Local Connection: Reaching a Rail Deal

Local Connection: Reaching a Rail Deal

The deal to deal to bail out Honolulu's rail system is complicated and controversial. There are good and bad features, but the way it was rolled out showed how the rail issue has realigned Hawaii's political scene – and not in a good way for Honolulu's mayor.

Legislative leaders knew Mayor Caldwell would be unhappy about their plan which rejected his request to extend the excise tax surcharge until 2037.  But state lawmakers brought out the reinforcements: U-S Senator Brian Schatz and Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa. Two formerly bitter rivals united in support of the agreement. Governor Ige also expressed his full endorsement.

It was clearly an effort to warn the Mayor that opposing the deal was not only futile – but might also severely impact his political future.

Together these powerful politicians bring with them not just their own reputations, but the voters and political donors who support them. Not a group to defy lightly.

But nonetheless, Mayor Caldwell continued to publicly criticize the deal, saying it is at least half a billion dollars short of what is needed.  He even claimed at least one of the lawmakers seemed drunkenly belligerent during a meeting.

Granted – these are stressful times and heated moments. But it is also time for our political leadership to stand together as much as possible behind a solution to give the federal government, and Hawaii citizens confidence the rail is back on track.

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