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Rail conflicts shade confirmation of city transportation nominee


Wayne Yoshioka was reconfirmed yesterday as the city Department of Transportation Services director after almost four hours of testimony that described him as less than forthright but also straightforward.

Yoshioka, initially an appointee of former Mayor Mufi Hannemann, was renominated by Mayor Peter Carlisle. The City Council voted 6-3 to confirm him with members Tom Berg, Romy Cachola and Ann Kobayashi voting against the appointment.

The hearing started with a discussion about Yoshioka’s interaction with the community. Several members of various neighborhood boards gave their vote of confidence, citing his presence at many of their meetings.

"He’s appeared before the board about lots of problems we have in Chinatown," said Dolores Mollring of the Downtown Neighborhood Board. "He’s always been straightforward with us."

"In every case he has been willing to come to the board, have discussions with members and the community and to provide solutions," said Robert Stubbs, chairman of the Liliha/Puunui/Alewa/Kamehameha Heights Neighborhood Board.

Most of Yoshioka’s detractors took issue with his handling of the $5.5 billion rail transit project despite Council Chairman Nestor Garcia’s insistence that yesterday’s discussion be "about the person, not the project."

Cachola voiced his dismay at the rail route being moved out of his Salt Lake district and through the airport. He accused Yoshioka of misleading the public in favor of a more expensive route, and that the public voted on the project with the understanding that it would go through Salt Lake.

Yoshioka said he has always presented the airport route as more expensive, and that the decision to move the route to the airport was a Council resolution, and that it was out of his hands.

Kobayashi said she had been asking Yoshioka about documents on rail subcontractors for the past two years.

"That’s why the discussion takes so long, because we can’t get straight answers," she said.

Cliff Slater, a leader of the anti-rail movement who had testified earlier against Yoshioka’s appointment, was asked by Cachola to stay for additional comments.

Garcia voiced a loud protest to Slater talking again because Council members had been hearing testimony and asking questions for more than 2 1/2 hours.

Slater approached the microphone and said, "I’ve been slandered here. I should be able to respond to slander."

Earlier in the hearing, Yoshioka said Slater has misrepresented information about the rail project.

"Mr. Slater, you are out of order," Garcia said, holding up his hand.

After the Council vote, the less than a dozen people still at the meeting applauded.

"It doesn’t change anything," said Cachola to himself as he shook his head.

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