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Mayor uses rail failings as boost to governor bid

Mayor Mufi Hannemann has a gift for the political art of taking credit for everything and accepting accountability for nothing.

An example is his continued blaming of Gov. Linda Lingle for delays in starting construction on the city’s $5.3 billion rail system when the hang-ups have been the doing of his administration and the federal government.

In an interview with Richard Borreca in the Star-Advertiser, Hannemann denied over-reaching when he promised to break ground by December 2009 on the 20-mile commuter line between Kapolei and Ala Moana.

He pointed at Lingle and said, "I didn’t realize she was going to be so stubborn and obstinate and put up as many roadblocks as she did."

Whoa there. It’s true the governor has said she won’t approve the rail environmental impact statement without a thorough review, including the financing plan, but to this point her review hasn’t delayed the start of construction a single day.

Hannemann obtained federal approval of the EIS and delivered it to Lingle only Monday, months after he initially said he would, and the clock didn’t start running on her until then.

The mayor’s December 2009 target for starting construction was contingent on federal approval of the EIS by last September, an obvious over-reach given that it took the Federal Transit Administration nearly nine months longer than that to sign off.

Hannemann has hectored Lingle for months to approve an EIS she didn’t have, while making not a peep about the long federal delay that he said in December was a minor matter of dotting "i’s" and crossing "t’s."

It turned out there were major federal concerns about the train running too close to Honolulu Airport runways, which required the city to alter the route.

After all the time the feds took, Lingle is entitled to a reasonable amount of review time of her own to be more than a rubber stamp, especially with rail opponents lined up to sue before the ink is dry on her signature.

Blaming the construction delay on Lingle appears to be Hannemann’s way of deflecting criticism that his planned resignation next month to run for governor means walking out with the hugely expensive rail project he initiated hanging in limbo.

In the interview with Borreca, he said, "I am convinced Gov. Lingle will not move rail beyond her desk as long as she is there; it is one of the motivating factors why I feel I have to run for governor."

Plan A was to run for governor on his ability to make the trains run on time. Plan B is to blame Lingle for his failure to do so and argue he’s needed at the state to do what he couldn’t at the city.

David Shapiro can be reached at volcanicash@gmail.com or blog.volcanicash.net.


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