he wanted to rebrand the group, which has a similar logo to Stop Rail Now, with the same fonts on a red stop sign. It would focus on educating the public on the rail transit system. The Web site, railtruthnow.com, was still online as of yesterday afternoon.
Pro- and anti-rail groups have spent thousands of dollars in advertising on the city's proposed elevated 20-mile system from Kapolei to Ala Moana. Wilson estimates that Support Rail Transit, which is composed of local trade unions, has spent about $50,000 on advertisements. Stop Rail Now has raised about $60,000.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who is determined to break ground on the system late next year, has spent $20,000 on newspaper advertisements refuting Stop Rail Now's statements.
Stop Rail Now said it was going to file a lawsuit today to try to force City Clerk Denise De Costa to process its petition initiative.
The group contends it has collected enough signatures -- about 49,000 -- to qualify for the November ballot. De Costa has said a provision in the City Charter prohibits her from accepting petition initiatives calling for a special election within 180 days of the general election.
The City Council has voiced support in creating a City Charter amendment on the rail transit system, but Council members have disagreed on the language of several measures that have been proposed. The Council was to take up the measures in a meeting today.