Voters can derail $4B project


POSTED: Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Perhaps the most important question facing Oahu voters on Nov. 4 is whether the city should build Mayor Mufi Hannemann's proposed $4 billion elevated rail transit system from Kapolei to Ala Moana.

For nearly five months an anti-rail group worked tirelessly collecting signatures to create a ballot question to stop the transit system through the city's petition initiative process. Stop Rail Now failed to get its ballot question approved but succeeded in pushing the City Council and Hannemann to create a proposed City Charter amendment.

The question posed to Oahu voters will be, “;Shall the powers, duties, and functions of the city, through its director of transportation services, include establishment of a steel wheel on steel rail transit system?”;

City officials hope the outcome of this question will finally settle not only whether the public wants this system, but the technology of this system.

Hannemann has called for a “;steel wheel on steel rail”; system, similar to those in Chicago and Washington, D.C., but has sparred with some City Council members who want a “;rubber-tire-on-concrete”; system—basically, a sleek-looking bus.

A majority “;yes”; vote on this question would validate Hannemann's assertion that Oahu residents want this system. Critics of Hannemann's system, including those on the City Council, said they would stop opposing the project if voters approve it.

A majority “;no”; vote would ultimately stop the system. It would have no legal power in stopping the city from continuing to build a mass transit system, but even pro-rail politicians said they cannot ignore public opinion and would pull their support. Additionally, a show of no public support could jeopardize funding from the federal government.

Aside from mass transit, there are three other City Charter amendment questions on the ballot this year. One grants the Circuit Court jurisdiction over impeachment proceedings against the city's elected officials. Another also ensures more oversight of city- appointed workers and employees by allowing the city Ethics Commission to fine them if they violate the city's code of conduct.

The final proposed amendment would give more power to the city prosecutor to develop programs and seek financial grants relating to crime research, prevention and education.