The senior senator from Hawaii came to Waipahu on Thursday to assure anxious construction workers that Honolulu’s rail project is on track and has solid federal support.
The only thing that can stop it, he said, is World War III.
Or, perhaps he should have said, Ben Cayetano.
U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye did not mention the former Hawaii governor and current mayoral candidate by name. But, with the two pro-rail candidates at his side — incumbent Peter Carlisle and former acting mayor Kirk Caldwell — it was clear that Inouye wanted to not only give a pep talk to employees of Kiewit, the primary rail construction contractor, but demonstrate his political preference.
Who will the senator vote for?
“It’s a secret ballot,” Inouye responded, getting laughs. “But I won’t support someone who is opposed to it.”
Cheerleaders In Tow
That’s no secret, of course.
Inouye has been fighting for rail practically since statehood, according to Caldwell, who once worked for the senator.
“It has been his dream, but it always gets klled,” said Caldwell who, oddly, was not wearing a palaka-print shirt even though he was born in Waipahu.
If Inouye’s goal was to deliver a pep talk, Caldwell’s was to talk about how great Inouye is.
Recalling the last time a Honolulu rail project died, even though Inouye had secured half the funding, Caldwell said the mayors of other cities came up to Inouye to thank him after the Honolulu City Council killed the project. The federal money, of course, would now go elsewhere.
The federal largesse this time is 33 percent, or $1.5 billion, and who does Honolulu have to thank? Dan Inouye, said Caldwell, who continues to “deliver, deliver and deliver again.”
Carlisle, meanwhile, used the Kiewit press availability to use words like “moving steadily forward,” “very close to full funding” and “on the brink of success” to describe rail.
He said there would be “critical decisions” made in the next few days about the project, though he did not elaborate. He argued that support for rail was “unwavering,” despite recent polls that suggest the opposite.
Mostly, the mayor urged the Keiwit hui to counter a “backlash of misinformation” coming from Cayetano and Company.
“We need to be the army that builds and sells the project,” he said, telling the workers to call everyone they know “and spread the word and register and vote. That will defeat the enemy in a heartbeat.”
Reaching his peroration, Carlisle said the completed project will last from 50 to 100 years.
“People will talk about this for decades,” he added.
Truths Self Evident
Inouye began his talk with a lesson from his eighth-grade class, when he was taught the “Declaration of Independence.”
“‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,'” he intoned. “That has been the foundation of my career.”
Inouye’s point was that Honolulu has been the center of Hawaii all of his 87 years, something Inouye argues has resulted in “walls of subtle inferiority” that have divided Honolulu from the rest of the state.
“My job has been to tear down those walls,” said Inouye, explaining that rail will break down a whole lot of walls.
The senator also complained about the long drive to and from town, admitting that he often curses during the drive.
“That’s a waste of time when we need productivity,” he said about the drive. “This is going to be a big boost to lifestyle and the morale of people.”
The Kiewit workers, many wearing familiar bright-yellow construction shirts, listened quietly.
When Inouye told them he was grateful for their work and that they are doing something “extraordinary,” they applauded.
Mission accomplished. For now.
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