Mayoral candidate Donovan Dela Cruz lobbed one of the first volleys of the still-unofficial race for Honolulu mayor, outlining his plans for moving forward with the city’s planned rail transit system.
Those plans include sewer upgrades and other infrastructure improvements to promote development in urban centers and prevent outgrowth to rural communities.
"I think it’s important that we all look at rail more holistically, more comprehensively," Dela Cruz said yesterday after unveiling his plan at campaign headquarters in Kalihi. "It’s not just about the rail line itself, but it’s about the community we’re going to create."
Dela Cruz is among five declared candidates for the mayor’s position, once it becomes vacant. Incumbent Mayor Mufi Hannemann plans to vacate the office July 20, when he is required to resign in order to pursue a run for governor.
Other declared candidates for the final two years of the term are city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, city Managing Director Kirk Caldwell, University of Hawaii engineering professor Panos Prevedouros and City Councilman Rod Tam.
Only Prevedouros, who also ran for mayor in 2008, is on record as a staunch opponent of rail, pushing for cheaper alternatives such as dedicated express lanes for high-occupancy traffic like buses, van pools and large car pools.
"Buses and roadways can do much, much better at a fraction of the cost to the public," he said.
Caldwell declined comment. Carlisle and Tam did not return messages left with campaign officials.
Hannemann recently announced the Federal Transit Administration’s approval of the environmental impact statement for the proposed $5.5 billion rail project.
Dela Cruz outlined several proposals he would push if elected, including land-use ordinance changes, amendment of the tax code to allow mixed-use commercial and residential development, and an update of the general plan.
He said he was hopeful voters would approve this fall a City Charter amendment to create a semiautonomous Public Transit Authority to oversee planning, construction, operation, maintenance and expansion of the rail-transit system.
Dela Cruz said he also supported a means of financing known as tax increment financing — in which districts where infrastructure improvements are made pay for those upgrades.
People living in districts where transit-oriented development occurs would see property tax increases, with those funds going to pay for the improvements.
"A lot of people say, ‘I don’t want to pay for something I’m not going to use,’" Dela Cruz said. "With the TIF (tax increment financing), the very people who are going to be living around the stations … they’re going to be able to see the benefit and pay for the necessary upgrades."