Eric Gill of Local 5 speaks outside PLDC hearing.

With dirt-turning construction shut down for possibly six months, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit (HART) gathered last Thursday, Aug. 30, to figure out what’s next.

The public part of the meeting turned into a pep rally for HART.

Russell Honma, a Rail consultant, advised, “Go out and shake hands.” To which he added from his seat in the witness chair, people should vote for Kirk Caldwell for mayor, “the pro-Rail people’s candidate.”

“I want to commend the board, because you guys are in a tough position,” a witness for the General Contractors Association said. “You do a great job.”

A Filipinos for Rail person said HART’s position would be strengthened by addressing the public’s fears of a tax increase resulting from Rail. “There’s a lot of fear out there,” he said.

James Anthony of Laie, a member of the Sierra Club Oahu Group Board, said he was converted to Rail by the long-time Rail opponent, Cliff Slater. “You know what? This guy doesn’t make sense.” He went on to attack other Rail opponents by description but not by name. He said board members should “not be afraid of those who come before you regularly and offer testimony that borders on slander.”

“Rail is not dead,” Anthony said. “It is far from dead.” He urged the Board to make use of Rail supporters such as himself. “We shower regularly. We are your friends. Embrace us. Talk to us. Help us help you.”

The Board’s two-minute limit on public speakers was ignored. After Anthony had spoken for well past ten minutes, members applauded. Anthony threw his arms around member William “Buzz” Hong, who thanked Anthony for his work.

The Rev. Robert Nakata, speaking for the Faith Action Coalition, reiterated his long-standing concern for developing affordable housing in association with Rail. Otherwise, he said, “It will be a society of rich and poor and not much else.”

The Board went into an executive session for an hour and a half.

They then went back into public session for a brief announcement by Board Chair Carrie Okinaga, who reiterated much of what Chief Executive Daniel Grabauskas has been saying –that the Board respects the Court’s decision, that ground-disturbing work would shut down but engineering and design would continue to move forward. Mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano had called for a complete stop of work in the interest of not further wasting taxpayer money.