- Opinion Editorial by Gov. George Ariyoshi )

From the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, October 15, 2012:

Early in life I learned from my parents the value of okage sama de—which essentially recognizes that no person can accomplish anything without the help of many others.  Any success you and I enjoy is a result of the efforts of many who have given us support directly or indirectly—from our immediate family to the larger community that collectively pays for the roads, schools and other public services we enjoy.

As a Democrat, I also subscribe to the belief that together we are greater than we are on our own and that we all succeed when everyone gets a fair shot. This is why I became involved in politics in the first place–because I wanted to see everyone treated fairly and equally.

For me, Honolulu’s rail project is about righting wrongs, ensuring fairness and providing equal access to opportunity.

So it disturbs me to hear people say, “I won’t ride rail, so why should I support it” or “It won’t help me, why should I pay for it.”

If all decisions for public infrastructure projects were made based on how it personally affects you, I doubt that the Pali, Likelike and H-3 freeways would have been built.  If the decision hinges on how the majority of people would benefit from the project, I doubt that Kalanianaole Highway would have been widened.  Why?  Because all of these thoroughfares received federal funds, which means that, in addition to local support, even a taxpayer in Kansas or New Jersey had a hand in getting these roadways built.

As a society and as a nation, we have learned that we are stronger when we work together and when we equally share in the burdens and benefits of living together as a community.  Inequity exists when one community bears more of the burdens and much less of the benefits than others.

Clearly, an inequity exists for those who live in West Oahu.  They bear the burden of numerous public facilities that handle, among other things, our island’s trash, power and sewage yet they only have one way in and out of West Oahu.  They have the largest increases in population growth but have not received their fair share of the community pot, if you will, and they have to suffer through traffic delays that are many times greater than any other community on this island.

I submit to you that the impact of this inequity goes beyond traffic congestion.  This lack of transportation mobility has a very real impact on upward mobility.  The people of West Oahu do not have the same access to the opportunities available to people in other communities because traffic congestion limits the choices people can make regarding how they use their financial resources or spend their time.

This November you and I have a very important decision to make that will shape the future of Hawaii.  I am not suggesting who you should vote for—I merely offer some thoughts for you to consider:

  • We are not talking about a perfect system.  No system will be perfect.  I haven’t always agreed with the way the rail project has been run but shutting down rail serves only to limit our options.  Taking away this choice is not in the public’s best interest.
  • This is an ongoing process.  There will be opportunities to improve the rail system as well as improve how rail and the bus will work together to form a fully integrated transportation system.
  • We cannot afford to keep kicking the proverbial can down the road.  We have been doing that for the last 30 years and traffic is only getting worse.
  • Rail isn’t perfect but it is a plan that has been vetted.  It enjoys federal support, has the backing of our congressional delegation and has a viable local funding mechanism.

We can all be thankful for the many people who sacrificed to give us the opportunities we all enjoy today.   As a father and grandfather, I have an interest in making Hawaii a better place for future generations and I want to ensure that everyone—no matter where they live—will have equal access to a better future.