Mayor Carlisle defends rail in State of the City Address
Mayor Peter Carlisle
Councilman Tom Berg
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle delivered his second state of the city speech today and rail was a big part of it.
Mayor Carlisle began his speech by talking about his family roots of being frugal. How his 92 year old mother in law still washes and reuses plastic bags and tin foil. Then as the speech moved along he spoke about projects that will cost billions of dollars including work on the sewers, roads and of course rail.
"This is the time to do this now. It's not the time to get cold feet when walking to the altar," said Mayor Carlisle during his speech.
He acknowledges rail is a polarizing issue and that the city and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation or HART are not doing enough to counter critics.
"Frankly there's a lot of information out there regarding rail but you might never know of it because we in the city are not doing a good job helping you discern what is accurate," said Mayor Carlisle in the speech.
But those critics point out the city has already spent millions on public relations trying to educate the public on the project.
"Try over $5 million for public relations and 10 PR firms. Give me a break are you telling me you didn't have the opportunity to tell the people about the so called benefits of rail. Spending that much is unheard of," said Ben Cayetano, Mayoral Candidate.
After the speech Councilman Tom Berg announced plans to introduce a bill to repeal HART, the semi autonomous board that's been making the rail decisions.
"You can point a finger at HART but that's all you can do is shake your finger. I think the voter would like to have another stab at this put it on the ballot in 2012. It's just ink on a piece of paper," said Berg.
Carlisle doesn't agree. But he does say he will take a more active role.
"I haven't done the right amount of activity telling people why it's the right thing to do and I'm going to be more active about that you better believe it," said Carlisle, to reporters after the speech.
He also says there is enough money to do get everything done especially since it's all paid for over time. The city council chair agrees the city will get to a good place in terms of funding.
"I know once we get the budget we are not always going to agree but at the end of the day I feel confident we are going to have a good cooperative relationship," said Ernie Martin, Honolulu City Council Chair.
"Anything else is back to square one. We need to keep moving forward," said Carlisle, during his speech.
Forward is exactly where Mayor Peter Carlisle plans to go in terms of keeping his job and the rail project.
"If you want to do something for the rail get out of the way and let us spend the money sensibly for the people who have asked for it," said Mayor Carlisle.
The mayor spoke about his recent trip to Manila using their transit system as a positive example of public transportation done right. Even though opponents didn't like what they saw in the photos.
"That was blight to me. What I saw in Manila doesn't fit in our town," said Berg.
"It's not blight. It goes through blighted areas and it's efficient, it's good looking, it's incredibly clean and it gets you to point A to point B in a fast, efficient, capable way," said Mayor Carlisle, after the speech.
"The comparison to Manila was comedic," said Cayetano.
Amusing because he says Manila has 10 million people and the majority can't afford a car. Whereas Honolulu is less than a million people and filled with drivers who love their cars.
"Where I really disagree with this guy is when he said rail is the future, rail is the past. Rail is choo choo train dressed up a little bit. No city our size is doing rail in the country," said Cayetano.
Fellow mayoral opponent Kirk Caldwell also criticized Carlisle for not keeping his hands on the controls of rail.
"For those of us who support rail he's simply not up for the job," said Kirk Caldwell. "You've got to keep your hand on this ball and keep moving it forward. He turned away and travelled and the ball came rolling back and the polls are showing that."
"For us since all we plan to do is keep moving forward with the way the city works and keep it working and make it work better there's no reason to stop that during a political year," said Carlisle.