Lingle, Harris set to discuss transit project
By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Capitol Bureau
Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris can expect at least one difference of opinion with Gov. Linda Lingle when they meet next week: the city's controversial Bus Rapid Transit project.
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Gov. Linda Lingle said she opposes the Bus Rapid Transit project, which is the centerpiece of Mayor Jeremy Harris' transportation plan for the next decade.
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"As you know, I opposed Bus Rapid Transit strongly during the campaign, so that is sort of a starting point he wants it, I don't," Lingle said. "And again, we're both going to look out for what we think is the best interest, and we know there has to be some coming together."
The city has already spent four years and appropriated $31 million for the $1 billion project, which involves dedicating lanes on busy Honolulu thoroughfares for the buses. The city has also received another $12 million from the federal government. But Lingle said that does not justify moving ahead with the project.
"We will not go forward if we don't believe it's going to work just because some money has been spent," she said. "You wouldn't do it in your personal life or in your business, and we won't do it either."
The Bus Rapid Transit system, or BRT, is one of the city's most ambitious public transportation proposals in decades. The 10-year project aims to transport thousands of passengers around urban Honolulu in nonpolluting gas-electric hybrid buses every two to four minutes from Iwilei to Kapahulu. The second phase will expand the service from Kapolei to Middle Street.
The BRT plan as now proposed involves using some key state roads, so cooperation from Lingle's administration is critical.
Lingle also said she plans to propose giving counties a percentage of money collected from traffic fines. The state keeps all the money, which has long been a sore point for the counties.
"We're not losing it, it's just going where it should be," Lingle said. "The counties pay for the police officers, they're the ones maintaining the county roads, and it's reasonable that some percentage of that money go to the counties."
On the issue of campaign finance, Lingle said limiting campaign contributions further would make it more difficult for a newcomer to challenge an elected official who is part of the status quo. Lingle set a record by spending more than $5.4 million on this year's gubernatorial election to become the first Republican governor in Hawai'i in 40 years.
"If you were to limit campaign spending in some significant way, what you do is you just about guarantee that the people in office will always stay in office," she said. "If you just restrict campaign spending, you're really being naive about it and not understanding the broader picture of how people are able to stay in office for such a long period of time without producing positive results."
She added that elected officials already have the advantage because they use their offices to publish and mail newsletters to constituents.
"The reporting requirements we have in Hawai'i are among the strictest in the nation, but it's just that some people don't abide by them and that's when these criminal cases rightfully have been brought," she said. "I think that the best way to have honest campaigns is to have full and open disclosure."
Reach Lynda Arakawa at email@example.com or at 525-8070.