Stop Rail Now appeal rejected
By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer
Opponents of Honolulu's planned $5.5 billion rail transit project suffered a legal setback last week.
The Hawai'i Intermediate Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a Circuit Court decision that prevented the nonprofit group from placing an anti-rail ordinance on the November 2008 general election ballot. The group had hoped that a successful appeal would result in a special election asking voters whether "Honolulu mass transit shall not include trains or rail."
The group collected about 35,000 valid signatures in 2008 calling for a special election. The group had hoped to put the issue on the general election ballot.
However, the city argued that Stop Rail Now's petition should not be placed on the November 2008 ballot because the group specifically asked for a special election. By asking for a special election, Stop Rail Now was trying to get on the November ballot by gathering fewer signatures than if it had asked to be on the general election ballot.
While Stop Rail Now eventually failed to get its ordinance on the ballot, it succeeded in forcing the City Council to place a separate version of the rail question before the electorate. In that election, voters supported authorizing the city to proceed with the project by roughly 51 percent to 46 percent.
Stop Rail Now co-founder Dennis Callan yesterday said he was disappointed with the ruling.
"Frankly we saw a loophole in the Charter and we tried to go right through it and it didn't work," he said. However, "we accomplished a tremendous amount," Callan said. "We really brought the issue of rail front and center before the public and generated a year and a half of public discussion that wouldn't have happened otherwise.
"So what we did was worthwhile, there's no doubt about that."
Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann plans to break ground on the 20-mile East Kapolei to Ala Moana elevated train within months.