While the Sierra Club does great work in so many respects, it also is capable of bad judgement calls. As a member of the Oahu Sierra Club chapter, I find myself compelled to offer this rejoinder to Rick Barboza and Anthony Aalto’s recent rhetorical dodge on the controversial position that the Sierra Club is taking in support of what I will call ‘big rail’. I assert that Barboza and Aalto do not speak for all Sierra Club members in their Weekly op-ed “Beyond Rail” (July 18). They certainly do not speak for me. They cannot deflect criticism and the threats of members to quit the Club if the organization officially backs ‘big rail’ by hiding behind a polemic about urban sprawl being the real enemy. While urban sprawl is certainly a major issue on Oahu, allowing ‘big rail’ to go through is not the answer.
Loads of intelligent people, discounting those who do have a financial stake in the debate, have looked at the current ‘big rail’ scam that is being forced on the people of Oahu and come to the conclusion that the plan is another ill-conceived giveaway to companies, contractors, consultants, and the wealthy at public expense. It represents a huge expenditure on an inflexible system that will not even well serve the very communities it was intendedfor, Ewa and Kapolei, or the communities that most need it, like the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Waikiki. .
As a member of the environmental community in Honolulu, I am not against mass transit. I am against the current ‘big rail’ plan posing as mass transit. At every stage of planning cheaper, more flexible and reasonable alternatives were discarded in favor of the one that would lock in the greatest profit for the unions, contractors, consultants and developers. Light rail at ground level is a much more sensible alternative favored by many architects and urban planners. Panos Prevedouros, UH Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and previous Honolulu mayoral candidate, offers a long list of suggestions to ease traffic congestion and alternatives to ‘big rail’ with far lower price tags. But none of these would funnel all the tax dollars that huge concrete pillars and beams would, and thus not provide the huge profits to the lucky few, like Pacific Resource Partners. Those lucky few are same folks bankrolling the current mayoral candidacy of Kirk Caldwell.
I recommend that the Sierra Club put this matter to a vote of its membership and commit ahead of time to publishing the results of that vote. Asserting that “we fought against Ho’opili and Koa Ridge” does not constitute a sound justification for a subsequent current bad judgment call.
And by the way, I endorse Ben Cayetano for mayor of Honolulu. He’s certainly got the credentials to be running Oahu, and the honesty, integrity and good sense to call ‘big rail’ what it is, a bad idea and a giveaway to the rich in tight times, even though it is drawing unfounded personal attacks in the kind of dirty politics that the Hawaii political scene has largely avoided before.