Yes2Rail Ends Its 4-Year Run with This Observation: With Pro-Rail Candidates Having Won the Primary Election, 55-to-45 Percent, the Project's Public Involvement Team Obviously Has Been Doing Its Educational Job, Plus: Now?s the Time to Reform Public Opini

November 6, 2012 Update: Pro-rail Kirk Caldwell defeated anti-railer Ben Cayetano in today's mayoral

» » Yes2Rail Ends Its 4-Year Run with This Observation: With Pro-Rail Candidates Having Won the Primary Election, 55-to-45 Percent, the Project's Public Involvement Team Obviously Has Been Doing Its Educational Job, Plus: Now?s the Time to Reform Public Opini , ago, 41 view
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November 6, 2012 Update: Pro-rail Kirk Caldwell defeated anti-railer Ben Cayetano in today's mayoral election, 53.9 to 46.1 percent. The result mirrors the August primary election's pro-rail outcome, as summarized in the headline above and in the post below. (We probably shouldn't say "told you so," but in fact, we did.) And if you're really curious about what we said about Mr. Cayetano's transportation ideas that were wholly dependent on anti-railer Cliff Slater's ideas, visit our aggregation site and scroll down to the 2012 Mayoral Race and Rail section.

Barring unexpected developments that could reverse this decision, today?s post is Yes2Rail?s last ? number 804 in the series that began on June 30, 2008. So we sign off with a few closing comments as we prepare to concentrate our energies on All Things California.

Some people in Honolulu would have you believe the rail project is like a boxer who?s barely surviving the 10th round of a 12-round championship fight. He?s ahead on all the scorecards, but still they work hard to convince the public that a knockout punch is likely even this late in the fight ? despite all the evidence.

The Honolulu Elevated Rail Project is farther down the track than any other proposal to create a traffic-free commuting alternative in Our Honolulu?s congestion-choked southern corridor. The project's Full Funding Grant Agreement application is in Washington and is likely to be approved in the next few months, something the late Frank F. Fasi, who was elected Honolulu's mayor six times, never came close to achieving despite multiple attempts to build rail.  His final plan died in the City Council 20 years ago this Fall.

So how did rail succeed this time around? Oh, I dunno?..maybe because it benefited from an excellent public information campaign! That?s one conclusion someone could make (we just did), since railhas been consistently supported by Oahu residents several years running, including only two days ago.

In 2008, the pro-rail candidates won and anti-railers lost. A scientific poll released four years ago this month found 58 percent of those surveyed supporting rail, while only 38 percent said they were opposed. Remember the City Charter amendment that year directing the City?s transportation division to pursue a steel-on-steel system? It passed.

One year later, a poll reported 60 percent support for the project among those who were scientifically surveyed ? 34 percent strongly supportive and 26 percent somewhat supportive. Of the 37 percent who said they were opposed, 21 percent were strongly against the project, and 16 percent were somewhat opposed.

In 2010, pro-rail candidates won, anti-rail candidates lost. Voters overwhelmingly approved a City Charter amendment to create the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, thereby creating an entity to build and operate Honolulu rail.

A few months later in May 2011, another scientific survey found support for rail at 57 percent, with 40 percent opposed. That poll was publicized in the same month the Gang of Four ? Cliff Slater, Ben Cayetano, Randy Roth and Walter Heen ? filed a federal lawsuit to kill the rail project.

One year ago next Sunday, the Gang launched its massive public relations campaign against rail with a 1500-word commentary in the newspaper. Online Civil Beat fact-checked the piece and found numerous false statements. Civil Beat judged only two to be  TRUE , two  FALSE  and three HALF-TRUE/HALF-FALSE .

The Gang?s PR campaign has been barreling along virtually nonstop since last August and hit its peak with the launch of former Governor Cayetano?s campaign for mayor in January, with near-constant media coverage of his anti-rail rhetoric. Yes2Rail concluded he really didn't understand rail very well. He's essentially a one-issue candidate, as the media continually remind us.

So How's Rail Doing Now?          
In spite of all this negativity about the rail, the project is doing just fine, thank you very much, and the evidence of rail?s continuing support among the public is only two days old.

Saturday?s Primary Election supplied that evidence.
Pro-Rail Candidates:  54.6 percent
Anti-Rail Candidate:   44.7 percent

After all of the criticism, all the negativity, all the accusations and misrepresentations in the anti-rail camp?s massive multi-media PR campaign (see our ?aggregation site? and the Mr. Cliff Slater and Friends heading), the opponents have failed to move the needle! The rail project?s support among Oahu voters two days ago was a solid majority!

Candidates have come and gone, some won and some lost, but consistent throughout the years has been the rail project's public involvement campaign that week after week, month after month supplied residents with truthful information that helped them understand and appreciate the project.

But as they say, no good deed goes unpunished, and the rail project?s public involvement team was "whacked" this summer, to use Civil Beat's word for the budget-trimming. Those of us whose involvement with rail ends this month leave knowing the mission was accomplished.

What About the Polls?
The public opinion surveys published by the Star-Advertiser/Hawaii News Now and Civil Beat in recent weeks deserve a second look. The newspaper/TV poll published on July 29 called it almost exactly right for Mr. Cayetano ? 44 percent support in the Primary. The survey underestimated Mr. Caldwell?s support by nearly 5 percentage points and overestimated Mr. Carlisle?s backing by 2 points.

Civil Beat?s most recent survey (its story was updated only last Wednesday) had Mr. Cayetano at 51 percent, thereby badly missing the election?s outcome. That poll was conducted among ?very likely Oahu voters? only, a methodology CB has used repeatedly in 2012 that Yes2Rail believes is seriously flawed. UH professor Neal Milner said we had a point.

Governments do not differentiate between voters and non-voters in their planning processes. With non-voters having lower incomes and less education than voters, they?re more likely to rely on public transit than citizens who vote. Opinion surveys on rail that ignore the non-voters? views can?t possibly reflect the community?s true support and appreciation of the rail project.

Whatever the reasons for Civil Beat?s big miss in its most recent survey, getting rid of voter-only polling can only help.

And Finally....
Yes2Rail has criticized the Honolulu news media over the past several months for their hands-off approach to covering Governor Cayetano?s bus rapid transit alternative to elevated Honolulu rail. After weeks of Yes2Rail posts calling on Mr. Cayetano to release details of his ?plan,? the Star-Advertiser finally pressed the point in a late-May editorial.

However, in the end, we?re not so sure the media?s poor performance really mattered. The August 2012 Primary Election's results showed that rail continues to receive majority support among Oahu residents.

Despite the media's laid-back reporting and the opponents? anti-rail rhetoric, residents managed to sort and sift through the information available to them from multiple sources, including the rail project itself, and gave the pro-rail candidates more votes than the would-be rail killer.

That's a good note for rail's public involvement team to leave on.

AUGUST 16th UPDATE: Letter to Honolulu Star-Advertiser:
Headline missed real vote winner
Shouldn't this have been the banner headline in Sunday's Star-Advertiser: "Pro-rail candidates win primary, 55 to 44 percent"?
Jerome M. Comcowich
Kailua   

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