Counting down to Honolulu's rail ballot initiative - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Counting down to Honolulu's rail ballot initiative

Honolulu City Councilmember Todd Apo Honolulu City Councilmember Todd Apo
Dennis Callan Dennis Callan

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) -  Just 18 days and counting until Election Day.  There are races that will pick the next president of the United States to the mayor of Honolulu.

And one of the hot bed issues on Oahu is rail. Friday night, a key question and some answers before you head to the polls.

The big question on Oahu is, will Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann be able to go forward with his mass transit plan for the city?

It's in the voters' hands.  A ballot initiative asks voters if they want to support the mayor's "steel on steel" plan.  Another question: can the mayor push ahead if the voters disagree with him?

It's pretty straight forward as far as the ballot initiative goes.  A yes vote means the mayor can continue with his plan.  A no vote means, it would be a major road block.

If voters vote no, it would be tough for the mayor to continue, but his supporters are confident he has the majority's support.

The city's proposed $6 billion light rail project is trying to get off the ground, but it first has to get the green light from Oahu voters.

A ballot initiative poses the question, "Should the city continue building Mayor Mufi Hannemann's proposed steel wheel on steel rail technology?"

"If the vote is yes, then it's the only project that really can be done," said Todd Apo, a Honolulu City Councilmember.  "I think the mayor and the council will be required to follow the voice of the voters and do a steel rail project.."

But if the majority of voters says no?

"The mayor could ignore the will of the people and try and proceed anyway, but let's face it, that's very unlikely," said Dennis Callan, co-chair of "Stop Rail Now."

"There's potentially ways down the road to restructure the project," said Apo. "The reality is if the voters vote no, this project is not going to happen, mainly because the FTA (Federal Transportation Administration) at the federal level is not going to support us doing this type of mass transit project if we don't have the public support for it.  So a no vote really means the end of this project."

The mayor has been adamant about steel on steel in the past. But if the voters vote no, the mayor has no veto power because it becomes a charter amendment.

"And neither the mayor or the council can do anything or even enact anything that is counter to what the charter is," said Apo. "The only way to change that is to take the question back to the voters and the soonest you can do that is in two years."

Whether you support steel on steel ....

"For my constituents representing West Oahu, there's very strong support for this project," said Apo.

... or oppose it,

"Almost everybody is against the train that we speak to anyway," said Callan.

They have less than three weeks to convince voters that their way is the right way for the future of Oahu.

Obviously a lot is at stake.  If voters vote yes, it will be the biggest public works project in state history.

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