Mayoral rivals spar on mass transit


POSTED: Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mayor Mufi Hannemann and City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi debated for nearly an hour yesterday, with each criticizing the other's mass transit plan.


;[Preview]    Mayoral Candidates Respond To Transit Plans  

Mayoral candidates share words about their opponents chosen transit plan.


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  The rivals confronted each other more aggressively than before, attacking each other's record, in a mayoral race that has been mostly quiet.


At one point, one of Hannemann's spokesmen, Johnny Brannon, who noted that he was not there on paid city time, accused Kobayashi of lying about her record regarding the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill.

Brannon was a Honolulu Advertiser City Hall reporter in 2004, when Kobayashi, on the City Council, voted to keep the landfill on the Leeward Coast open.

“;When you say you supported putting the landfill on the 23-acre site next to HPOWER, I recall that was never on the list of landfill sites that were studied,”; he said. “;How can you tell me with a straight face and essentially lie to everyone in this room about what was true at that time?”;

Kobayashi responded forcefully.

“;I did not lie,”; she said. “;I was given a promise that if I voted for it, in two years, we would look at the issue again. If you're going to call me a liar ... you know that you need documentation. You can't just throw things out like that. That's irresponsible.”;

Aside from the landfill and the declining economy, much of the discussion focused on mass transit.

Kobayashi defended her mass transit plan, unveiled on Tuesday, while Hannemann attacked its credibility.

“;Our plan is a very comprehensive one because we know there are people who don't want to get out of their vehicles,”; Kobayashi said to a small group of business community members at the morning forum hosted by the Advertiser. “;Ours is not only realistic for our city; it's realistic for our pocketbooks.”;

Kobayashi's plan, with an estimated cost of $2.5 billion, calls for a 15-mile three-lane highway for two zipper lanes and a “;rubber-tire-on-concrete”; system with dedicated bus lanes to Ewa Beach and Manoa.

“;This is a very problematic solution,”; Hannemann said. “;It's not a plan; it's a slogan. You don't entertain a $3 billion proposal after only three weeks of putting it together.”;

After the forum, Hannemann called a news conference with public union officials and several state lawmakers and accused Kobayashi of flip-flopping on transit to capture the votes of former supporters of candidate Panos Prevedouros.

“;She's definitely pandering to Panos voters,”; Hannemann said.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who has long supported mass transit, said the federal government needs to determine whether Kobayashi's plan could receive federal funding.

The biggest disagreement over Kobayashi's plan is whether it would be eligible to receive funding from the state's general excise tax surcharge. According to the 2005 law, the tax collected “;shall not be used to build or repair public roads or highways.”;

Hannemann asserts that Kobayashi's plan cannot receive local funding because it is essentially a highway and just enhances the city's bus system. Kobayashi said the law provides funding for a “;locally preferred alternative,”; which requires approval from the City Council, that could include her plan.

State lawmakers who played a role in creating the law remain split on this issue.

State Sen. Kalani English (D, East Maui-Lanai-Molokai) said he believes Kobayashi's plan could be funded as long as the Honolulu City Council eventually approves it through an ordinance.