Mayor vows to put transit on ballot
Voters will face either a question from the City Council or from Stop Rail Now
The struggle to give Oahu residents the chance to vote on the city's proposed $4 billion rail transit system ended successfully yesterday with Mayor Mufi Hannemann promising to approve a measure that would place a question on the November ballot.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Hannemann said he will sign a proposed City Charter amendment question the City Council unanimously approved Wednesday that will ask voters whether the city should build a 20-mile elevated steel rail system from Kapolei to Ala Moana.
"I'm very inclined to let it go through; in fact, I will approve it," Hannemann said. "I want to commend them for their 8-0 vote to put it on the ballot and to give people the opportunity to say yea or nay on the project that I think is going to improve the quality of life."
The question that will be placed on the ballot depends on whether the anti-rail group Stop Rail Now succeeds in collecting enough signatures to place its petition initiative on the ballot. The City Council's version says if the city clerk certifies enough signatures, Stop Rail Now's question will be the only question on the ballot.
Hannemann said he prefers the City Council version to appear over Stop Rail Now. That group is proposing for a question to ask, "Shall an ordinance be adopted to prohibit trains or rail for a mass transit system in the City and County of Honolulu?"
"If you're in favor, you should be able to say yes," Hannemann said. "The Stop Rail question is phrased that in order to be in favor of the project, you have to say no. That's very complicated, and you're going to have to do a lot more education."
If voters were to reject the project, there would be nothing technically blocking the city from moving forward with the system as long as it is another technology. But it would show there is little public support and could jeopardize federal funding for the project.
"I really believe it would put to end something that can and should improve our quality of life," Hannemann said. "I think there's a silent majority out there, and I think it will become a vocal majority because of what's at stake here," he said.
Hannemann also criticized Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz, who sharply grilled city Transportation Services Director Wayne Yoshioka, calling Dela Cruz "juvenile." Dela Cruz and Yoshioka sometimes got heated during the Council meeting, prompting acting Council Chairman Todd Apo to intervene.
Hannemann said, "There's some motives there. He needs to grow up a bit and treat people with more respect."
Dela Cruz is the campaign manager for Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who is running against Hannemann for mayor.
"I think it was really important to ask a lot of those questions," Dela Cruz said. "The city is spending a lot of money on this project, and a lot of these facts were not made available to the public. I think just because someone doesn't agree with the mayor, that doesn't mean it's juvenile."
Kobayashi defended Dela Cruz. "I could hear the frustration in Donovan's voice," Kobayashi said. "He's been asking a lot of these questions for a long time. It got a little testy, but I don't think it was immature or rude. Donovan wanted straight answers."